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BUGS EVERYWHERE: Downtown Fort Myers sees population boom of flying insects

Posted at 11:00 PM, Apr 18, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. — People in downtown Fort Myers are experiencing a surge in midge populations.

Dr. Joyce Fassbender, an entomologist at Florida Gulf Coast University, explained that midges are native to the region and are attracted to lights during the night.

Hence why they like the downtown area.

This attraction to light, combined with their breeding in water enriched with organic matter like algae, leads to periodic population booms.

Despite their peskiness, midges play a crucial role in the local ecosystem.

"The larvae are a food source for fish while birds, bats, and other insects feed on the adults," Dr. Fassbender noted.

This makes them an essential part of the food chain, supporting various wildlife species.

Midge outbreaks are not uncommon and tend to occur between April and November - peaking when conditions favor their reproduction.

To manage their presence, Dr. Fassbender recommends using motion sensor lights to minimize attraction and ensuring window screens fit properly to prevent midges from entering homes.

Regarding pest control, the entomologist advises against broad-spectrum insecticides and bug zappers, which can harm more than just the targeted pests.

"They are harmful to other beneficial insects, including pollinators like bees and butterflies," Fassbender stated.

Dr. Fassbender also highlighted the environmental triggers of midge blooms, which include excessive algae and organic material in bodies of water. However, she clarified that while nutrient-rich runoff from places like Lake Okeechobee can contribute to algal blooms, midge populations tend to thrive in smaller, stagnant water bodies like ponds rather than flowing waters.

For people looking to reduce the impact of midges while protecting the environment, the expert recommends simple steps like reducing light pollution and maintaining clean water bodies around properties.