Nature

Tiny bugs overtake Berkeley on Friday

Mystery bugs all over Berkeley had people throughout the community wondering about their appearance Friday. Photo: Micah Daigle

Mystery bugs all over Berkeley had people throughout the community wondering about their appearance Friday. Photo: Micah Daigle

Friday afternoon, a handful of readers got in touch with Berkeleyside to ask if we knew the origin of a rash of insects swarming throughout the city.

“What’s up with the clouds of gnat-like tiny flying bugs on MLK around Vine?” asked Susan Macke on the Berkeleyside Facebook page.

Several others got in touch on Twitter.

Via Michael Fitzhugh: “What’s up with the swarming bugs everywhere in the city today?”

Katherine Baylor wanted to know: “What do your sources say about the massive invasion of tiny flies (gray w/ white fuzz) in Berkeley this afternoon?”

Late in the afternoon, we checked with the city to see if there had been any reports, but came up empty-handed. As the weekend was upon us, we figured we’d have to wait until Monday to investigate further.

Shortly after 6 p.m., Nathanael Johnson took a photo (pictured below) and wondered: “What’s the deal with all these little blue flies?”

Mystery bugs all over Berkeley had people throughout the community wondering about their appearance. Photo: Nathanael Johnson

Photo: Nathanael Johnson

We posted his photo on the Berkeleyside Facebook page half an hour ago, and asked if anyone knew what might have caused the infestation.

Within minutes, we had a reply from reader Christina Tarr: “A friend of mine (Michael Sholinbeck) says, ‘I emailed an entomologist at UCB who told me this: “I had to go out and have a look for myself. They are Adelgids (close relative to Aphids). Probably Adelges cooleyi, the spruce gall adelgid. They are pests of conifers, particularly spruce and douglas fir. These are probably all males flying right now looking for the flightless females. The white color is actual a bit of wax that the insects produce from their cuticle. I have not noticed ‘swarming’ of this species in the Bay Area before. I am not sure what it means other than it was a beautiful day for flying today.’”

We can try to confirm this ourselves early next week, but for now we thought we’d share what we were able to find. Anyone else have any ideas or context? Let us know in the comments.

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  • Westside Neighbor

    I saw these too! Very noticeable in the setting sun.

  • j

    They were all over West Berkekey earlier today.

  • Jeff

    i heard that they came with the wood chips that were laid out on the ground at Ohlone dog park.

  • serkes

    Emilie … that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

    Move aside Nosh … it’s time for Gnats!

    Ira

  • rintincop

    The air around the streets of Delaware St. and MLK was thick with them for over an hour at 1:30 pm. Hundreds of thousands of them. In the 30 years I have lived here I have never seen anything like it.

  • suckatash

    I inhaled a few this afternoon. Strange.

  • Alta Bates

    It was horrible walking from Whole Foods back to my office at the hospital; truly an infestation of grotesque proportions.

  • Lizzie

    Oh yeah, it was gnarly over here near Sacramento and Dwight. My husband said they were swarming all over between Berkeley Bowl West and here.

  • Anna

    I believe they typically come out a couple weeks after the first rains.

    And more generally, I think bugguide.net is the site I’d heard about, for posting photos & asking for insect id, e.g. on this page:
    http://bugguide.net/node/view/6/bgimage

  • Erin

    There were hundreds/thousands in Temescal/North Oakland yesterday afternoon.

  • GMO

    They come out every year, late October, to early November. They need a warm day for their birth. They’re all born and die on the same day. They are known, in some circles, as Harbingers. They announce and herald the coming of The Gauntlet.

  • serkes

    Fortunately, Berkeley’s filled with programmers

  • cupajo

    They were also flying quite heavily along Oak Grove Road in Oakland near College Avenue just a little south of Berkeley.

  • guest

    Moments after the ’89 Loma Prieta quake, these bugs appeared by the zillions.

    It was truly eerie; the combination of the silence following the quake, the fog of insects suddenly drifting about, and an unreal number of cyclists whizzing by.