Across the globe strange things are happening in the insect kingdom. From the mayfly infestation of Lake Erie to the cricket affliction on the homes and businesses of Texas, bugs descending in biblical proportions can be a nuisance.
Although local residents may have a rough idea of when the mighty infestation may occur, no one knows exactly what triggers insects to swarm at the same time or how one colony knows that all the other colonies in the area are going to take to the skies. Last year scientists tried to discover if there was a pattern when ants synchronised flying. Scientists at the University of Girona discovered that the largest number of synchronized nuptial flights of ants took place 2-3 days after rainfall which presumably makes the ground softer for the ants to create their nests. Low wind also seemed to be a deciding factor in nuptial ant flights. The flights also took place on the same date across a distance of 1000km indicating large-scale synchrony.
Insects swarm to create the best possible chance of survival. The emerge in huge clouds which offers more protection from predators such as fish or birds who can only make a tiny dent in the overall population.
After Lake Erie was uncontaminated in the mid 1990’s the towns along Lake Erie have been infested by mayflies who swarm in their billions for a mile in length and a mile inland. They emerge from the lake where they spend 99% of their lives as aquatic larvae in the mud at the bottom of the lake. In mid-May – June they emerge and fly above the areas surrounding the lake. The males create a funnel into which the females jump inside to mate and then return to the lake and drop their eggs into the water. Mayflies have no mouthparts to feed so its only a day or two time before they starve to death and die. As they reach the end of their life, billions of mayflies drop onto the towns in such incredulous quantities that snowploughs are employed to move the carcasses. The insects crunch underfoot and if it’s raining, become slippery. After a short while the smell becomes offensive and has been described as one resident as a mixture of motor oil and vomit.
In some states including Texas and Utah billions of grasshoppers have invaded home and businesses. Grasshoppers will feed on everything in the garden and if thousands invade your flowers and plants may well be stripped bare. This video shows how a family was driven from their home in Utah after it was invaded by crickets. But apart from the nuisance of finding crickets in your drawers and inside the cooker, the predators brought their own problems. Thousands of gulls were lured to the area by the easy pickings. Although the gulls started to clean up the grasshopper problem, they left their own mess behind.