Insect guide > Flies > Salt Water Flies

Salt Water Flies

(Family Ephydridae.)
This family includes a number of insects of curious structure and strange habits. The adults are generally sordid little flies usually with clear wings. The larva, as a rule, are aquatic or subaquatic, and are found in waters strongly impregnated with salt. They occur near salt wells and are found in the strongly alkaline lakes of the West. Some species breed in pools of water strongly impregnated with minerals, and one form is found breeding commonly in the pissoirs of European cities.

I have reared Brachydeutera argentata, a handsome little species belonging to this family, from larvae found in a small pool of water which was strongly impregnated with horse manure from an adjoining manure heap. The numbers in which the Ephydrid flies occur in the alkaline lakes in our western country is something astonishing. They are found in the Great Salt Lake, in Mono Lake, and others of the same character. The waters of Lake Mono are very heavy and have a nauseous taste, and when still the water looks like oil and feels slippery to the touch, and it is said that no fish or reptile lives in it.

It swarms, however, with countless millions of these larvae, which develop into flies which rest upon the surface of the water and cover everything on the shore. The larvae and the flies drift in heaps on the beaches, and hundreds of bushels can be collected. Professor Brewer, of Yale University, has published an interesting account of them from which these statements are drawn. It seems that at certain times of the year the Indians used to come from far and near to get them for food. They dried the puparia in the sun and then rubbed off the outer skin. The Indians call this food koo-chah-bee. Prof. Brewer says that it tastes like patent meat biscuit and if one were ignorant of its origin it would make palatable soup.

Another species is found in great quantities in Lake Texcoco, near the City of Mexico.