County establishes program to control eye gnats without pesticides

San Diego County Board of Supervisors have approved a program to reduce the number of eye gnats around organic farms — without the use of pesticides.

The insects live and breed in warmer climates and are a nuisance to humans and animals, buzzing around the eyes, nose and mouth, according to the county’s Department of Environmental Health.

The gnats caused big problems on two local farms, in south Escondido and the East County community of Jacumba. One closed, and farmers at the other site were working to control the pests, according to county documents.

Eye gnats will be added to the definition of “vector” in the county code, which applies to all nuisance sources of eye gnats.

“Eye gnats themselves are always vectors, but are not necessarily a public nuisance,” said Rebecca Lafreniere, of the county’s vector control program. “Property or activity that supports the development of eye gnats would be the public nuisance under the ordinance.”

Organic farms identified as a source of eye gnats would be required to take action to eliminate the bugs if voluntary measures, including traps and barriers around the farms, do not work.

As a last resort, county officials could restrict the types of crops grown or order a farmer to use effective control measures, regardless of cost.

No farmers would be told to cease operations or to use pesticides.

The program would also establish an eye gnat abatement appeals board that would include members of the organic farming community and a state licensed pest control adviser.

The vote on Dec. 5 was 4-0. Supervisor Bill Horn recused himself because he owns an organic farm.

   
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