TOWN OF NEENAH, Wis. (AP) - Swarms of lake flies are invading the Lake Winnebago area - clinging to everything in sight and leaving behind a green mess when squished.
"You just learn to walk with your eyes kind of half shut, and you don't wear real light clothes," said Steven Spanbauer has lived on the west shore of Lake Winnebago for 27 years. "Other than that, they don't really affect much."
Lake flies typically emerge around Mother's Day but cool weather delayed this year's hatch, according to Post-Crescent Media.
The annual Lake Winnebago lake fly hatch is in full swing, with huge numbers staging an aerial assault on High Cliff State Park, in Sherwood, Wis. Lake flies typically emerge around Mother's Day but this year's hatch was delayed by the cool spring weather. Lake flies don't have mouths, so they don't bite or eat vegetation.
They live throughout Lake Winnebago and the upper lakes and die within one to three weeks of hatching. Lake flies don't have mouths, so they don't bite.
Scott Koehnke, a water management specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources, said warmer temperatures this week will result in a bumper crop of lake flies.
The lake flies spend the majority of their life in water, emerging only for a brief period as adults to mate. Sturgeon, perch and walleye feed on the larvae, known as red worms or blood worms, and pupae.
"They are the staple food source for the lake sturgeon throughout most of the year, as well as they're being consumed by pretty much any other fish out there," said Ryan Koenigs, a DNR fisheries biologist. "I've seen walleye stomachs that are loaded with lake fly pupae."
Koehnke said the current hatch will help migrating birds, which have struggled to find food in the cool spring. Purple martins and swallows had delayed nesting because of the lack of food.
It will also benefit other birds that already are nesting or feeding their young.
"It's going to be a food source that's not always available at this time of the year," Koehnke said.