Possible explanation for "midges outbreak" in PE

11:29 (GMT+2) Mon, 12 Aug 2019
stock photo: Pixabay

Thousands of residents across the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro took to social media to complain about what can only be described as a plague of midges.

Residents responded to a question asked on Algoa FM News' Facebook page last week in which we tried to establish how big the problem actually was.

The response was overwhelming with complaints received from almost every suburb in the Metro.

We promised to get some answers and spoke to a Zoology Laboratory Technician at the Nelson Mandela Bay University.

Bryone Peters, who is a Master's degree candidate in Behavioural Zoology, says in order to give advice on the particular insect one actually needs to be very sure what species of insect you are dealing with.

A midge is a term used for many species of small flies, it also does not define a particular group of organisms.

Peters says, therefore, it is extremely important to know what type of Midge-species you are dealing with.

She says as far as outbreaks are concerned, generally speaking, it may just be an anomaly where there are just the right conditions for a certain insect to thrive and increase in numbers beyond its normal density.

Environmental factors such as temperature and rainfall can also be an attributing factor.

Peters highlights the fact that we had a very long drought period and as a result, many people are saving water, possibly in containers that do not have lids. In some areas in the Metro there is an increase in the volume of stagnant water and together with just the right temperature can spark an outbreak for some species of insects.

What can we do?

Do not leave garbage bins uncovered.

Make sure you dispose of your pet's poo properly, this will include 'landmines' in your garden and your cat's litter tray as this could have a huge impact on the number of insects on your property.

Peters also suggests that you place your food waste into a specially designated compartment in your freezer and only place it in the bin on the day your trash is collected.

Listeners also wanted to know why these midges died so quickly as they seemed to have a life span of less than 24 hours.

Peters says this is a normal aspect of insect biology.

"In general, insects have short lifespans compared to the bigger animals like us mammals," she added.

She says the fact that so many of the insects are found dead could be due to the fact that they could not find the correct food they needed in order to fulfil their next life stage.

Peters says she would have to identify the current species by testing a dead specimen and therefore can only give a general explanation into the outbreak. 

Bryone Peters is currently researching the defensive behaviour of a native ant species at Stellenbosch University.