The tiny no-see-um is a true nuisance. Almost too small to see, these little flies seem to come out of nowhere, biting and pestering you until you are sent running for cover indoors. Sometimes going inside doesn’t help either, because the tiny flies can get through most standard screens and continue biting you indoors.
So just what is it about humans that attracts the No-see-um? If you’re falling victim to the no-see-um’s bite, here’s a closer look at why that may be.
The Feeding Habits of No-See-Ums
No-see-ums have a diet made up not of blood, but of nectar. Only the female insects consume blood, and they only need a blood meal when they are getting ready to produce eggs. When they are in need of fuel for egg production, female no-see-ums will seek out mammals, birds, and other wild animals to fulfill their blood meal need.
No-see-ums will attack any exposed part of skin, but they commonly bite the back of the legs. Because the insects are so small, they are easily disturbed by the natural air movement created when a person walks. Attacking the back of the legs protects the insects from this air movement, allowing them to get a full meal without too much effort.
So, generally speaking, it is human blood that draws no-see-ums to humans, but how do the pesky insects know that a blood meal is nearby? The answer lies in the way you smell.
What Attracts No-See-Ums to Humans? Our Scent!
Experts, like those at NC State University, believe it is the odor of carbon dioxide and lactic acid from human skin and breath that attracts no-see-ums. These scents tell the females that a blood meal is nearby, and they will come to feed. In addition, the University of Colorado warns that dark-colored clothing may attract the insects, and Loyola University warns that body heat may attract them.
Because each person has a unique scent, some people are more prone to being bit than others. Some individuals react more strongly to the bites as well, so it may seem like they get bit more often. However, no-see-ums don’t discriminate between victims. If they can find exposed skin and can smell these chemicals on your skin, they are going to bite.
No-see-ums can take an enjoyable outdoor activity and make it miserable quite quickly. Since you cannot easily see them coming, they seem to bite without warning. Understanding more about what draws them to you will help you take measures to prevent bites and enjoy your outdoor fun without fear of these pesky pests.