Dance flies

Q: What are the small flies that hover in clouds over the grass? They float in the air in swarms and sometimes latch on to you and follow you everywhere you go.

A: It could be either gnats or dance flies. You need to capture some and take to a local Extension office (404-897-6261)

Dr. Dan Horton theorizes: “Midges would be one guess. They can be very abundant, often near water or moist organic matter. Clouds of adults could be what are called “leks”: aggregations of males, oriented over some small territory, thought to be visually attractive to females. Receptive ones fly into the cloud for mating.”

Here’s further info from entomologist Dr. Paul Guillebeau

“It is always risky to ID insects based on “small cloud of tiny insects”; maybe you could FAX a few of them (someone did FAX a spider one time). My guess is dance flies, family Empididae. The males of some species fly up and down in a little cloud to entice females.

“Interesting trivial fact: in some species, the males bring the female a little gift of food. I cannot imagine how primitive a species must be if they think that a nice dinner can be prelude to a mating ritual.”

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