Collapse of Midge Population Impacts Mývatn Birdlife

The ubiquitous midge is almost completely absent from Mývatn, the pointedly named ‘Midge Lake,’ this year. But while many people might celebrate the scarcity of the thick clouds of blackflies that generally characterize the region, RÚV reports that the population collapse, which happens on a cycle of six to nine years, will have a long-lasting impact on local birdlife.

In a normal season, there are as many as 100,000 hatchlings around Mývatn, says Árni Einarsson, director of the Mývatn Research Station. But this year, there are just under 1,000.

Mývatn, photographed by Bernello, CC 3.0

Midges are a vital food source for birds around the lake, but there are almost none now, Árni reports. As a direct result, “we’re not seeing any chicks on the lake,” he explained. “There are 20,000 pairs of ducks, but very few are raising any young. They’ve largely neglected their nests and stopped laying. Have abandoned their eggs, left them behind in the nests. And so those chicks that do hatch only live a few days.”

Árni estimates that the midge population has decreased by ten thousandfold this year. The drastic drop in midges can be attributed to fluctuations in Mývatn wherein midges devour all their food sources at the bottom of the lake. “The food on the lake bed runs out and then the midge population collapses and then the fish come and finish off whatever remains of them […] and there are no midges left.”

Árni says this happens every seven to nine years—it’s now been about eight since the last time the midge population collapsed. As a result, the bird population will be much smaller for the next two to three years. “This makes a dent in the stock,” he concluded. “It doesn’t renew itself.”

Imported Premade Sandwiches Sold Cheaper Than Icelandic Equivalents

Imported goods and food have long been a standard feature of Icelandic life, but a new product that’s made its way onto the local market is raising the hackles of some who question both its carbon footprint and its price-point. Mbl.is reports that premade sandwiches are now being shipped to Iceland from Lithuania and sold at a cheaper price than their domestically produced equivalents.

The imported sandwiches, which are sold under the brand name Food on Foot, caught the attention of Friðrik Árnason, the owner of Hótel Breiðdalsvík in East Iceland. “We import all sorts of things to Iceland, but it never occurred to me that I’d see imported premade sandwiches from Lithuania in a shop in South Iceland,” Friðrik wrote in a post on his Facebook page. “To be honest, I was disappointed to see this, thinking about the environment, carbon footprints, and sustainability. I was even more shocked when I saw that the imported sandwiches are half the price of the sandwiches that are made here, with the same ingredients. It’s a head-scratcher for me.”

The sandwiches, which are shipped frozen to Iceland, are imported by the Reykjavík-based company Danól. Managing director María Jóna Samú­els­dótt­ir provided a written response to Mbl after being contacted about the new product and said that the sandwiches are high-quality and have received a good response on the Icelandic market.

When asked how a sandwich made in and shipped all the way from Lithuania could be cheaper than a sandwich made in Iceland, María Jóna wrote: “Of course we can’t speak to other parties’ price points, but Danól has a good business relationship with the supplier, which of course, is also producing for a much larger market than the one in Iceland. And as a result, consumers here in Iceland enjoy economies of scale.”

María Jóna ended by saying that the primary purchasers of the Lithuanian sandwiches are cafés in rural areas (“often remote villages”) that “see that favorable prices, product quality, and ease of service go hand in hand.”