You don't love muffleheads, but Lake Erie does

SANDUSKY They're back, and they're everywhere. Muffleheads, also known as chironomids
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

 

SANDUSKY

They're back, and they're everywhere.

Muffleheads, also known as chironomids or non-biting midges, are slightly smaller than mosquitoes, and as their name implies, they don't bite.

Their large swarms, however, are enough to bug area residents.

"It's been three years since I've seen an emergence this big," said Jeff Tyson, biologist supervisor of the Lake Erie Fisheries. Tyson has been working at the Sandusky office for 13 years.

While the swarms of muffleheads can certainly get annoying, Tyson said that they're ultimately a good thing.

"They are indicators of good water quality," Tyson said. "The chironomids are a sign of a healthy Lake Erie."

Tyson pointed out that during the 1950s and 1960s the mufflehead populations suffered from the heavy water pollution much like the mayflies, which have also made a recent comeback.

"They will be around off and on all summer," Tyson said, but they won't always be in the big swarms that the lakeshore has been witnessing recently.

According to an article from The Ohio State University Department of Entomology, combating the annual swarms with pesticides is unrealistic. The muffleheads are annoying, but they pose no health threat to humans and are a vital part of the local food chain. Trying to exterminate them could not only contaminate the area's water supplies, but could also adversely affect other species who depend on the muffleheads for food.

"They are a significant component in the diets of many area fish populations," Tyson said.

Area residents can take heart that they are not alone in their frustrations; muffleheads are an international pest.

In Singapore, biting midges are often called sandflies. The flightless midge species Belgica antarctica is the largest land animal found on the continent of Antarctica.