Midge Swarms – Messy & Annoying But An Important Food Source For Many Birds

Home/Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Box Elder County, Midges, Utah/Midge Swarms – Messy & Annoying But An Important Food Source For Many Birds

Midges covering a rush stalkMidges covering a rush stalk – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 400, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

During the depth of winter it is easy to forget about bugs and how annoying they can be but as temperatures warm and the bugs reappear they can really bug you. I drove to northern Utah yesterday in search of birds to photograph and while I didn’t have many opportunities with the birds I had plenty of opportunities to photograph midges, swarm after swarm of midges.

There are two kinds of midges, biting and non-biting, the midges I photographed yesterday are the non-biting midges.

Just about the time I drove north past Willard Bay I noticed midges hitting my windshield and it seemed that nearly every where I drove I could see them but the thickest concentration of midges I saw yesterday was at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Three Midges on my windshieldThree Midges on my windshield – Nikon D810, f10, 1/1250, ISO 320, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 65mm, natural light

Because I was driving slow on the auto tour route to look for birds the midges clung to my windshield. The dark smudges on my windshield are from the midges hitting it. I tried to keep the windshield clean with windshield wiper fluid and my wipers but it didn’t matter.

Midges all over my windshieldMidges all over my windshield – Nikon D810, f10, 1/800, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 26mm, natural light

And while I drove the auto tour route I didn’t turn the windshield wipers on because they would have just smeared the midges all over. Yuck.

Midge swarm outside of my JeepMidge swarm outside of my Jeep – Nikon D810, f10, 1/1600, ISO 320, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 26mm, natural light

As I drove slowly the midges swarmed outside my window, they seemed to be thickest right at the edge of the road. When I would stop the swarm would move slightly away from my Jeep so this photo was taken while I was driving in low gear and barely creeping along. That is a lot of midges right?

Thick swarm of Midges out side my driver's side windowThick swarm of Midges out side my driver’s side window – Nikon D810, f10, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 26mm, natural light

But not as many as this photo shows. I’ve been going to this refuge since 2008 and I have never seen as many midges as I saw yesterday, or at least I have never seen swarms as thick as they were yesterday.

Close up view of a Midge SwarmClose up view of a Midge Swarm – Nikon D810, f10, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 65mm, natural light

This is a large crop of one of my midge images from yesterday. That is a lot of bugs!

Midges on the front of my JeepMidges on the front of my Jeep – Nikon D810, f10, 1/1000, ISO 320, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 20mm, natural light

This is what the front of my Jeep Patriot looks like after all the driving I did yesterday, some of the midges you see though are alive. When I stopped to take this photo the midges landed on it, the side facing the water (right side of frame) was covered in live midges too. If your windows are down they will also cover the interior.

(Word of advice  for the midges inside your vehicle – don’t swat them or you will have bug guts all over the inside of your vehicle, just leave them be and once you hit the pavement and can travel fast open all the windows and the majority of them will  blow out. Then when I get home I roll up all the windows, park in the sun and the rest of the midges get baked.)

It is supposed to be rainy this week, I think I will wait until the Jeep gets soaked which will pre-soak the dead midges and then go to the car wash to remove them. They will be easier to wash them off then.

Scenic March view of Bear River MBR with out of focus MidgesScenic March view of Bear River MBR with out of focus Midges – Nikon D810, f10, 1/2000, ISO 320, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 95mm, natural light

The swarms of midges can mess up photos, see all those out of focus dark spots in the sky, water and mountains in this image? Those are midges. Right now if you want to do landscape photography where there are midges you might want to do it first thing in the morning before they start to swarm. Before the midges form bugnadoes.

Scenic March view of Bear River MBR with out of focus Midges removedScenic March view of Bear River MBR with out of focus Midges removed – Nikon D810, f10, 1/2000, ISO 320, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 95mm, natural light

With patience and post processing skills you can remove the out of focus midges in photos. I don’t like to do much when I process my images but there are times I rely on Photoshop to help me get rid of the midges in landscape photography.

I have complained about the midges in this post because they are messy and annoying but one thing that I feel is critical to mention is that these midges are an important food source for the birds that live and breed at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.  They are also important for the birds that migrate through Utah and stop at the refuge to consume the midges to get fueled up for the rest of their journey.  I’ve posted about how important midges are before in these posts:

Midges and Birds – Food for thought

Midges of Bear River National Wildlife Refuge and beyond

I just thought I’d share my journey through the midge swarms yesterday so that in the future when I mention the swarms or call them bugnadoes my dear viewers will have a better idea of exactly what I am writing about.  I am just very glad that these midges do NOT bite.

But be forewarned if you decide to head to Bear River MBR… the mosquitoes are out now too.

Life is good even when it bugs you.

Mia

14 Comments

  1. Utahbooklover March 19, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    Interesting post. I think these are the same ones I see here in Brigham City, which are smaller than mosquitoes (haven’t seen them yet) and don’t bite. I didn’t know that some do bite. Maybe I’ll hold off on that auto loop for awhile. Nice image of the “bugnato”- we do see these sometimes.

  2. Patty Chadwick March 19, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    The last is absolutelly amazing!!! I laughed when you wrote ” bugnado”, but that ‘s exactly what it looks like!!! Imagine being on a motorcycle!!!!! YUK!!!

  3. Diane McPherson-Stern March 19, 2017 at 2:48 pm

    Would they be related to the May Flies near the lakes? They have to shovel the walks in the AM to clean the millions of them them that come in the night.

    • Mia McPherson March 19, 2017 at 3:12 pm

      Diane, mayflies and midges aren’t related but I do remember swarms of mayflies in Michigan when I was a child.

  4. Elephant's Child March 19, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    That is a HEAP of midges, and reminds me of grasshopper plagues we drove through as a child. Much bigger than the midges, and messier when they hit the car.
    Glad to hear that a) these are non-biting midges, and b) that they are food for many.

    • Mia McPherson March 19, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      EC, we get swarms of Mormon Crickets here that sound like you grasshopper plaques. I’ve yet to see the crickets and I kind of hope i don’t, I hear they even make the roads slippery.

  5. pennypinchadventure Tim Traver March 19, 2017 at 11:53 am

    The best photo journalist documentation of midge swarms, hand’s down!

  6. April Olson March 19, 2017 at 11:35 am

    I read through your blog with a smile. I was at BRMBR Friday afternoon. I too thought there were more midges than I have ever seen. I had difficulty taking any bird photos the midges messed with my auto-focus. Most of my photos are blurry bird blobs in a hail of black dots. Fortunately my car is the same color as the midges so by the time I got home my car looked so fuzzy it had a 5 o’clock shadow.

    • Mia McPherson March 19, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      April, the midges show up very well on my silver colored vehicle unfortunately! I didn’t take many bird photos yesterday but the ones I did had out of focus midges in them.

  7. Bob mcpherson March 19, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Beautiful photos, Mia.o

  8. Ian Holland March 19, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Bugnados”?

    • Mia McPherson March 19, 2017 at 7:23 am

      They look like this Ian.

      Midge Tornadoes

Comments are closed.