CRAMERTON, NC (WBTV) - A Gaston County family had an encounter with a swarm of bugs that would make most people's skin crawl.
James Watson and his 8-year-old daughter were driving home Tuesday night when the approached the C. Claudius Dawson Bridge over the South Fork Catawba River.
"At first, I thought it was raining up ahead," Watson recalled. "But the closer we got to the bridge, I realized 'that's not rain'."
Watson says it was swarms of mayflies gathered around each of the three lights on the bridge. That's when Watson says he pulled out his phone and started recording.
You can hear his daughter ask "Are you gonna run into them?"
"I kinda have to," he replied.
He then starts to drive through the first swarm of bugs, but it was the second light that appeared to have the largest swarm. Bugs can be hear crashing into the vehicle with a thump, thump, thump.
"As we were in the middle I kept thinking "[I hope my daughter] doesn't roll down the window," Watson said. "That would have been a nightmare if they had gotten into the car."
He recalls there being about three inches of mayflies gathered on the outside of the vehicle when they got over the bridge. He compared it to having snow on the vehicle after a heavy snow, saying at one point a large clump of bugs flew off the hood.
But not all of them.
After he drove several miles home, Watson estimates there were still thousands of mayflies on the outside of his vehicle.
"Luckily, when we stopped many of the mayflies flew off to nearby lights in the neighborhood," Watson said. "But there were still a lot left."
Watson says Sunday, he and his daughter went canoeing under the bridge and they didn't say any of these types of bugs. He also has been on the bridge several times since and hasn't seen any more swarms.
The adult mayfly lifespan is only one to three days long. That can be deceiving because they live underwater for two years as larva, then come inland to mate. Once the females have mated, they head back into the water to lay their eggs.
Communities that live by the water will see a greater population of these flies.
Many people see them as annoying pests, but they are actually a sign of good environmental health.
"They are good for the fishery and for the fish populations. Also, they are a sensitive species, so they are sensitive to pollution," said Christine Mayer, Environmental Science Professor at the University of Toledo. "Lots of mayflies is an indication that there is healthy conditions in the lake, so we should see them as a good thing."