20 thoughts on “Experts in Weird Crawly Things Wanted”

  1. These look like they are probably sawflies, but I can’t get a good enough look at them to be 100% sure.

    Pine sawflies are known to migrate from tree to tree like this.

  2. Thanks, Kyle — cool stuff!

    “In greenhouses, darkwinged fungus gnats are generally most abundant in the winter and spring. Adults and larvae inhabit moist, shady areas. Adults live about 1 week, during which time each female deposits 100 to 150 eggs. They are laid in strings of 3 to 40 on soil, usually near stems of plants. They hatch within 4 days in the greenhouse. There is a tendency for the progeny of each female to be all one gender. […] In turf, they are occasionally seen in high numbers. This is usually in high organic soils and areas of heavy thatch following wet periods. Adjacent natural areas and mulched beds may contribute to the situation. If a large number of eggs hatch near each other and the maggots migrate, they may form a snake-like line crawling atop each other. These are most often noticed when moving across a sidewalk or driveway. Though these are rarely of any consequence in the landscape, some homeowners desire control. A pyrethroid lawn and garden spray (permethrin, bifenthrin) is adequate.”

  3. Yeah, whatever they are, I can guarantee one thing:

    A significant majority of people watching such a migration would rapidly begin to feel slightly itchy and uncomfortable. NOT that it would stop me from observing, mind, but still… ::shudders::

  4. Wow – mentioned on Wikipedia. Colour me impressed.
    Thanks for bringing your readership to bear on the mystery; I’m really grateful (and glad for Jason) to have it answered.

  5. Blake,
    The move goes something like this: Upon sighting the larvasnake, you first contort your face into a sort of squinting grimace (or, as I like to call it, a squimace) as the shudder makes its way down your spine.

    At the same moment, while your body deals with the high-creep out factor, you lean in, pointing your squimacing face closer to the mass of wriggling grossness which repels you yet simultaneously draws you nearer.

    You continue leaning in, until a fresh shudder approaches, at which point your body compels you to shake your arms wildly and do a full 360-degree turn. Then, you follow the larvasnake, repeating the process until the foul, abominable collective gets under cover and you can no longer watch in rapturous horror.

    Or, at least, that’s how I imagine it would happen.

  6. Blake this is what my friend who is in the NCSU Entomology Dept said (he has a lab named after him and worked with my grandfather so I tend to trust him).

    “They’re darkwinged fungus gnats, Sciaridae. Larvae of certain species, or maybe it’s just 1 sp. of Bradysia, may congregate by the hundreds or thousands into columns that migrate across the surface of the ground, though what the function of the migration is may still be a mystery. The phenomenon is well documented, but because it’s so unpredictable and ephemeral it’s near impossible to study. Aggregating like this may confer some protection from dehydration or predation, or maybe it’s even a snake mimic, but I’ve received accounts and seen images that indicate other insects may move with them and may be preying on them. I’ve never personally witnessed one of these “herds.”

    Unless he’s just screwin with me, which I doubt.

  7. Um, for the original photo, I mean. In the photo linked to, you can tell they are small–look at the detail on the ncsu photo.

    My bad for not looking closer :)

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