Swarms of black flies killing animals in Central Iowa

Black flies swarm the heads of humans and animals.

WOODWARD, Iowa  - The deaths of two eaglets in Decorah last weekend were blamed on the heat and swarming black flies, resembling gnats.  Now, in Woodward, a family says swarms of the flies killed 17 chickens.  

An insect expert at Iowa State University says black flies swarm around the head and face of animals and humans because they’re attracted to the carbon dioxide in exhaled breath.

“They’re in the grass, and when you walk they just kind of fly up, and then sometimes they’re hovering and you walk right about head level and you walk into the bugs,” Marisa Nicolaisen tells WHO Channel 13.  

There've been other complaints in Woodward.  Mayor Brian Devick says they consulted an insect specialist, and found there are no treatments available to fight black flies.

Woodward chicken owner Debbie Schutt took a few of the dead chickens to Iowa State to be examined.

“The black flies or buffalo gnats, had been ingested into their nostrils, and they also found traces of these black flies in their trachea."  Schutt said.

The Schutts' neighbors also lost some of their chickens, and the only way they’re able to keep the flies away is with fans.

Tall grassy areas,  bushes or trees draw them, and the black flies tend to gather if there’s standing water.

"Keeping the yard mowed down, keeping standing water from accumulating will help. And then they can also be attracted to trash cans and where trash and food trash is stored."  Mayor Devick said.

Black flies only live for about three weeks, and should soon be gone, until next year.

Not just a U.S. problem, black flies swarm a man in Iceland. YouTube

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