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Flies swarm South Bay beaches

June 17, 2011 |  9:45 am

June gloom might not be the only thing keeping people away from South Bay beaches.

Swarms of black kelp flies -- scientifically known as Coelopa frigida -- have invaded beaches in Torrance, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach, covering trash cans and lifeguard stands.

Though flies typically are found in Redondo Beach near the Topaz Street jetty, lifeguards said, there are definitely more this year.

"We've seen blooms in the past, but this year the amount of flies are very obviously greater and they're extending over a larger area than they usually do," said Garth Canning, a section chief with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s lifeguard division.

The flies are attracted to dead kelp that washes ashore, said Brian Brown, curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It's where the flies lay their eggs, and the larvae that hatch feed on the decaying kelp to help break it down, he said.

A number of factors could be contributing to the increase in flies, Brown said.

"Sometimes there's large amounts of kelp on the beach, or it could be because it's spring and the temperatures are starting to warm up," Brown said. "Especially the warmer temperatures -- that's what really drives the flies."

There are no plans to spray pesticides or to try to kill the flies, Canning said.

"They have a very short life cycle, so there isn't really a lot to do," he said. "This will ebb and flow on its own."

Though beachgoers might be annoyed by the bugs, Brown said the flies pose no danger.

"It's just a nuisance problem," he said.

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-- Kate Mather

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