April 22, 2021 7 min read 10 Comments
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So Mr Noseeum (Midge), 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.
Often I hear humans ask can I or do I live in their hair? The simple answer is, you must be joking, of course I can't and don't- why on earth would I when there are so many other attractive damp and smelly places to hang out!
So where do noseeums live?
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 with the things you throw away and the messy yards you live in!
So what time of day do noseeums come out?
Most, but not all, like their big annoying brother the mosquito are known as crepuscular (active primarily during twilight rather than in hours of full daylight or full darkness, and so feed at dawn and dusk and for a few hours into the night.
However, having said that, there are often some aggressive noseeums that ignore this 'rule' in various locations and will be on the hunt for a feed at any time of day!
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 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.
So what can we humans do to protect ourselves from noseeums?
Hope this has been of help.
Whileyou are here why not read this fascinating and useful interview with a mosquito here.
(This article was updated on 22nd April 2021)
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