12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - Nine gnats a-dancing

Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Christmas is in the air and here in Ipswich we’re starting to feel festive. Join our Wild Learning Officer in the run up to Christmas by celebrating some of the town’s wild spaces and species as we adapt the well-known words of 12 days of Christmas. Traditionally for the ninth day of Christmas we’d be receiving nine ladies dancing , instead we’ve swapped them for nine gnats dancing.

Gnats don’t usually get a lot of air time and are often thought of as being pesky. They have some really interesting behaviours however, and join some of the very few handful of invertebrates that can be found out and about this time of year, braving the winter months. 

Flying together in large swarms in the winter, males can be spotted performing their courtship dances flying up and down independently to others and dancing “to their own tune”. They are cleverly able to keep their distance when dancing alongside each other however, and space themselves out, being mindful not to steal the show from anyone else. 

Together, they form a large swarm where females can find them easily. This is a process called lekking. Once mated, the female will lay eggs in the decaying leaf little where the eggs will stay until they hatch next year. 

 

Gnats are attracted to sources of heat this time and whilst they are active all year round, it’s the winter where they can be noticed more as they look for warm areas to congregate around. They can often be found following people for their heat, so if a group of gnats have ever made you self-conscious before, don’t worry it’s nothing to do with the way you smell!

Why not take some time this winter to watch the winter dance that gnats are putting on for us and see if any are feeling chilly and follow you on your walk?