The Natty Winter Gnat

There aren’t many insects out and about at this time of year but on a warmer day you may see clouds of winter gnats (Trichocera annulata and related species) ‘dancing’ in the sunlight.  

Trichocera sp. swarming © Tuomo Tuomikoski, CC BY-SA 4.0

What persuades these small flies to come out in the depths of winter? Well, the dancers are males hoping to attract females. It’s thought that gathering together in a group like this makes it easier for the females to spot them. The trouble is, each individual male then has to compete for her attention!

If you are out for a walk, it may seem that a group of gnats is following you around; that’s because they are! If you are the warmest thing around, they will stay near you and make the most of your body heat.

You don’t need to worry about being bitten: although these gnats look a bit like mosquitos, they are completely harmless. The adults aren’t interested in drinking your blood, they feed on nectar. The larvae can be found in leaf litter, feeding on fungi, leaf mould and other decaying matter.

You can find out more about Trichocera on the Bug Life website: https://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs/bug-directory/winter-gnat/

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