Volunteers at a Texas state park recently ran into a dark, squirming mass of “creepy critters,” video shows — and they’re hungry.
“What IS this?” Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials asked the public in a Facebook post on Friday.
The writhing blob of bugs, spotted at Mother Neff State Park, has commenters stumped, and grossed out, in equal measure.
“Whatever it is, I would definitely not get near,” one commenter said.
But there’s no reason to fear these insects, experts say, unless you’re into gardening.
Fungus gnat larvae have an appetite for fungus, as expected, and all kinds of decaying plant matter, but will also eat the roots of young plants.
While the fungus gnats they will eventually become are no threat, the larvae can be destructive in large numbers, particularly in homes and greenhouses, according to the University of California.
“Significant root damage and even plant death have been observed in interior plantscapes and in houseplants when high populations were associated with moist, organically-rich soil,” according to the university.
The insects have a short life cycle, but rapidly reproduce in huge numbers.
Female flies live for about 10 days and can lay up to 300 eggs in that time, according to Texas A&M University, and eggs hatch within 3 to 5 days. Larvae emerge hungry and will start feeding right away on soil and roots.
After about 10 days they turn into pupae, then transform into flies after four days, experts say. This may be an improvement, but there’s still not much to like.
“Adult fungus gnats don’t damage plants or bite people; their presence is primarily considered a nuisance,” according to the University of California.