By: Anne Krueger, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 12:01 a.m.
EAST COUNTY - The millions of pesky eye gnats that have been plaguing the tiny East County community of Jacumba for years may soon meet their death in a 100-foot swath of alfalfa and corn planted at the edge of an organic spinach farm.
At least that's what county officials and residents of the high-desert community are hoping.
The plan to smite the pinhead-size pests - or at least greatly reduce their numbers - was presented at a meeting yesterday with county Supervisor Dianne Jacob and county officials, Jacumba residents and representatives of farmer Alan Bornt.
Residents of the community, with a population of about 550, have longed complained that Bornt's farm is responsible for the gnats that have made their life miserable. They say they can no longer sip a beer or read a newspaper outside, while children at Jacumba School must swat the insects away while having their lunches - lest they eat a gnat sandwich.
The tiny insects develop in the moist soil used for agriculture and are attracted to human and animal eyes because the females use the protein from mucus for producing eggs.
A report last year by the University of California Extension determined that more than 80 million gnats were coming from Bornt's 450-acre organic spinach and lettuce farm at the edge of town. Bornt put up a 5-foot barrier and installed 1,200 gnat traps, but he can't use traditional chemical pesticides on the organic farm.
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