Everything You Need To Know About Noseeums!
So Mr Noseeum, what exactly are you?
Well the best way to describe a noseeum/midge is as a small biting fly no more than 3mm in length but I pack a pretty big punch! That's a noseeum/midge in the picture below, sitting on the end of a finger.
Image of A No-see-um/Midge on a Finger
People have given noseeums/midges several alternative, what I prefer to call derogatory, names all over the world, in England, Scotland and the United Sates wherever we live - in fact in the USA they can't even decide on the best way to spell our name some call us noseeums, some no see ums and some no see ems.
We have a bad name wherever we live, particularly in the Florida areas of Miami, Naples Beach, Sanibel and Vero Beach, in Texas, Hilton head, South Carolina, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia and the US Virgin Islands just to name a few, and also all around the world in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Belize, UK, Scotland and the rest of Europe - we're well travelled!
Included in these 'bad names' (I'm only including the 'clean' nicknames here) are: Ceratopogonidae or biting midges, flying teeth, small flies, midges,midge flies punkies, sand gnat, sand fleas, granny nipper and chitra.
In many other parts of the world, including Australia and New Zealand, my noseeums relatives are known as sand flies. You can read more about me here too!
How many noseeums species there in your family would you say?
Worldwide we have over 4,000 species (different types to you) of no-see-ums. In the U.S. we have just 600 noseeum species within 36 genera (families) and, locally in the U.S. or my immediate family as I call them, there are in the region of 50+ noseeum species in Florida alone!
Chart Showing No-see-um Taxonomy
So, yes, noseeums have a big network and lots of variety; not only is variety the spice of life, but it makes us noseeums more unpredictable and the more difficult for you humans to deal with us. Some folks even reckon noseeums have been on the planet for 20 million years!
How long do noseeums live?
Normally noseeums complete our life cycle - noseeums egg to larva, to noseeums pupa, and finally to the adult noseeum stage - within a two to six week period. Of course this can vary slightly depending on which of our many noseeum species you are talking about and the local environment they happen to be in, but two to six weeks is good rule of thumb.
Life Cycle of Biting Midges
The noseeum female, my wife, can lay up to 200 eggs at one time in a range of habitats right after each of her blood meals.
As a preferred 'nest of choice' we no see ums head for a damp area with a 'food source' very time and this can include wet soil, standing water, dung/droppings from cattle or other animals, water vegetation, slow running streams, rotting vegetable matter and so forth.
Noseeums are not really that fussy, the more moist, warm and smelly the better really and you humans sure know how to provide us with plenty of choice!
What do noseeums feed on?
Well most noseeums feed on other insects or other non-human animals. So you can see that noseeums get a lot of bad press, mainly due to the female of the species - I'll come to that in a moment. Only four genera in one of the noseeum species of the whole biting midges world wide actually feed on the blood of mammals.
A Female No-see-um Feeding
In the U.S. you humans, and some of your livestock, are more concerned and bothered by my noseeum relatives in the Culicoides, Leptoconops and Forcipomyia families.
Even then, it is the females from these families that bite you mammals. Come on, you've got to understand they only do it to get the necessary protein from your blood for healthy noseeum eggs to grow into our kids!
You know what it's like for mother's, instinct takes over and she searches out the closest and best blood source and if that's a human then, sorry people 'cause I know it hurts but, it's going to happen.
The female noseeum has has got pretty fierce mouth parts for a little thing and they act like scissors as they cut into your skin. The noseeum also introduces an anti-coagulant at the same time to help the blood flow and that, in the wound, is what causes the stinging that drives you humans nuts! So, if you do get bitten you should try this fast-acting natural anti-itch balm.
Do noseeums transmit diseases?
Generally the answer is no, we don't really get into that for humans, except, well to be honest in parts of South America, Africa and the Caribbean we (and our larger cousins the mosquito) have been known to transmit parasites that form infections, dermatitis and skin lesions from filarial worms.
But, hey, given the number of us out there biting people, this is still a relatively rare occurrence though, so come on give us a break.
No-see-um Bite Marks
In animals, no-see-ums have been identified as being responsible for the transmission of bluetongue virus to sheep and cattle in the U.S. causing annual economic trade damage valued in millions of dollars.
Noseeums are also known to transmit Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease virus to cattle, sheep, goats and deer, the last of these being the main affected.
Horses sometimes experience allergic reactions to noseeum bites which primarily results in some form of dermatitis - so if you are a horse owner you might be interested to see our really effective Equine Bug Repellent available in the UK.
So what can we humans do to protect ourselves from noseeums?
- Noseeums control is a main concern for humans in your home environment and you probably don't know but above all else noseeums really hate natural predators such as small birds, bats, dragonflies and frogs; if you encourage these natural 'repellents' noseeums are not going to like it.
- As mentioned earlier, you humans leave a lot of natural breeding grounds around for noseeums with standing water and damp in hundreds of places even swimming pools, rain barrels, old flowerpots, blocked rain gutters. If you remove, cover, clean up and unblock most of these noseeums are going to find life tough in your neighborhood.
- Noseeums love flying through big mesh screens. If you get very small gauge porch and door screens and window meshes and keep them in good order you're going to ruin our day and a lot of our access to you.
- Noseeums hate the cold so if you use air-conditioning inside it's a big deterrent. Otherwise those fancy overhead fans that circulate the air sure disrupt noseeum's flight ability; just a 2 mph wind can blow a noseeum away.
- Noseeums hate most natural repellents, especially this one below.
- The bars are so simple to use, just rub the bars gently to all areas of exposed skin. They are super-effective repellents for up to six hours, but reapply as necessary and as your local conditions require and, as with all other repellents, don't miss any areas because the bugs will find them.
- But you should be aware that not one single repellent is going to be able to deal with ALL of noseeum species (even super strength deet - there's enough of us to adapt to it - and it'll probably 'cause you more harm than us in the long run).
- Noseeums love to come out to play and feed at the cooler times of day, mainly dawn and dusk, so if you were sensible you'd schedule your outdoor activities to avoid noseeum daily peak times
- Finally, if noseeums do get in, you can always resort to bed nets at night we're not keen on them either, but remember we're small!
- Be aware that insecticides are generally ineffective and will only offer very short term and temporary relief for you, so you'll have to apply them regularly and boy those chemicals.......all I'm saying is that you might get a few noseeums but in the end.......well it's your funeral......know what I mean? And if you have any doubts about the potential effects of deet then check this clothing damage out, as shown at SectionHiker.com
Hope this has been of help.
Join us next time for interview with a mosquito,
- University of Florida Paper on Noseeums
- Purdue University Article on Entymology
- CDC Article on Filariasis
- Florida Sun Sentinel Article on Noseeums
- University of Pretoria Article on Culicoides
- Animal Diversity Web Article on Culicoides
- Bug Guide Article & Images on Biting MIdges
- WHO Article on Filariasis
- Boys Life Article on Noseeums
- Butox Article on the Life Cycle of Midges