People have been rather annoyed as the months have become warmer. You might even say they are bugged by something.
That horrible pun aside, West Central Missouri residents have noticed a significant increase in flies and mosquitoes this summer. The airborne annoyances have people wondering why there are so many more insects and what can be done to cut down their presence.
The heavy rainfall that has caused flooding statewide “definitely is going to be one factor” in the increased fly population this year, according to Kevin Lohraff, nature center manager at Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City. He noted that mosquitoes are a member of the fly order, Diptura, and their larvae grow in water. Flies and mosquitoes also reproduce quickly, with flies being mature enough to lay eggs just hours after they hatch from their pupal case.
“When you have more rainfall, you have more puddles and areas where that stagnant water collects,” Lohraff said. “Mosquitoes don’t take any time at all before they find a puddle and they will lay the eggs, then pretty soon you have larvae and not long after that who have a whole new crop of mosquitoes.”
Other flies, such as midges, rely on muddy ground to complete their life cycle. To manage these pest populations, Lohraff stressed the need to eliminate standing water where possible, including in equipment or other items such as old tires on your property. For those who maintain a garden pond, he suggests adding goldfish or other fish that will eat the larvae. A thin layer of oil also will keep the populations down, as it will close off airways.
“Another thing that homeowners can do is encourage birds and other things that will eat flies. They can put up purple martin houses; martins eat a lot of insects in the air, including a lot of mosquitoes,” Lohraff said. Other natural predators might make some people just as twitchy as the insects do.
“Bats are really good. … Spiders are natural fly-catchers,” he said. “People should be aware of the benefits of spiders, especially the orb weavers that build beautiful webs on our porches and barns.”
Lohraff said the relatively mild winter had no impact on the fly population
“The insects we have in Missouri are native and are very resilient to our weather,” he said. “They’ve evolved and are used to our winters so it is generally not true that the harder winter you have, the fewer bugs you have.”
While many residents would be happier with fewer flies, Lohraff sees it another way.
“The advantage of additional flies is they are great food for many types of wildlife, including birds, reptiles, amphibians (and) small mammals. A lot of things depend on insects, if not for themselves to feed their babies,” he said. “There is a silver lining sometimes to our clouds. … There are some benefits.”
While Lohraff said the best way to address flies in your home is to avoid letting them inside in the first place, there are a lot of resources online to learn how to catch flies indoors. One of the easiest offered by Flies Only (fliesonly.com/homemade-fly-traps/) involves just a tumbler with some sugar syrup water covered with plastic wrap that has been punctured with a few holes. According to the site, flies are “attracted to food by their sense of smell; they are 10 million times more sensitive to sugar than human tongue.” Also, flies have compound eyes so their vision is lousy. Once they get inside the trap, they have difficulty finding their way out.
Lohraff also uses a toy fly shooter, a plastic gun that fires a spring-loaded plunger to squash the pests.
“It is fun for me to practice my shooting skills inside the house. They’re fun, and you can get them at Bass Pro Shops,” he said.
While we’re being bugged, other species are benefitting from the insect explosion.
“The fact is we need those bugs to feed our wildlife,” Lohraff said. “It is important that we have them out there; they are driving a lot of food chains.”