Tiny Pests with Short Lives

This blog was originally posted on May 15, 2018.

Luxurious lake living has very few negatives.  Mostly we boast about our magnificent sunsets, of cool lake breezes that float over the patio as we take in the beauty of the perfectly painted landscape in front of us. Alas, there is one teeny, tiny downfall of living so close to the water… Midges!

Some call them Mayflies, but they actually have distinct differences.

Midges: Smaller than a mayfly; emerge when the surface water temperature is around 60°, and live about 5-10 days.

Mayflies: Bigger than a midge with larger wings, a pronounced tail, emerge at surface water temps around 70°, and have a lifespan of about 1 day.

Have you seen them?

Seriously… how can you miss them?  I mean, I know they’re tiny and all, but they tend to travel by the bajillion (yes, that’s a real word).

So what’s the deal with these little buggers?  Well, millions and millions of these fluttering insects rise up from the lake into the air.  Then… they land.  Covering our storefronts, our houses, our cars, our bodies.  Everything.

However, the onslaught of these pesky little devils is short-lived and they are gone in a few days, leaving behind piles of crunchy carcasses.


According to Entomology Today, they are an indicator of clean freshwater!  So I know they’re super gross and a huge pain in the butt for a few days, but if we had a spring with no mayflies?  Then it’s time to worry!

Thanks to Jim Sholly over at the CLEAR Project, our lake is healthy and thriving.  Thus… we’ve been inundated with tiny bugs this week.

So what’s their purpose?  I mean, we’re all just here searching for the meaning of life, right? Well… theirs is quite simple.  The adults emerge from the mud and sand at the bottom of the lake, find a mate and lay some eggs.  About 3-5 days later they die.

The end.

It’s kind of sad, really.  I feel like maybe, as a community, we should help set the scene for all this reproduction going on.  Dim the street lights? Play a little ‘mood music?’  Anything to help them mate quicker and die so we can go back to being able to have our mouths open while being outside.

Because right now, that’s a thing.  I suggest keeping those lips zipped unless you want one to crunch down on one of those little buggers.  Gross.

On the plus side to all this madness, a healthy batch of midges provide food for fish, dragonfly nymphs, and birds.  In fact, Jim Sholly at the CLEAR Project says that the fish go into a bit of a feeding frenzy during this time of the year, and it’s the best time to get out there and snag the big one.

So just like you, I like to complain for a few days about the annoyance of these pesky, fluttering invertebrates.  But in the grand scheme of life, they’re not that bad.  I think we can all put up with them for a few days each year if it means we’ve got a healthy, clean lake.

photocredit: scotsman.com