Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

What is the point of gnats?

Why syrphids hover is an elusive question.

Image by Rick Geary

Dear Matthew Alice:

In the hallway in my condo complex. there is one shady section in which the air is thick with hovering little gnats. They are very annoying. But they never seem to bite or Sling anyone. What do they do? What do they eat? Do they sleep? Where do they go at night? What enjoyment can they possibly gain from flying around in the same place all day? Please help.

R. Betz, Rose Canyon

It will be no surprise to hear that your hall loiterers are from the group known as syrphid or hover flies. On the Matthew Alice annoyance scale, they hardly register at all. Are yours some mutant strain that travels with little ghetto blasters or makes rude comments to women as they come in the building? When I consider some of the neighbors I've had over the years, all, ostensibly, from the group homo sapiens ... two late-night-party-throwing Neil Diamond fans who owned four spiteful, raucous chihuahuas; Mr. Guns-and-Motorcycles, who inspired the rest of us to form a Neighborhood Watch committee just to keep an eye on him; a middle-aged woman in primal-scream therapy .... If hover flies get you riled up, maybe your past has lacked a certain amount of color.

Be that as it may, the lives of these little bugs are simple enough. Eat and be eaten constitute their daily reality. Hall-hovering is their effort to avoid the second of these and to escape the sun on a hot day. I'm sure you've noticed the flies are most likely to appear during a heat wave. Ordinarily, syrphid flies hover under shady trees so their movements will be less noticeable to birds and other predators. But as man invades the natural landscape, hover flies have taken advantage of new opportunities and are just as content to hide out in a shady condo. If today's wildlife were to adopt a license-plate motto, it would definitely be "Adapt or die."

Adult hover flies are strictly vegetarians.

They don't bite you because they have no stinging apparatus and because blond is not on their menu. They much prefer plant carbohydrates — nectar, pollen, that sort of thing. At egg-laying time, they're partial to wild fennel and other plants that attract aphids. As for nightlife, hover flies aren't very good partiers. Come dark, they would rather sleep under some protective covering. Check out the upper comers of your hallway, when: the walls and ceiling meet. If they haven't escaped sometime in the evening, you may find them snoozing there. And as for what fun there is in hovering, the only payoff is surviving another day. I can sympathize.

Why syrphids hover is an elusive question. But the habit certainly has some social/reproductive or survival benefit. Bug motivations are not the stuff of which tangled Freudian theories are made. The flies seem to have an acute visual sense and a good feel for how far away they are from one another (and from you). If you approach a group slowly, the whole mass will move away as a unit, nobody bumping into anybody else or losing his place in the formation.

I know this is an unlikely scenario, but if you were to scrutinize a hover fly closely, you'd see that it's actually quite colorful. Its body is brightly marked with black and yellow bands, much like a bumblebee. And if the fog of bugs is truly aggravating to you, perhaps you might tum your attention to the real problem: your neighbors who leave the front door open and let in the flies in the first place.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Don't forget Escondido

We're still spaying cats in San Diego
Next Article

Angry Pete's Pizza brings Detroit to Kensington

Thick crust and caramelized cheese will make you forget about round pies
Image by Rick Geary

Dear Matthew Alice:

In the hallway in my condo complex. there is one shady section in which the air is thick with hovering little gnats. They are very annoying. But they never seem to bite or Sling anyone. What do they do? What do they eat? Do they sleep? Where do they go at night? What enjoyment can they possibly gain from flying around in the same place all day? Please help.

R. Betz, Rose Canyon

It will be no surprise to hear that your hall loiterers are from the group known as syrphid or hover flies. On the Matthew Alice annoyance scale, they hardly register at all. Are yours some mutant strain that travels with little ghetto blasters or makes rude comments to women as they come in the building? When I consider some of the neighbors I've had over the years, all, ostensibly, from the group homo sapiens ... two late-night-party-throwing Neil Diamond fans who owned four spiteful, raucous chihuahuas; Mr. Guns-and-Motorcycles, who inspired the rest of us to form a Neighborhood Watch committee just to keep an eye on him; a middle-aged woman in primal-scream therapy .... If hover flies get you riled up, maybe your past has lacked a certain amount of color.

Be that as it may, the lives of these little bugs are simple enough. Eat and be eaten constitute their daily reality. Hall-hovering is their effort to avoid the second of these and to escape the sun on a hot day. I'm sure you've noticed the flies are most likely to appear during a heat wave. Ordinarily, syrphid flies hover under shady trees so their movements will be less noticeable to birds and other predators. But as man invades the natural landscape, hover flies have taken advantage of new opportunities and are just as content to hide out in a shady condo. If today's wildlife were to adopt a license-plate motto, it would definitely be "Adapt or die."

Adult hover flies are strictly vegetarians.

They don't bite you because they have no stinging apparatus and because blond is not on their menu. They much prefer plant carbohydrates — nectar, pollen, that sort of thing. At egg-laying time, they're partial to wild fennel and other plants that attract aphids. As for nightlife, hover flies aren't very good partiers. Come dark, they would rather sleep under some protective covering. Check out the upper comers of your hallway, when: the walls and ceiling meet. If they haven't escaped sometime in the evening, you may find them snoozing there. And as for what fun there is in hovering, the only payoff is surviving another day. I can sympathize.

Why syrphids hover is an elusive question. But the habit certainly has some social/reproductive or survival benefit. Bug motivations are not the stuff of which tangled Freudian theories are made. The flies seem to have an acute visual sense and a good feel for how far away they are from one another (and from you). If you approach a group slowly, the whole mass will move away as a unit, nobody bumping into anybody else or losing his place in the formation.

I know this is an unlikely scenario, but if you were to scrutinize a hover fly closely, you'd see that it's actually quite colorful. Its body is brightly marked with black and yellow bands, much like a bumblebee. And if the fog of bugs is truly aggravating to you, perhaps you might tum your attention to the real problem: your neighbors who leave the front door open and let in the flies in the first place.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Giovanni Sgambati – an Italian Liszt

Wagner pushed for publication of Sgambati’s two piano quintets.
Next Article

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies, uncovered

Nudity does more to advance an actress’s career than it does the plot
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close