Fuzzybills: A Cover Story


Fuzzybills: A Cover Story

Non-biting Aquatic Midges Unleashed

by m/v Dyad

Fuzzybills Unleashed

Cruise inland coastal waters between April and November, and chances are you've encountered a few fuzzybills. Perhaps it's more apt to say they've encountered you. After being covered in the thickest, swarmiest, carpeting of them ever, it was time to do some research. What are they and what do they want?

Fuzzybills, or Chironomid midges, are non-biting flying aquatic insects. Boats happen to be convenient mating platforms. They mate, they die, and leave it to you to clean up after them.

We were their choice landing pad twice with a few days off between. The second time was more intense. The entire boat was engulfed in a nightmarish living carpet. We tried citronella candles, insect spray, bug coils and the garden hose to no avail. They seemed to react as though these were high end spa treatments.

If they like your boat, expect them to hang out with you up to five days. They'll serenade you with a steady audible jzzzz tone, the rhythm section taps on every surface, while a whirling dervish takes place under any light. The little buggers will swarm you with affection when you step onto the deck.

After mating, fuzzybill eggs are deposited on the water then drift to the bottom sediment. The larvae, numbering up to 4500 per square foot of mud, feed on suspended particles. After 2-7 weeks in the larval stage, they transform into the pupal state for three days. Then the fun begins again as they emerge in mass as full fledged adults.

One fine day all the boat surfaces were suddenly free of fuzzybills. They were on the floor as if they all dropped on the count of three. Bug remains smell like a combination of brewers hops, garlic, and damp cellar. Hosing them off is similar to pushing piles of wet sawdust. Water also clears the green residue they leave behind, though hardened raised green dots need flecking off.

Would we cruise through fuzzybill territory again? Yes. Maybe we'll be in anchorages on a week they aren't emerging locally. It's a coin toss. A few fuzzybills onboard is a clear sign to move to another anchorage NOW.


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