EYOTA, Minn. (FOX 47) – If you’ve spent any time outside so far this summer, you’ve encountered your fair share of gnats. While this year’s swarm seem to be especially bothersome, gnats in some cases can be deadly to certain animals.
At a small farm in Eyota, Wayne and Irene Vehrenkamp lost majority of their birds because of the pesky bugs.
“We come out here and there’s chickens running all over, chasing each other,” Wayne said motioning around the empty coop. “Normally full of chickens and now there’s nothing here.”
Now, all that fills Wayne and Irene’s chicken coop is silence.
“It was part of morning and evening ritual,” Irene said.
“Every morning, every night, you feed them, check it out, and now there’s nothing here,” Wayne continued. “We love living in the country, but we have lots of things like bugs and flies and gnats and this year gnats have been extremely bad. They’ve been terrible this year.”
The tiny insects suffocated and killed all but one of their adult chickens, taking 23 birds in just three days.
“I would come out here to do chores at night and the closer I got to the chicken coop I would get swarms of gnats, clouds,” Wayne said. “It was the worst I’ve ever seen it.”
The biggest issue with gnats is that there isn’t much you can do when it comes to control and most agencies cannot guarantee removal.
“There’s not much you can do. even if you try to buy spray, if you go camping. There are very few sprays or pesticides and things that really work,” Irene said.
Wayne did hear using a fan in the coop may help the problem, but by the time he got home his chickens were all dead. In a decade of raising chickens, Wayne and Irene have never seen anything like it.
“Maybe once or twice a year if the gnats were bad,” Wayne said.
“Or the heat,” Irene continued.
“The heat maybe,” Wayne agreed. “But nothing like this.”
While its unusual, its not uncommon.
“When I picked up feed last week, there was a lady who had the same issue,” Wayne said. “She said this year was worse than normal.”
Still, they endure.
“We just pick up where we stopped and start over,” Irene said.
The couple has 14 young, growing chickens. They’ll start laying eggs in three months.
“We got these guys and will need to get a few more,” Wayne said. “I’m hoping by the time these guys are big enough to let out the gnats are gone.”