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Officials hope black kelp flies swarming beaches will die off naturally

June 18, 2011 |  9:59 am

Kelp flies

Officials hope an infestation of black kelp flies at several South Bay beaches will naturally disappear without the use of pesticides.

There are no plans to spray pesticides or otherwise try to kill the insects, which have a life cycle of about 11 days after eggs are laid.

"They have a very short life cycle, so there isn't really a lot to do," said Brian Brown, curator of entomology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.. "This will ebb and flow on its own."

The flies are attracted to dead kelp that washes ashore, said Brown. This is where the flies lay their eggs, and the larvae that hatch feed on the decaying kelp, helping to break it down.

Though he has not seen the swarms firsthand, Brown said a number of factors could have contributed to the increase. "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."

Swarms of the flies have hit Torrance, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach, covering trash cans and lifeguard stands and annoying beach-goers.

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Photo: As members of a school tennis team take photos Friday, kelp flies swarm a Redondo Beach lifeguard stand. Torrance, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have also witnessed an upsurge. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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