All About Bitting No-See-Ums

What Are No-See-Ums Anyways!

The no-see-um, as its name implies, is a pesky insect that is difficult to spot. Measuring in at only about 1/8 inch in length, the no-see-um is a small biting fly or midge. This tiny fly can be a true pest, biting people without warning. The bite, though not dangerous, causes a burning sensation and can leave a small red welt. If you’ve ever been the victim of no-see-ums, here’s a closer look at what these insects are, where they live, and what you can do to avoid uncomfortable bites.

What Are No-See-Ums?

No-see-ums are a family of flies with the scientific name ceratopogonidae. Also known as biting midges, the name covers over 5,000 species across the globe. In the United States, the adult flies are gray and have tiny hairs that create patterns on the wings. The larvae look like small white worms or caterpillars. No-see-ums are difficult to spot due to their small size, but may be easier to see after feeding on blood because the abdomen enlarges and takes on a red tint.

Life Cycle of No-See-Ums

The no-see-um or biting midge goes through a four stage life cycle. Adults live only a few weeks, and during their lifetime can lay between 25 and 110 eggs every time they feed on blood. When they hatch, the larvae need moisture to develop, so adults tend to lay eggs around water sources or moist environments. Larvae feed on small organisms, and the larval stage lasts between two weeks to up to a year depending on the environmental conditions.

When they are ready to mature, larvae will enter a short pupal stage that lasts just a couple of days. When they emerge as fully formed adults, they disperse from their breeding site to find mates and feed.

No-See-Ums Habitats

Adult no-see-ums lay their eggs in or near water, and the larvae require moisture to develop, so these insects tend to live in swampy or moist areas. However, with thousands of species in the world, the habitats do vary based on the preference of any one particular spaces. Different species thrive in fresh water areas and salt water areas, so they are not limited geographically. In the United States, they are very common in the coastal areas, the Northeast, and the Southwest.

Habits of No-See-Ums

Adult no-see-ums eat nectar for nourishment. Only the female insects bite, and they need the blood for egg development. They tend to bother people who spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly in and around areas of water. The bites typically happen during the dawn and dusk hours when the female insects are most active. Mammals, including humans, are the insect’s preferred source of the blood meal, but they will bite other animals if needed.

Though the bites hurt, most no-see-ums don’t carry or transmit disease. Some people are allergic to the bite and suffer painful reactions. Others simply develop a painful welt that lasts for a few days.

How to Control No-See-Ums

Controlling no-see-ums is difficult. All it takes is moist soil for these insets to reproduce and thrive, so reducing habitat doesn’t work well. Carbon dioxide-baited traps placed around a property can eliminate adult insects. The smell attracts them because it smells like a blood meal host, and they get trapped inside the trap.

The small size of no-see-ums means they can get through most home window screens. To prevent the insects from entering a property, use screens with a mesh smaller than 16-mesh insect wire. If you are camping in an area with a no-see-um problem, use a tent net designed for biting midges. When outdoors in areas where no-see-ums thrive, insect repellent with DEET is the best way to keep them away, but even that has limited effectiveness. However, DEET may cause health issues.

Noseeums are a challenging pest to deal with. They leave uncomfortable bites behind, seemingly without warning. If you are struggling with these pests, the right measures can help reduce them in your area, so you can enjoy the outdoors without fear of being bit.

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