Biting Flies are Out of Control at the Jersey Shore This Summer
Jersey Shore beachgoers are hoping to make the most of the remaining summer days without the company of pesky flies, which seem to be biting more frequently this season.
Dr. Catherine Duckett, associate dean at Monmouth University's School of Science, offered a possible explanation, suggesting it could be a perfect storm involving prey, habitat and weather conditions.
In general, there are two things that control fly population: food resources and predators.
"Most flies, their major predators are birds, and we know that bird populations are dropping. Purple martins and swallows are major predators of this kind of fly," she said.
The dry summer also has resulted in marshes, where flies like to breed, drying out and forcing the flies into dry land.
Brett Ewald, program director at the Cape May Bird Observatory, which is part of the New Jersey Audubon Society, says there hasn't been a shortage of purple martins and swallows along the coast.
Ewald believes the fly problem may be "a timing issue when the flies have had hatchings and the conditions that allow for that." Ewald also believes low water levels from the dry summer could be contributing to greater fly numbers.
Beach flies resemble house flies but can make painful, sharp bites.
"Their bite is produced my mouth parts that are like six little knives sticking into," Duckett said.
The flies that live longer are more prone to biting because they need to feed on more blood in order to lay subsequent batches of eggs.
"There may be fewer flies, but they're biting more because each individual fly has a longer life," Duckett said.
Horseflies and greenheads also respond to the polarized light that's reflected off the water, so if the winds are appropriate for them to be on the shore, they're going to bite.
Higher temperatures also create favorable conditions, according to Duckett.
"Insects complete their life cycles faster when it's warmer," she said, and noted that July and August were record warm months.