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Midges invade JCU in swarms

September 29th, 2011

With the fall season beginning at John Carroll, Mother Nature is running her course. Not only has the weather begun to change, but tiny mosquito-like insects, known as midges, are flying throughout the air. Many students have probably encountered graveyards of dead midges in the bathrooms of their residence halls or hallways, certainly causing disgust and annoyance. With so many of these tiny bugs invading students’ residences, curious students can’t help but wonder why they’re here.

According to a website put up by William Lyon, an entomologist at The Ohio State University, there are various families of midges: biting midges, non-biting midges, and those known as crane flies. The non-biting ones found here at JCU are harmless, but when encountered in swarms, they can be a real problem. Often confused with mosquitoes, midges are very small, usually only one-eighth to a half-inch long. What differentiates them from mosquitoes is that they do not have scales on their wings nor long beaks as mosquitoes do.

Lyon said, “Most live in fresh water while others are found in very moist soil, in wet moss, and under damp bark.”

Midges can also be found around buildings near damp soil and basically any place where unclean water may

accumulate, such as in gutters, because these are ideal places for their larva to hatch and grow.

Given the presence of Lake Erie to the north, midges are very common around Cleveland during the summer and early fall seasons when the weather is hot and humid or cool and damp conditions ideal for their mating and survival.

An event involving midges, which some may be familiar with, is the 2007 MLB American League Division Series “Bug Game” in Cleveland when the New York Yankees faced the Indians in the playoffs. In game two of the series, swarms of midges hovered around the field, creating an annoyance to the point where there were several stoppages in play to apply bug spray to the players out on the field. The game was highly publicized due to such odd playing conditions people had never seen before.

In regards to the game, former Yankees first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said, “Every time you tried to focus on something, they’re flying in your nose and your hair and your face.” Many of the bugs were likely attracted to the moistness of the players sweating.

Matt Nied, a sophomore living in Campion Hall is one of many who have found the midges to be quite a nuisance on campus.

“I think they’re gross,” he said. “They provide a dirty atmosphere and show that our school is not too hygienic if there are dead bugs all over the rooms and bathrooms.”

When studying, Nied said he encountered dozens of dead midges in a study room in his dorm which caused him to turn around and study in his room where he has a screen.

Once grown into adults after four weeks of maturing, midges do not eat and usually only live for five to 10 days, said Lyon. They are capable of flying up to a quarter mile away from their breeding site. Due to the bright lights and damp atmosphere, they are attracted to the environment of bathrooms and end up inside of dorms if capable of finding a way in. Once there, many of them die from the bright lights that draw them close.

Cortney Freshwater, a freshman in Pacelli Hall said, “[The school should] spray pesticides before we get here and throughout the year, like they do with other insects to prevent them from flying in.”

Mike Roeder, JCU’s manager of facility services, suggested that doors should not be propped open, so the midges don’t find their way into the dorms. Students should report any missing or damaged screens in their rooms.

“The good news is that they have a short life span,” he said.

Even though the bugs are a nuisance, Roeder said, the facilities department does not use chemicals to get rid of them because of their short life span.