Anybody out there getting swarmed by gnats — had a few in your mouth and hair and eyes and ears? Well, it may be a few weeks before there is relief. Next up, mosquitoes.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison entomologist said the time is right for midges and black flies to emerge.

“From a distance it can look like smoke because there are thousands of midges in this mating swarm,” entomologist P.J. Liesch said.

“To an extent, some birds may eat them, but they are teeny tiny,” he said.

Each type of gnat is active for a couple of weeks, he said. The cure for keeping these bothersome creatures away?

“Unfortunately, there is nothing magical you can put on to keep them at bay,” Liesch said, adding wear long sleeves, stay indoors if they are too bad or try repellents − but they generally don’t keep them all away.

Black flies are associated with fast-moving water and bite, often leaving localized reddish reactions. Midges are closely related to mosquitoes but “they don’t bite at all.”

“With all the rain we’ve had it started setting the clock,” Liesch said of pesky mosquitoes. “In the northern part of the state there is pretty good mosquito pressure.”

Mosquitoes are also popping up in southwestern Wisconsin.

“Don’t give them a chance,” Jackson County Public Health Environmental Health Specialist Susie West said. “Anything that holds water, get rid of.”

Tree stumps, tires, old tarps, bird baths and swimming pools are among things people should toss or empty often.

“They don’t need much, they just need a little bit of water,” West said adding, inventory yards after each rain. “Just don’t give them a place to breed.”

She’s seen what mosquito bites can do and met two people impacted. Years ago, two brothers were diagnosed with La Crosse encephalitis virus within a year or so of each other, she said. Some people have no symptoms. But those who do experience fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, tiredness and in extreme cases, coma, seizures and paralysis. Fortunately, the boys lived. There are long-term health impacts and no cure, West said.

Diagnosis is based on blood or spinal fluid tests. Eighty to 100 cases are reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Jennifer McBride is managing editor of the River Valley Media Group's weekly division. Contact her at 608-637-5611.

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