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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 3, 2004

Gnats a nuisance in Kahala

By Tim Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Q. My husband and I live in Kahala, mauka of Kahala Mall in one of the townhouse groups there. For the last couple of months, we've been plagued with what seems to be the same insects described in your Feb. 10 article "Kealia Pond officials mount effort to cut midge population." Is there any way an individual can get rid of these things? Since we rent here, we can't really go around spreading the pellets you write about in the article. How can a household control them? They drive us nuts in the evening!

— Shira J. Smith, Kahala

A. For about a decade, the condo dwellers next to Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge have been plagued by almost annually occurring swarms of spotted-winged midges, imported gnat-like bugs with an amazing ability to fly right through window screens. They start swarming when the sun goes down and are attracted to lights.

The residents hounded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service into coming up with a solution. Officials are optimistic that an insect growth inhibitor chemical, in pellet form, will cut down on the problem.

Unfortunately, your bugs aren't the same bugs, according to Bernarr Kumashiro, the state Department of Agriculture's chief insect identification specialist.

What you've got — and most of O'ahu, for that matter — is the dark-winged fungus gnat, Kumashiro said. "We've been getting calls from all over the island."

But they are particularly bad from Kahala to Hawai'i Kai. Their numbers are tied to the deluge of rain the Islands have been getting, and they've been breeding like crazy in the wet, decaying vegetation found in the hillsides.

Kumashiro said Hawai'i started noticing these "smoky grey" bugs, an import like the midge, about 10 years ago, with the worst infestation five years ago in 'Aina Haina.

Like the midges, these gnats swarm in the evenings and are drawn to lights.

Kumashiro said he knows of no magic pellets that will make these pests go away. He's telling people to cut down on lighting — turn off porch lights and indoor lights and use drapes and blinds as much as possible. What also might help is spraying window screens with insect repellent (at an angle from the inside going out). That may help for only one night at a time, though, so count on repeated applications until the hillsides dry up.

Jan TenBruggencate is on special assignment. In his absence, his "Hawai'i's Environment" column will be written by Advertiser staff writer Timothy Hurley.

If you have an issue, question or concern about Hawai'i's environment, contact Timothy Hurley at thurley@honoluluadvertiser.com, call (808) 244-4880, or write to P.O. Box 156, Wailuku HI 96793.