Edge of 30: gnats invade golf courses, serve a purpose


By Lindsay Steele

Earlier this summer, I went golfing with my husband, Chris and his dad, Dave. They usually go on their own, but Chris has been teaching me how to play, and he felt I was ready to take the plunge and golf a full 18 holes.

Lindsay Steele waits to tee off on hole one at Emeis Golf Course in Davenport on June 1. She was smiling then, but would be fighting off the gnats later.

I didn’t fare too badly. I got the best score on one hole, nearly making par. It was a good boost of confidence, even though they both beat my 18-hole score by a mile. As my favorite pro golfer Jordan Spieth would say, “It’s just fuel going forward!”

Unfortunately, the day wasn’t as fun or relaxing as it could have been. Gnats were out in full force, making buzzing, stinging clouds around my head. I’m particularly susceptible to insect bites and came prepared with repellant, but it didn’t deter these little pests. I spent most of the round swatting to no avail, and spent the following days suffering from itchy welts.


Everyone I know has been dealing with these pesky buggers, too. The gnats have been particularly bad this year, due to the humid weather.

Dave said he doesn’t let gnats stop him from golfing, but I’m not sure I’ll go out again until they die down a bit. The University of Illinois Extension predicts that it could happen in the tri-state area near the end of June. I hope they’re right. Otherwise, I’ll be trying all the home-baked repellants in search of a cure — Absorbine Jr., vanilla, dryer sheets, you name it.

I’ve wondered from time to time why God created pests like gnats. In Genesis, he described his creation as “good” and “very good.” But when you’re trying to make a clutch putt and bugs are flying up your nose, it doesn’t seem like that applies to all creatures.

When I try to find an answer online about why God created creatures that irritate us and cause us pain, it seems people are quick to say it is part of the fall of man. Some believe God intervened at this time by creating all unpleasant and parasitic animals, not just the “thorns and thistles” (Genesis 3:18).

But thorns and thistles serve a purpose. They aren’t all bad. Roses are one of the only flowers in my garden that the rabbits stay away from because of the thorns, and if you are talking about animals, ants (another “pesky” insect) are responsible for opening up my peony bushes each year.
So could it be that even the lowest creatures are good?

Gnats are an interesting study in that regard. In the Old Testament, God uses them as a weapon in the form of a plague. Exodus 8:16 reads, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.’”

It would be easy, then, to think they were created just to annoy us, but it isn’t the case. The Iowa State University Extension Service says gnats serve as nature’s recyclers, too. They reduce organic matter into the ecosystem.

So, I guess gnats aren’t all bad, and we should be grateful for their role on God’s earth. But, for now, I’m still going to be careful when I go out on the links.

(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at steele@davenportdiocese.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)

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