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Athens Sees Increase in Black Fly Population

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University of Georgia Extension News
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Cleaner water may be one cause for the increase of the pest population in Athens and the surrounding areas.

The numbers of black flies in northeast Georgia are increasing. Experts say the past year of above average rainfall which has erase drought concerns may also be one reason for the recent swarms of black flies, or gnats, as some call them. But Elmer Gray, with UGA’s Cooperative Extension Service says better water quality may also play a factor.

“It is likely indicative that the water quality has improved a little bit,” Gray said. “So there is some small benefit that yeah this is probably indicative of some improvement in our environment.”

And not just in Georgia.

“Pennsylvania, the acid mine run-off has stopped, they have a lot of black flies in Pennsylvania now in areas where they didn’t have them,” Gray said. “South Carolina, across the Piedmont, below Greenville and Spartanburg, which surely those rivers were heavily impacted by the textile industry of the 1900s. Those areas have pretty significant black flies populations as well.”

He says the type of black flies we are seeing are not the same species that UGA studies.

“University of Georgia operates the only black fly colony in the world,” Gray said. “Thankfully, the species that’s flying around Athens is not the species we have in colony. So this has nothing to do with anything I’ve released or lost from our laboratories here on campus.”

Gray says expects to see more black flies in the coming weeks and we can expect flies on and off through mid-October.