Marco Islanders this year have noticed a recent addition to their population that’s swarming their beaches, out door restaurants, and making an otherwise ideal place to live a bit less relaxing. And for once, it’s not the snowbirds or vacationers, it’s black flies.
Residents first began noticing the new invasion around January, and many have claimed that the pesky bugs take up residence along the beaches.
“We recently moved to the island for the winter and are shocked at the millions of gnats that are effecting the shoreline,” Robert Gondolfo wrote in an email to the Eagle. “When I do a search online, there is no information on what is occurring or how long it could last. Everyone seems baffled.”
Chadd Chusts, Marco Island’s enviornmental specialist, said the city began recieving the complaints about the ‘gnats’ but contrary to popular belief, these are actually flies, not gnats.
“The entomologist I have been in contact with [at the University of Florida] agrees that the black fly is a Simulium species based on pictures,” he said. “However, the entomologist needs to look at specimen samples under a microscope to be certain [so] samples of the flies were collected and mailed to … the University of Florida.”
According to the university, the state can occasionally experience outbreaks of black flies, and it’s not considered a rare occurrence, and the large populations are usually caused by extreme rainfall.
Common names for the insect include black flies, turkey gnats and – because of the hump visible behind their head when viewed in profile – buffalo gnats. But until the entomologist officially identifies the insect, there’s not much the city can do to address the problem.
“The life cycle of Simulium species can vary widely,” Chustz said. “Therefore we need to identify the species in order to develop an effective control management plan.”
Luckily, aside from being irksome, the bugs pose no threat to residents’ well being.
“I was advised that black flies are not known to transmit any human pathogens in Florida at this time,” Chustz said. “They are simply a nuisance species.”