The summer before last I spent a night at Utah Lake State Park, and captured this view looking south from the breakwater toward West Mountain, at sunset.
Later that evening, just before dark, the sky over my campsite radiated a soft humming-buzzing sound that moved like slow waves though the dim twilight, but without any obvious source. Strange, unfamiliar, and at first difficult to locate, I finally noticed that above the adjacent wetlands were huge swarms of tiny insects — midges — that seemed to be the source of this sound. I had seen swarms of midges before in other wetlands — undulating, shifting vertical clouds up to 10 or 15 feet high. These swarms at Utah Lake were mammoth compared to any I had seen before — each diffuse vertical cloud was over 100 feet tall. The wingbeat of a single midge is nearly silent, but tens of millions in concert created this unique, unearthly sound.
I spent a nearly sleepless night sweating under a thin sheet in my van, for along with the midges came a small, but aggressive army of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. I retreated the next night to the TravelLodge in downtown Provo.
Copyright © 2009 Tim Messick. All rights reserved.