Winged bugs invade New York after wildfire smog
Gnat-like insects have been spotted all over the city following wildfire smog from Canada, alarming New Yorkers.
An invasion of small flying bugs is the latest omen that some New Yorkers are taking as a herald of the end times, three weeks after suffocating smoke from Canadian wildfires engulfed the city.
Beginning on Wednesday, New Yorkers have reported small insects moving in cloud-like swarms across sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn, making it difficult to breathe in some situations.
Read more: 25,000 flee wildfires in western Canada
Because of their small size, it's difficult to distinguish if the insects are white or green. Their species is unknown, but they have come alongside another, lighter, outbreak of Canadian smoke.
Some suggest that they are pyrophilous, or "fire-loving," species, which include plants, fungi, and animals that benefit from fire. Pyrophilous insects include at least 25 families of insects from the orders Hemiptera, Lepidoptera, Diptera, and Coleoptera.
One of them, Microsania imperfecta, has been found to respond positively to a smoke stimulus for mating and resources. According to the Encyclopedia of Entomology, “Smoke appears to affect mating behavior, serving as a mating swarm marker. Higher populations occurred during winter than in summer."
Others believe the insects are not pyrophilous but rather evidence of a healthy environment.
According to Louis Sorkin, a visiting scientist in the section of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, based on the images he was provided, these insects were not pyrophilous. In an e-mail, Sorkin explained that these are "aphids not gnats/midges/flies,” however, he was not able to confirm his finding.
According to David Grimaldi, curator and entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History, the bugs trapped in people's hair are aphids, which are normally wingless but can transform into winged forms when populations get congested and food quality diminishes.
“When a population becomes very large … the emergence of winged morphs is impressive,” he explained. “The good news? It means we have a healthy environment! No pesticides!”