Midge swarms kill livestock in eastern Latvia

Swarms of killer flies are being blamed for more than 400 livestock deaths in Latvia’s Latgale and Vidzeme provinces in recent days, according to media reports and the Ministry of Agriculture.

The midges have attacked cattle, sheep and other livestock. The toxic bites from the swarms have led to inflammation, fever and other effects that killed the livestock. One entomologist told the daily newspaper Diena that the situation could continue for two weeks.

“Already for a couple of days I sensed that there were insects in the pasture, but I had never seen such quantities, like bees when they swarm,” one farmer, who lost nine milk cows—almost half his herd—told the daily newspaper Neatkarīga Rīta Avīze. Other reports tell of cattle covered with the flies, particularly on sensitive and unprotected areas such as nostrils and udders.

The swarms of midges apparently are the result of recent flooding and hot weather in eastern Latvia, ideal conditions for the insects, agriculture officials said. Those same conditions already had led to problems for farmers.

Agriculture Minister Mārtiņš Roze said the ministry will provide financial assistance for farmers who lost livestock.

(UPDATED 30 MAY 2005)

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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