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Kokua Line

Recent rain spawned swarms of gnats, ants and mosquitoes

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QUESTION: Do you have information about an epidemic of little black mosquitoes that bite and leave welts that last weeks? I live in the Diamond Head area, and this is new to us, within the past three months. They make no noise so you don’t know they’re there. I asked the dermatologist, and he said some people will get bitten and some won’t. Everyone in our neighborhood is complaining, but I see them all over the island now.

QUESTION: We are having a minor infestation of gnats in our home in Manoa. They swarm outside our kitchen window and enter the bathroom through the screen. What to do?

ANSWER: We’ve also gotten a complaint from a Kaimuki resident about "black gnats" and asked Bernarr Kumashiro, insect taxonomist with the state Department of Agriculture, whether he could explain what’s up with all these pesky bugs.

He blames the proliferation of mosquitoes, dark-winged fungus gnats and winged ants on heavy rain of the past few months.

Regarding the "large increase" in the mosquito population, Kumashiro observed, "People had become somewhat complacent about mosquitoes since we’ve had such a long period of droughtlike conditions, but it is nothing new."

Reactions to mosquito bites vary from person to person, he said, with some experiencing welts and severe itchiness.

The state Department of Health’s Vector Control Branch used to respond to complaints about mosquitoes, but that branch was eliminated because of budget cuts.

Kumashiro said information on the different kinds of mosquitoes in Hawaii and how to control them can be found at hawaii.gov/health/environmental/vector/mosquitoflyer.pdf.

There also has been an increase of the dark-winged fungus gnat because of the rainy weather, he said.

"These are a tad smaller than mosquitoes and fly more slowly," he said. "They do not bite, but can be a nuisance, falling into the hair and alighting on the skin."

These gnats breed in decaying wet organic plant material on the mountainside and swarm into well-lit homes "sometimes by the hundreds."

Kumashiro said reducing the amount of lighting in your home after sunset usually curtails the problem. "Fortunately in Hawaii, there are no biting midges or gnats," he said.

Meanwhile, humid weather before the rain causes winged ants to emerge from their nests in the evening. These are the male and female reproductive ants that come out to mate, he said.

"Usually only on humid nights will they be a problem," he said. "The females of some species have stingers, and occasionally people may get stung, leaving welts."

Reducing the amount of light helps in controlling the winged ants, Kumashiro said. Otherwise, he suggests using household aerosol sprays approved for ants or mixing a few drops of dishwashing detergent with water in a spray bottle.

Tomorrow: Yet another kind of pesky black bug.

MAHALO

To the seventh-grade EarlyAct Club students from Hongwanji Mission School, who donated 2,316 T-shirts and/or toiletries to the youth at Hale Kipa on Jan. 24. Hale Kipa is a private, nonprofit statewide organization dedicated to helping teenagers and their families. The HMS students identified "helping others in our community" as one of their goals this year. The Rotary Club of Waikiki sponsors the EarlyAct Club, and the Rotarians are very proud of the service these students provide to our community. — Carol Riley, Rotary Club of Waikiki

Write to "Kokua Line" at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

 

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