Pharos-Tribune

September 12, 2013

ABBOTT: When killing gnats, ID the source


Pharos-Tribune

---- — Our local writers group is fortunate to have a well-known, award-winning writer of romance novels as a member. What if I kidnapped her and forced her to write my column today? Is this how she would tackle the unsightly problem of gnats in the house?

“The attractive, voluptuous middle-aged woman heard the soft rap on the double French doors. She opened the door and saw a man in uniform, a man wearing a tool belt and carrying a large spray bottle.

“Their eyes met in familiarity. They had been down this road before.

“Suddenly, she handed him a clear wine glass, filled with an amber liquid that sparkled in the sunlight creeping through the open doors in the early morning.”

Sounds good? It’s a lie.

Time for the imaginary guest columnist to go. What’s needed here is a Stephen King-type, one who can spin horror. Or I’ll spin it for you.

In the bottom of the wine glass – filled with vinegar, water and dish soap – lay about 200 dead bugs, gnats, fruit flies, black midges. These beasties that have become the focus of my life for the past few weeks.

These critters have nearly done me in. They were pervasive. I also have an eye disease that sometimes causes me to see floaters. Naturally my left eye has a big black floater since we’ve had the gnats. Is that a gnat? Or is it a floater?

Now – and only now – that I have conquered them can this horrifying story be told. Today, I am Gnat Free! Gnat Less!

The Bug Man has been out twice; I’ve consulted both Purdue and Ohio State. I’ve read more articles about the little creatures than you can imagine.

Every person and every article said the same thing: Identify the source.

We combed our home inside and out, spraying on the outside, cleaning furiously on the inside. My house has never been this clean. You could choose a random room and perform surgery on the floor.

Identify the source.

We could not find anything. We cleaned all the drains, ran ice and rock salt through the garbage disposal, used special dishwasher cleaner.

Still, no source.

We’ve lived here nearly two decades and in that time we’ve never had a mouse or a roach, and only one skirmish with tiny ants outside the kitchen window.

These beasties preferred two places in the house, the kitchen sink and a small closet in the downstairs hallway, also the cat’s bathroom. These areas were at opposite ends of the house with no apparent connection.

Finally, we figured it out.

It was the kitty litter. We switched to a corn-based litter (which costs more money, believe it or not) because it is supposedly better for the environment than the old clay-based litter. Think about it: corn is sweet. Kitty litter gets wet. Unless you stalk the cat with a scoop, there’s going to be a day here and there where moisture meets litter.

I stripped the room. I bleached the room. I bought new cat boxes (upscale cat: he needs two). I replaced the fancy litter with the cheap stuff.

Identify the source.

A day later, there is almost no trace of the beasties. I drank a glass of juice without a little protein source diving in. Life is good.

Amy McVay Abbott is a freelance journalist and author of “The Luxury of Daydreams.” She can be reached at amymcvayabbott@gmail.com.