August 18, 2002

The Night of the

The Night of the Killer Gnats!

We are fortunate in that we are not bothered by mosquitos here on Goose Creek. We have pretty cold winters down here in the valley that kill them off, if they manage to breed in the first place, which is unlikely. The water in the creeks is cold, moving, and full of small skeeter-wriggler-eating fish, crawdads, and salamanders. Mosquitos tend to prefer still, warm water without shallow ponds and stagnant pools, old tires and buckets and what-not.

What we do have here is gnats. (The one pictured here has a pin through it...that's the best kind of gnat). Gnats prefer running water for their life cycle. It takes very little running water, and that is exactly how much we have had during this parched summer. Just enough moisture for an outstanding great crop of gnats. Gnats don't sting or bite. They don't carry disease. They were born merely to aggravate, and they fill that particular niche quite well.

They are weak flyers, rising and falling with the air currents. I can see them out there in the morning sun, waiting patiently for me to come out to garden every morning. With an uncanny knack for knowing when both of your hands are occupied, wet or covered with garden dirt or bean dust, these marvelously obnoxious micro-demons find exactly THAT opportunity to do their work, and their workday has begun.

Goose Creek gnats have obviously been trained from birth to know the episode of Star Wars where the TIE Fighters find and enter the tiny opening of the Death Star. Fighter-gnats innately know how to make their way into their favorite orifice: the human ear. Their two-part buzz is perhaps their most aggravating feature, and they are fond of performing it from deep inside the Death Star...just far enough into the ear that a muddy finger-thrust only chases them down into the deadly Earwax Zone. Those that are assigned to battle stations outside the ear walk expertly with their tiny-tickly track shoes in such a way as to create an excruciating itch, especially, as mentioned, when hands and fingers are covered in bean dust or other gardening gradoo.

Three years ago, we were working on the old house here, having the metal roof painted silver, like most of the older homes in Floyd County. It was about this time of year, as a matter of fact. The painting took a couple of days, and it really looked great, especially compared to the faded green it had been when we first saw it. I walked out to admire it one late August morning. Instead of shiny silver, the roof was dull matt gray, almost black! And fuzzy-looking, like it was covered in suede! At first I blamed the painter...a Baptist minister and part-time roof painter. I swear, you can't trust anybody to do things the right way these days!

I pulled out the extension ladder and crawled up to inspect the bizarre thing that had become of our expensive paint job. What I discovered was that the roof was coated in a thick blanket of gnats! At night when the metal cools, condensation forms. When gnat babies hatch from the creek over a 2-3 day period, they do so in untold millions. At least one of those millions ended up stuck to the wet roof, unable to unstick themselves before the sun came up and baked them in place. Even a heavy rain did little to unstick gnat corpses from the roof. I had to climb up the extension ladder and wash them off with the hose sprayer... so many that they filled up the gutters, and I had to literally scoop the gnat-cadavers out into a five-gallon bucket with a garden trowel.

This will be our third Hatching of the Gnats, an event that is becoming an annual celebration here on Goose Creek. I reckon I should be happy about the roof thing, and think about it as a giant Gnat Death Star that beckons millions to a timely buzzing death. If those million gnats weren't up there dead, they would all be standing in line, waiting for a shot at my ears, out in the garden, when my hands are covered in mud.

Posted by fred1st at August 18, 2002 09:49 PM
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