Red tide likely responsible for fly population surge: experts

Researchers have recorded similar increases in fly populations after previous natural disasters, including hurricanes and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – If you feel like the flies have been very “swarming” this summer, you’re not alone.

The Tampa Bay area’s social media is “buzzing” with complaints of people noticing flies in their backyards and invading outdoor tables when they go out to eat.

Janie Fielder and her children are among those who have noticed what appears to be an explosion in the fly population in Pinellas.

“The other day we started patting each other on the face and saying, ‘Why are there so many flies here?'”

Entomologist Dr. Roberto Pereira studies insects, including the common housefly, at the University of Florida.

He and other insect experts we spoke to suspect that all the dead and rotting fish from the red tide are likely to blame.

“When we have this abundance of food where the maggots will thrive, you will end up with this large increase in fly population,” Dr Pereira said.

Similar fly infestations have been seen following natural disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

According to Dr. Pereira, a single rotting fish can provide a vast breeding ground for thousands of new flies.

“The maggots are actually very beneficial to us because they actually consume this decaying material and that will lead to a reduction in the bad smell,” Dr. Pereira said. “So they help us in that way, but once they become adults, they have to fly somewhere.

And that’s what seems to be happening in the Bay Area now. But it’s not just directly along the coast. There are also reports of flies swarming away from the beaches.

“In coastal areas, you always have these winds coming inland. This will definitely carry these flies a long way from their original production site,” says Dr Pereira.

Experts suggest it’s not enough for clean-up crews to pick up dead fish and load them into a dumpster.

He says it’s important to bury or burn rotting fish before the flies have a chance to mature.

“It would be nice to put them under dirt so the flies can’t get to them or incinerate them so the material isn’t there.”

Researchers at the University of Florida want to explore the relationship between red tide and the rise in fly populations.

They plan to send a team to Pinellas to study how local communities can better respond to the red tide and prevent fly populations from spiraling out of control in the future.

RELATED: Red Tide: 3.4 Million Pounds Of Marine Life Removed From Pinellas County

RELATED: Portions of Tampa Bay Area Coastline Under Beach Hazard Declaration Due to Red Tide

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