Saturday, July 30, 2005
Last night my family and a visitor from Japan went to visit High Cliff State Park near Appleton, Wisconsin, on the shores of Appleton's largest lake, Lake Winnebago. The lake hosts a unique lake fly, the Winnebago lake fly, which has two hatches a year with massive swarms near the lake and river. I think yesterday must have been one of the big hatch days, because an hour after we arrived, clouds of these benign and elegant flies began swarming over the roads, attracted to the warmth of the rising air from the hot asphalt. The photo above was taken as I stood in the middle of the road. What looks like smoke is a cloud of millions of flying insects, each about an inch long.
The first time I encountered such a swarm, it was a rather frightening scene like something from a Hitchcock movie. But this time, it was beautiful. The flies make a wonderful hum as they buzz, with a dominant note that is just about a middle C (my wife had a tuning fork to verify this). I have never noticed this before, but it's a marvelous sound.
When we saw the thick clouds over the roads, instead of wanting to get away, I had to stop and get out of the car. My family thought I was nuts - OK, no argument. I stood in the swarm, enjoying the waves of motion they made and the hum. They didn't bother me, and I enjoyed participating in their ancient ritual of gathering, marveling at the rhythms of life that the Lord has placed on this amazing planet. (Had this been mosquitoes, my gratitude would have been substantially less - but the Winnebago lake fly is one of the most "friendly" of insects, apart from the mess they leave on windshields if one drives too fast.)
Our Japanese guest, an English teacher from Japan's sister city with Appleton, Kanonji, felt lucky to have seen the spectacle of the bugs, and chuckled when I told her that I had been "one with the bugs."
Posted by Jeff Lindsay at 10:04 AM