LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Counties in eastern Arkansas are struggling to contain buffalo gnats, which are causing the deaths of livestock and deer.

The black flies began laying eggs following heavy winter rains, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that. The gnats clustered around homes and on farms in flood plains as the eggs began hatching over the past couple of weeks.

Arkansas County Extensive agent Phil Horton said one farmer even reported that he found seven dead deer on his property.

Keith Perkins, Lonoke County Extension Service staff chairman, said gnats can fly into an animal's throat, constricting its airway and causing swelling.

Kelly Loftin is a state entomologist and professor with the University of Arkansas System Agriculture Division's Cooperative Extension Service. He said this year's eruption of gnats is much worse than usual.

"I would say in my 20 years with Extension, with the university, it's the worst I've seen," Loftin said.

Loftin said gnats lay eggs in late winter and spring that can remain viable for years, which means even more eggs could hatch next year.

Residents are encouraged to wear bright colors, long sleeves and long pants to avoid gnats attaching themselves to their skin. Wearing hats with screens can also protect airways.

People can protect their livestock by moving them to areas where there aren't as many gnats or by sheltering their animals.

"The flies won't enter buildings or barns," Loftin said.

Perkins said he expects gnat numbers to peak within the next few weeks before declining and disappearing.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com