Fish Flies Return to Michigan Shorelines

Tuesday, June 19, 2007



They're swarmy and stinky, and they're sticking around longer. Fish flies have invaded the shorelines of Lake St. Clair, the Detroit and St. Clair rivers, and points beyond. Known elsewhere as May flies, the bugs emerged from the rivers and lakes around June 1 and are expected to hang around for six weeks.

That's three weeks longer than they used to, local experts say. And you can thank cleaner water for their greater numbers and extended stay _ and the corresponding coating on cars, buildings, sidewalks and streets near the waterfront.

"There's an unusually large hatch here today," Robert Haas told the Detroit Free Press for a story Tuesday. The fisheries research biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources was speaking from his office at the mouth of the Clinton River in Macomb County's Harrison Township.

"You almost can't breathe outdoors here. The trees look like they have hair growing on them."

Haas said the cause is the genus ephemera _ a larger, lighter-colored fly that once was rare. As Great Lakes water quality has improved, they have grown in abundance and possibly are as plentiful as their smaller, browner cousins known as hexagenia.

Fish flies, found as far north as Manitoba and as far south as Georgia, spend up to two years at the bottom of lakes and rivers before coming onto land. Once on land, they live about 30 hours _ first in trees or on plants and then they go out in a blaze of swarming, mating glory.

While they don't bite, they're still disgusting, says Steve Teff of Port Huron.

"I have to go out there and cut the grass and I'm just dreading it," he said. "they cling to the blades and they just attack you. They fly everywhere."


Information from: Detroit Free Press,

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