Transcript


Cocke County Mark Wallace
Bent Creek Golf Course


Dr. Kevin Moulton
UT Agricultural Experiment Station



Chuck Denney
UT institute of Agriculture


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Chuck Denney
One, two, three – duck! A swipe of the net, and you’ve captured some pesky insects. These are gnats - also known as black flies - the names are interchangeable. If you’ve spent any time in the Smoky Mountains, you’ve probably swatted a few away.

Dr. Kevin Moulton
'Their first cue is visual, so they see a silhouette and they’re attracted to it. Then you’re breathing carbon dioxide and that’s another cue. That’s why you see these things buzzing around your face, mouth, ears, nose.”

Chuck Denney
UT entomologist Dr. Kevin Moulton heads up a project to reduce the gnat population in Cocke and Sevier counties. The insects can cause minor health problems for people and animals, but mainly these bugs make the outdoors less enjoyable for everyone. One thing’s for sure – they are plentiful here.

Dr. Kevin Moulton
“It’s a species that occurs up and down the east coast from Canada all the way to Alabama or so. It prefers nice rocky rivers like we see behind us.”

Chuck Denney
That would be the Little Pigeon River. The gnats start as larvae attached to the slippery rocks in these waters. Once they hatch and fly off, they’re pretty much impossible to do anything about. So Moulton and crew want to curb the gnat population by reducing numbers of the larvae. UT researchers are using an EPA-approved pesticide called Bti for this project. They believe it’s the most effective way to get rid of the flies, and it won’t hurt fish, people or the environment.

Dr. Kevin Moulton
“This will treat about five miles of stream.”

Chuck Denney
UT researchers select areas where the Bti will be most effective and release it into the flowing waters. They don’t want to get rid of all the gnats. They are food for other insects, and some fish. But a severe population drop would be most welcome here.

Dr. Kevin Moulton
“Our goal is to suppress the population down to a threshold that people in the area consider no longer a nuisance.”

Chuck Denney
(sound of golf swing) That’s the sweet swing of PGA pro Mark Wallace, who runs Bent Creek Golf Course in Gatlinburg. Golfers love this beautiful mountain layout, but hate the gnats.

Mark Wallace
“People would actually come here to play golf, and play one hole and leave.”

Chuck Denney
The golf course worked with Dr. Moulton to reduce the gnats here, and the results are right on par.

Mark Wallace
“We’ve seen about a 50% decrease in the gnats, and that’s even with using not even a full permit to treat the water. Once we get the full permit, we’re probably going to expect another 50% decrease in them.”

Chuck Denney
UT researchers continue to monitor the Little Pigeon. If they can get rid of a majority of the gnats, businesses can earn more profit, and the mountains become a nicer place to visit.

Mark Wallace
“People can really enjoy this area now without having to do this all day long.”

END

NOTE: Other Smoky Mountain businesses such as campgrounds blame economic losses on the heavy gnat infestation.