Lake flies are back in force on Lake Winnebago

SHERWOOD – A sure sign of spring is back, but this one, for many, is not a joyous return. Thick clouds of buzzing buggers known as lake flies bothering fishermen and homeowners near Lake Winnebago.

The telltale hum is in the air. Lake flies are causing headaches in High Cliff State Park.

“It’s extremely bad. It’s very obnoxious,” said John Engelhardt.

“They seem to be pretty nasty today. They weren’t that bad a few days ago, but today really brought them out,” said Brian VanCamp.

Park naturalist Cynthia Mueller told FOX 11 the lake flies are particularly bad this year. She told us the recent storms then heat and sunlight created perfect conditions for the hatch.

“We’re seeing probably the biggest hatch we’ve seen in a decade or more,” she said.

Mueller told us the flies are about two weeks late, because the ice took longer to melt than usual.

But the bugs are making up for lost time.

“I cut my lawn today and it was plugging my lawnmower up. They were just really thick on the grass. So, I had to stop a couple times and clean the mower out,” said Engelhardt.

“Right on the lake is pretty bad. You need a power washer to get them off,” said VanCamp.

While the lake flies are are annoying, they don’t pose any dangers to humans and they even provide some benefits to other animals.

“When people see them they think they’re a giant, big mosquito on steroids, but they’re not. They don’t have any biting mouth parts or stingers,” Mueller explained.

“Sturgeon and other fish are actually consuming the lake flies in the larvae and pupae stages, when they’re in the water,” said Ryan Koenigs, a sturgeon biologist with the DNR.

Birds are feasting on the adult flies.

And humans are making do, hoping for a short season.

“I grew up in High Cliff, so I know what they’re like. I just deal with them,” said Engelhardt.

The lake flies live as adults only a couple of weeks. They reproduce, lay their eggs in the water, die and the cycle starts over again.

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