Lakeshore residents prepare for return of the lake flies

The swarm is coming. The DNR says the cold spring likely delayed the lake flies' arrival.
Published: May. 16, 2023 at 5:11 AM CDT
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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - The bugs are coming and once they do, they’ll make their presence known.

For people living near Lake Winnebago, it’s time to prepare for the swarms of lake flies that are starting to pop up.

In a typical year, the lake flies begin appearing around Mother’s Day, but this year they’re taking their time hatching. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says this could be due to the cold weather sticking around later into spring this year.

Unfortunately, despite the delay, DNR said the lake flies will still be appearing – typically in large and smelling swarms.

But residents aren’t complaining about getting some extra time to enjoy the sunshine.

“I mean it’s nice to be able to be here and not have them swarming all over you,” said Sarah Simon, an Oshkosh resident. “I know my son is terrified of them so he doesn’t like to come here for a few weeks every year.”

Oshkosh native Ellie Almozaffar agreed, saying, “I’d just prefer for them to not be around at all, so like, this is nice.”

The delayed appearance isn’t making much of a difference for residents who know what’s still to come.

“I don’t think it makes a difference for me when they come and when they go, but just the excessiveness of them is not fun,” Almozaffar said.

“I want them to get out and get over with it,” said Oshkosh resident Larry Johnson.

Lake flies can cause a mess, especially when squished, but they’re also harmless. The creatures are born without mouths and only live between one and three weeks.

“They’re just kind of a hassle and they leave a little mark everywhere they land,” Johnson said.

Some residents avoid the Lake Winnebago area once the thick swarms arrive.

“Don’t go bike riding, yeah, because you’ll get them in your face,” advised Dezarae McGuire, an Oshkosh mother.

“Sometimes when you’re like by the lake you just eat them if you’re walking around. Or if you’re running, they go up your nose,” added Almozaffar.

While they might mostly be seen as pests, the lake flies are an important food source for wildlife in the area, and they have at least one human fan.

“They’re not annoying to me because I actually like bugs,” said 4-year-old Alister Simon, who decided today that he’s no longer afraid of the lake flies.