Midges return to invade Ontario, here's why

·2 min read
Midges return to invade Ontario, here's why

Spring is well underway, a sign that midges are about to invade Ontario...or have already in parts of the province.

Thousands of the insects typically surface every year, spreading out in thick swarms that cover everything from trees and rocks to the sides of homes along the lakeshores.

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SEE ALSO: Here's why you may be seeing tiny swarms of insects

Midges -- also known as chironomids or lake flies -- are small, non-biting bugs that swarm collectively and, depending on where your location, you may have already seen a lot of them lately.

In a previous interview with The Weather Network, Royal Ontario Museum entomologist Doug Currie said the bugs can be seen throughout the year but they're most noticeable when there are mass emergences of adults, which is most typical in the spring and fall.

Midges 2/LorraineParow/Toronto
Midges 2/LorraineParow/Toronto

Midges. Photo: Lorraine Parow/Submitted.

They are very tiny in size, with each one measuring less than 1 millimetre in length -- nearly invisible when on its own or when observed from afar. But you will certainly notice them when they gather in swarms. Some groups of midges number a few thousand, while others reach into the millions.

They typically feed on plants and hatch in water, with the sunlight drawing them out. According to Currie, there are hundreds of species of midges in Canada, and each one has a unique life cycle.

"The ones that are creating the big swarms in southern Ontario [currently] are likely originating from the large lakes, like Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe," he told The Weather Network through email.


Stephan Marshall, a retired professor of entomology at the University of Guelph, spoke to The Weather Network about the insects in 2020.

Midges/Lorraine Parow (UGC)
Midges/Lorraine Parow (UGC)

Midges. Photo: Lorraine Parow/Submitted.

He said midges are "phenomenally important" to the Great Lakes, beginning their life cycle in the muck at the bottom of the lakes.

“They make these cool little silkin tubes, like salivary secretion tubes, and the filter stuff algae and organic material from the muck in the bottom of the lake, feed on that and develop until the fall. Then they slow down in the cold months of winter and then they sort of boot it up again when the ice goes out in spring and finish their larval development,” said Marshall.

After this, midges form into a pupa, and once they are ready, they will make their way to the surface and the adults emerge. This occurs annually around the third week of May.

Although the midges may be a bit of an annoyance at times, they are vital to the nutrient cycle and are a needed food source for fish and birds, as well.

But you don't need to worry about putting bug repellent on if you encounter a swarm -- they do not bite.

With files from Marta Czurylowicz and Cheryl Santa Maria.

Thumbnail courtesy of Lorraine Parow/Submitted.

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