On Lake Flies and Reality TV

Imagine, if you will, the celebrated life and inglorious death of the Wisconsin Lake Fly.

Born merely to breed, they burst forth like waves of Kardashians and spend their whole, uninspired lives in pursuit of babies and buzz. Wave them off and they’ll return in greater numbers. Question their validity in life’s tender ecosystem, and they roar back, pesky noisemakers who speak loudly and say nothing at all (because lake flies have no mouths).

Just when you think you’ve seen the last of them, you sweep up their tiny shells and wash green goo from your screens, they rebrand themselves and return.

I once spent the worst Mother’s Day I could ever imagine playing first base in a lakefront softball game. I stood with my mitt over my face and tried to ignore the incessant humming of swarming flies all around me. I felt like the central character in a Hitchcock movie as I pulled away from the horror that day and drove from the lake. I stopped at a nearby grocery store and marveled at normalcy of it all — small children skipped along shiny carts, shoppers happily loaded their loot into bright-colored cars. I sat in my car and decompressed, so shocking was quick contradiction of swarming lake flies and happy Sunday families.

Still, I feel sorry for the pesky lake fly, dancing happily in pursuit of a mate in one instance, splattered awkwardly across a sweaty, freckled human face in another. The end comes quickly for the entire lot, none of whom lives more than a week.

The thing to remember about lake flies is that they’re harmless, no matter how loud their hum, nor apparently vacuous their lives. Swat them away and they’ll leave a mark. Ignore them and they’ll fade away.

Lake Fly

I caught this loner hanging out on my car yesterday. Kind of an attractive little thing, isn’t she?


Look at them, hovering around the corner and plastered against the wall of this house.


It’s almost Shakespearean when you think about it, a desperate pursuit of a mate and then sudden, predetermined death.


Their empty shells pile up all over.

Lake fly and hawk

It’s the camera angle, for sure, but the lake fly on the left looks bigger than the happy, fat hawk in the middle of the sky.

The view

Lake flies are the price you have to pay for consistent views like this.

I caught the lake flies on an off day. For the full effect of their annual swarm, check out this Gannett video.  


Posted on May 23, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Kathy Finley

    Prom 1986 – North Shore Country Club. Chaperones were stationed just inside the door to gently wipe the bugs off our dresses so they wouldn’t leave a green stain. Our dates had to run through the swarms from the parking lot.

  2. Oh the humanity! That prom will live in infamy.

  3. Glad to know this. We just moved on a lake…

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