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Interview With A No-see-um - The Lowdown On Their Life!

June 09, 2017 4 Comments

A noseeum life cycle - egg to larva, to pupa, and finally to the adult stage - within a two to six week period.

So Mr Noseeum, what exactly are you?
Well the best way to describe a noseeum is as a small biting fly no more than 3mm in length but I pack a pretty big punch!  That's a noseeum in the picture below, sitting on the end of a finger.

Image of a noseeum  

 Image of A No-see-um on a Finger

People have given noseeums several alternative, what I prefer to call derogatory, names in the U.S, including (I'm only including the 'clean' nicknames here): Ceratopogonidae, biting midges, flying teeth, small flies, midges, punkies, sand gnat, sand flea, granny nipper and chitra; in many other parts of the world my noseeums relatives are known as sand flies including Australia.  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, we have in the region of 50+ noseeum species in Florida alone.

noseeum taxonomy

      Chart Showing No-see-um Taxonomy

So, yep noseeums have a big network and lots of variety; not only is variety the spice of life, but it makes 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.

noseeum and biting midges life cycle

                                                                          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.  The noseeum's preferred 'nest of choice' is a damp area with a 'food source' 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.

Biting midge or noseeum feeding

                                                                        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.

noseeum bite picture image

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 what can we humans do to protect ourselves from noseeums?

  • In your home environment noseeums really hate natural predators such as small birds, bats, dragonflies and frogs; if you encourage them noseeums are not going to like it.

image of a batimage of a frogimage of a dragonfly

  • 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.

Image of a ceiling fanImage of an air conditioner unit

  • Noseeums hate most natural repellents, especially this one below.
  • 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 that has been of help.  

Join us next time for interview with a mosquito,

The Solid Bar Company Team

References:


4 Responses

The Solid Bar Company Support Team
The Solid Bar Company Support Team

November 09, 2017

Hello Kathy,

Thanks for your question – “what can I do after I’ve been bitten?” – which the following should answer:

The itch and the swelling after a bite is a result of the anticoagulant that the female mosquito injects when it is seeking out your blood to feed on for protein to feed her eggs. This anticoagulant is what, to different degrees – usually mild but up to severe itching – we humans have an allergic reaction.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI), contact with a mosquito must be six seconds or longer to produce a reaction with symptoms occurring up to 48 hours after the initial bite.

So first clean the area with some rubbing alcohol. Then, depending on what you happen to have around, apply one of the following – some calamine lotion, witch hazel, vinegar, aloe vera and even a hydrocortisone cream if you have one. Thereafter, ice to cool and whatever you do, resist itching!

We produce a natural anti-itch product here: http://bit.ly/2jeXzNl. This has ingredients of juniper berries, juniper berry essential oil basil and lime for anti-inflammatory and natural anaesthetic properties. It works very well and fast.

If there is continuing impacting pain or discomfort you can take over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen (children under 16 years of age shouldn’t be given aspirin).

For itching – ask your pharmacist about over-the-counter treatments, including crotamiton cream or lotion, hydrocortisone cream or ointment and antihistamine tablets.

For swelling, you can try applying a cold compress or ice pack to the affected area, or ask your local pharmacist about treatments such as antihistamine tablets.

If you’re worried about a bite or sting and/or your symptoms don’t start to improve within a few days or are getting worse consult your doctor!

We hope that helps you – do let us know!

Best wishes!

Kathy Koster
Kathy Koster

November 08, 2017

Great info, but what can I do after I’ve been bitten?

Julie B
Julie B

September 29, 2017

I simply wish to say your article is as amazing. The clarity of your writing is simply excellent and I feel as though you are an expert in this subject. So, what I am doing is joining your RSS feed to stay up to date with approaching post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable reading work.

Gerry McGill
Gerry McGill

July 18, 2017

They sure are devilish little stingers, didn;t realise that they were all over the place – interesting article too. You might think that it’s funnily enough my leg looks just like that photograph in the middle of the page after visiting my daughter down in Naples, gonna check out your repellent stuff now and maybe send here some too.

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