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How Many Gnats Are A Nuisance?

Above: Eye gnats bugging a dog in Jacumba.

Aired 11/8/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Bill Brammer, owner, Be Wise Organic Farm

Cindy Morriss is a resident of the San Pasqual Valley area of Escondido, and a member of a group who say their quality of life has declined because of eye gnats


Eye gnats on a woman from Jacumba.
Enlarge this image

Above: Eye gnats on a woman from Jacumba.

We'll have more on the gnat problem in an interview on Tuesday's show.

Evening Edition airs weekdays at 5 PM and 6:30 PM on KPBS TV.

Some very small gnats are causing big problems in Jacumba and Escondido. There are actually thousands of gnats in the area, which is why residents are concerned.

Apparently, eye gnats love to breed in organic farms.

Farm owners in the vicinity are working with a county entomologist to reduce the problem.

That solution may not be enough, however, for their gnat-infested neighbors.

County Board of Supervisors Agenda: Gnats in San Diego

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'JohnL'

JohnL | November 8, 2011 at 12:43 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

This protest is outrageous, who are these people that are protesters? are they related to real estate developers,or other interests?Golf Courses breed just as many gnats,several which are closer to these neighborhoods.Anyone who has lived here long enough knows gnats and other insects have always been here populations go up and down seasonally to blame organic farms is ridiculous and seems there is another motive behind this.Gnats are not dangerous,Pesticides are!

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Avatar for user 'ronforster'

ronforster | November 8, 2011 at 12:43 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

The San Pasquel Valley is an agricultural preserve. People that have chosen to live in or next to the valley should accept that part of the reality of living near farms is seasonal insects. It is not fare to the farms to force them to lose their livelihood and it is not fare to all of us that value organic produce.

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Avatar for user 'JohnL'

JohnL | November 8, 2011 at 12:54 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Electronic bug zappers are affordable, destroying a whole industry and all related jobs (Organic Farming) is not

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Avatar for user 'Melovechocolate'

Melovechocolate | November 8, 2011 at 12:59 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! We have reached * 7 BILLION* inhabitants, and Cindy Morris (representing the complaining lot) thinks that GNATS are "destroying the quality of life"???!! She/they want "relief" from this "problem"?? What rock are these people hiding under? This is only the beginning of "noxious insects", bothersome pests, and other inconvenient environmental afflictions--why? BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY OF US. Mr. Morris is trying to maintain a chemical-free, GMO-free farm, and these self-entitled princesses and princes are crying over GNATS? "Spray with chemicals"!! Better to pollute the earth that's already got more than its share of contaminants from 7 BILLION PEOPLE, but at least these spoiled, egotistical, self-centered whiners ARE HAPPY. The spraying will help temporarily but harm the environment and close down Mr. Bramer's organic business (and several other farmers)..Which by the way we don't have enough of but need, because of population growth. Can I just slap them?

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Avatar for user 'Rosepetal92128'

Rosepetal92128 | November 8, 2011 at 2:59 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Cindi Morris and some of the other residents who live near the farm are preaching patience but that is not true. I happen to live on Ryan Drive and I saw an email that went out yesterday instigating and encouraging other residents to show up at the County Board of Supervisors Meeting in "hoards" is what the email said. Another email claimed that the farmer was trying to "crush" the residents. I listened to both parties here and I did not hear that the farmer or the farm was unwilling to try and correct the problem. I also called the high school myself and the Principal there said, there were no cancellations of practices that she knew about. I think that eye gnats are bothersome and yes the farmer needs to be accountable, responsible and take care of the problem within a reasonable amount of time but I also think that if the farmers and the researchers believe that with sufficient time they can control the problem and get the problem down with a 99% success rate, why not give them the chance? Rome was not built in day. I don't like to be mislead Mrs. Morris so please be honest and upfront about your intentions if you are going to go public with your fight. Citizens are smarter than you might think. We need to find an amicable solution to a pesky pest.

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Avatar for user 'daniellet96'

daniellet96 | November 8, 2011 at 7:19 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Dear John, I am a resident of Jacumba and would like to comment on "who are these protesters"?!

First ,let me tell you about eye gnats, They are characterized by the University of Florida (my alma mater) Food and Agriculture Sciences Division as FILTH Breeding Flies. Eye Gnats love moisture including that found in scabs, pus, blood, animal genitals and, eyes. When they attach their soft mouths to the eyeball, they use rough saw like appendages on sides of their mouth to scratch the eye to make it easier to suck the moisture. THIS is what is swarming in high numbers on our babies,children and pets.

In Jacumba, it is NOT about Organic farms but rather about a farmer (Mr. Alan Bornt) who is a bad neighbor. Some observations:

1) None of his crop is ever made available to us. The 450 acre farm turns quickly and ships elsewhere. What he DOES make available is swarms of eye gnats, trash on the side of the road sometimes after harvest that community volunteers have to pick up, chicken feathers blowing into our community when he spreads chicken manure and a sadly diminishing wetland area as his wells appear to be sucking habitat dry
2) Mr. Bornt makes it sound as if he is the victim, spending large sums of money to find a solution. He has taken action ONLY after pressure from the county and in fact, has not complied with the complete abatement plan he agreed to in writing. You can see proof on the posted non-compliance reports about his farm on the San Diego County website.
3) The 99% reduction number Mr Brammer refers to does indicate that there are 99% fewer gnats being caught in the traps than before in the trap areas. However, when you start with what we estimate could be a billion eye gnats,you still have MILLIONS to plague the community
4) Because of Bornt's eye gnats our residents have lost money on property sales and rentals that didn't go through, their children cannot play outside without swarms of gnats in their eyes and mouths, pets have had to be put down and children cannot focus in school with gnats crawling all over them.

I do have GOOD news however, for Mr Brammer and Cindy. We (Jacumba Against Gnats group or JAG) have hired an independent entomologist who has come up with a scientifically proven way to measure eye gnat population numbers so the question of HOW MANY EYE GNATS ARE ENOUGH? will be able to be answered. This was presented with some new abatement solutions to the San Diego County Vector control last Friday and hope to see them implemented soon.

So you see, in Jacumba it isn't about Organic at all. The fact is that we had a well established community PRIOR to Mr. Bornt leasing the land and had very few eye gnats (what rural area doesn't have some?) but NOTHING on the scale we have now. We have put up with this for well OVER 7 years and enough is enough.

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Avatar for user 'DG'

DG | November 8, 2011 at 8:23 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

I was struck in this story by the discrepancy between when the gnats became problematic in Escondido (a few years ago, according to Cindy Morris) and when Mr Brammer began farming there (1995). It seems to me that the dramatic increase in this insect's population is being unfairly laid at Mr Brammer's door, as is the responsibility for solving it as a problem. Could the increase, by any chance, have something to do with recent changes in our weather patterns? The large fires that destroyed gnatcatcher habitat in large areas of the county? The long drought followed by cool, wet years? I've lived in San Diego since 1972 and the changes in weather here since 2000 have been notable. Unprecedented, even.

Framing this story and issue as a win/lose contest between farmer and residents is a lose/lose proposition for the greater San Diego community. Local organic farms are an invaluable resource to many people in this county who depend on its produce. And bug-free living is an important part of the San Diego lifestyle we've all come to boast about and love.

We're going to come up with much better solutions to this recent gnat-explosion problem in Escondido if we pose it as a mutual concern instead of going the adversarial route that has caused so much dissatisfaction and upset in Jacumba.

I hope rational leaders and approaches prevail in seeking a satisfactory way out of this dilemma that doesn't unduly and unfairly punish an unlucky few.

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Avatar for user 'timburnett'

timburnett | November 8, 2011 at 8:23 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Hi to everyone who is experiencing the plague of eye gnats in their communities. My name is Tim Burnett and I live in Jacumba CA. I moved from Yuma Arizona to Jacumba 1964 and we DID NOT have eye gnats here in Jacumba or from where I moved from (Yuma AZ). We did have some sporadic (conventional farming) over the years here in Jacumba. The owner of the farm in the sixties was paid by our government not to grow crops(SUBSIDIZED) farming. Later things changed and he would rent out the farm land to growers who grew potatoes, lettuce, carrots and alfalfa,and without breeding eye gnats! Our little village of Jacumba was established way before any large scale commercial farming started. The town of Jacumba was here FIRST! The farmer has created this plague and has not fixed the problem. These gnats are not healthy to the residents of Jacumba. And we all thought ORGANIC was HEALTHY!

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Avatar for user 'JohnL'

JohnL | November 8, 2011 at 8:30 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

In reply to Danillet96, This report in fact is not about Jacumba, there is no way to confirm you are in fact a resident of Jacumba,eye gnats have been around since the beginning of time, there is no scientific evidence of an increase in population I remember gnats as a small child .In northern latitudes their populations are much greater The fact that said farmer Alan Bornt has been reported to have fixed any problem concerning this suggests that you may in fact be "the bad Neighbor" or that he might have a legal case for harassment/slander if you were not just an anonymous troll. Wetlands and Golf Courses also breed gnats no one is suggesting closing them down Maybe this very small and vocal group needs to get a hobby, this type of thing hurts hard working business owners and local economy

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Avatar for user 'Melovechocolate'

Melovechocolate | November 8, 2011 at 10:44 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Daniellet96's comments have so many points to argue upon..
"None of his crop is ever made available to us. The 450 acre farm turns quickly and ships elsewhere."
A) It doesn't sound like you're an interested customer to begin with;
B) A town like Jacumba with a population of 561 (according to the 2010 census) should be happy about the revenue that he is bringing into that small town.
"Because of Bornt's eye gnats our residents have lost money on property sales and rentals "...
There is a tremendous ECONOMIC CRISIS going on, and it wasn't caused by Mr. Bornt's farm..If you're having problems with your properties, well, welcome to the club.
"we estimate could be a billion eye gnats"..Did you count the ants, roaches, fruit flies, spiders, bed bugs, exotic beetles, aphids,termites, etc? You will not escape pests. Yes it's a pain to deal with, but you deal with it or just move. You chose to live in Jacumba--if there's only 561 people living there, it's for a reason.
I have no sympathy for a group of complainers wanting to close down farms because of gnats.
I wonder if the hired entomologist has a scientifically proven way to measure fecal deposits in our drinking water. Even if he did, we're all still here.

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Avatar for user 'daniellet96'

daniellet96 | November 9, 2011 at 8:26 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Dear John: Yes I am a resident of Jacumba. My name is Danielle Cook :) You can contact me through the community website that I voluntarily manage, Regarding proof that the farm is the cause of the eye gnat infestation and the increasing populations, this has been fully established by San Diego County Vector Control, Mr Bethke (highly credible enthomologist from the UC Riverside) and the Board of Supervisors. (you do not have to take my word for it). It has also been established that Mr Bornt has not satisfactorily addressed the problem. You can read the countys's own non-compliance reports on the farm on the San Diego County Supervisors website (again no need to take my word for it). I have never harrassed nor slandered Mr. Bornt, just stated facts that can be substantiated. I do not have time for a hobby, I am a hard working executive in a global company whose biggest crop just happens to be organic. I also spend my free time working with other civic minded residents to revitalize our community (its a wonderful place once you discount the gnats). As far as me being a 'troll" what an odd comment to make. ?! and totally non-relevant.

And, Mr or MS welovechocolate, its a pity you missed the Board of Supervisors meeting this morning when realtors and school officials brought up monetary losses DIRECTLY attributable to the eye gnats and not a bad economy. What you also fail to grasp is that there are many in our community who don't want the farm shut down. We simply want Mr. Bornt to fully comply with the Agreement he HIMSELF signed in taking action to mitigate the problem. The community of Jacumba was well established prior to Mr Bornt leasing the farm next to us. Many of our residents are too poor to just "move" as you suggest. Are you suggesting that one "bad neighbor" farmer is more important than 562 people because we are rural or live in a small community? The teachers, firemen, retired military, ranchers, plumbers, border patrol, retirees, artists, entreprenuers and others who live in Jacumba might argue that. How sad that you feel this way. Finally, you seemed to missed the part of my commentary that stated we
hired an independent entomologist to come up with a scientifically proven way to measure eye gnat population numbers so the question of HOW MANY EYE GNATS ARE ENOUGH? will be able to be answered. This will be beneficial for Mr. Bornt and Mr. Brammer. We made a presentation, with some new abatement solutions to the San Diego County Vector control last Friday and hope to see them implemented -I believe rather than characterizing us as "complainers" we should be viewed as actively seeking a solution.

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Avatar for user 'DG'

DG | November 10, 2011 at 2:33 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

Sounds to me as if there's been an eye gnat controversy going on in Jacumba for awhile now. But the show segment was about Escondido, wasn't it? Not seeing much here from people in that community.

I sincerely hope that solutions to eye gnat infestation problems can be resolved in both communities, in ways that work out optimally for everyone involved, including bugged residents, farmers AND their customers. In the case of the Escondido CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, that includes a fairly large number of families (2600, I hear) who depend on their affordable produce.

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Avatar for user 'daniellet96'

daniellet96 | November 10, 2011 at 6:45 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

DG You are right we need to have MORE Organic farms not fewer. The Escondido issue and the Jacumba are slightly different and usually, you can't have a "one-size-fits all" solution

Please know that all the Supervisors at yesterday's San Diego County Supervisor's meeting came out in favor of Organic farms . One of the Supervisors even owns an Organic farm. They have no intention of spraying pesticides on farms or shutting them down. They only want to make sure that there are consequences to farmers (Organic or otherwise) that refuse to fully comply with Good Farming practices to mitigate eye gnat infestations. This does not we mean we expect ZERO gnats, just that the residents of both communities want to be able to do things outdoors again as other communities can.This can be done ( the Supervisors have stated that there are 344 Organic farms just in the County alone, and only 2 are problems).

There were very eloquent and passionate speakers there for Mr Brammer of BeWiseRanch. They are very concerned that they will lose this resourse. I do not see this happening as I am sure the County can work with Mr Brammer on the correct Good farming practices. From what I hear he does great charity work and also provides a needed service.

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Avatar for user 'JohnL'

JohnL | November 11, 2011 at 5:23 p.m. ― 5 years, 4 months ago

It sounds like someone may have sobered up,not sure why those outside of N.County care so much,It seems there will always be people to cast blame.Weather patterns are changing and most scientists agree that Insect infestations/floods/drought/viral outbreaks are some of the consequences we all get to look forward to

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Avatar for user 'Gnatville'

Gnatville | June 22, 2012 at 1:38 p.m. ― 4 years, 9 months ago

I live in Jacumba. It's exasperating seeing the flood of comments of the clueless outsiders who defend wrongdoing by corporate agriculture who only care about hoarding their almighty bucks.

Thankfully, there is good news. Corporate agriculture-- Bornt Gnat Farm-- is leaving Jacumba, a spa resort town almost ruined by Bornt's trillion gnat crop.

This farm has been great for the environment, especially with Bornt enjoying the free water and draining an aquifer dry. Give him a prize for that one. We need the Nature Conservancy to award him a gold medal. And the Audubon Society can recognize him for his gnat breeding-in the trillions-- his great efforts to ensure that the Eye Gnat shall never become extinct.

To those clueless defenders of organic at any cost, I wish that scourging clouds of biting, sawing, eye scraping files be unleashed upon you and your community. Then I look forward to informing YOU that your suffering is of no concern to me. I will say you are ignorant, misguided, ill-informed and overly sensitive. When you complain that your kids can't play outside, I will tell you to have them sit in front of the TV and play video games. When you howl about your property values declining because of the infestation, you will see my crocodile smile. And when I eat my organic spinach, I will think of you and laugh heartily and merrily…

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