The Associated Press

FORT WALTON BEACH — Swarms of gnats are really bugging people along Florida’s Panhandle.

Experts say humidity and unseasonably heavy rains have created ideal breeding conditions this month for insects called face gnats across northwest Florida.

Larry Williams of the University of Florida’s Cooperative Extension Service tells The Northwest Florida Daily News that unlike the region’s mosquitoes, the gnats are daytime fliers.

There are a great many bugs in this world that people identify as gnats, and, in truth, no shortage of gnat species — gnats correctly identified as gnats, if you will — either, according to Williams. 

The bunch presently making life miserable for the region are fittingly enough called eye or face gnats, Williams said. 

Face gnats generally breed in open grassy areas and do best when the weather is moist and humid, Williams said. Northwest Florida has been unseasonably wet this year compared to the rest of the state, and the humidity in June is a given. 

Unlike mosquitoes, which tend to do their greatest dirty work at dusk or in darkness, gnats favor daylight, according to Williams. 

“Try to picnic when the gnats are bad and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll eat at least one,” he said. 

Also, face gnats, for all their nuisance value, don’t bite or spread disease, although one website opines that they could cause pink eye. Health officials say gnats don’t pose public health risks like mosquitoes because they don’t bite or spread diseases. However, the insects can be extremely irritating when they swarm people trying to enjoy an outdoor activity. Experts recommend wearing insect repellent to keep gnats away.

Okaloosa County Mosquito Control Director Scott Henson says the same pesticides being used to control mosquitoes after the rains should help kill off the gnats as well.

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