These tiny flying bugs are a nuisance and their bite can pose a threat to anyone who spends time outside in the pre-dawn to sunset hours. They can also become a public health nuisance as well. Fishermen, campers, hikers, gardeners, and hunters are not exempt from the annoyance. When they bite it creates a painful, irritating, lesion that can last a long time for certain humans.

One popular observation people who have suffered a bite have is they cannot view what is biting them.  Many people who have been bitten have suffered serious reactions. Some have often called them sand flies, however, this is an incorrect reference.

What are biting midges?

What are biting midges?

Biting midges or Culicoides spp (Insecta: Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are tiny in size. They are tiny flies, about the size of the head of a pin. Their length varies, around one to three millimeters long. With coloring that is usually a little gray, but is a little more reddish when showing a blood-filled abdomen.

The wings have dark patterns which sometimes look a little grayish. The biting midges have mouthparts with a fleshy sheath in them. In addition, there are four, minuscule, cutting teeth that are useful for slicing skin, and creating a burning, sharp pain. Some victims of a bite caused by these tiny flying bugs might recognize small reddish spots. These spots are due to the bites filling up with blood.

The larvae of many biting midge insect look a lot like small, white worms. However, many species also look similar to tiny caterpillars with growths of fleshy, fake legs on the sides of their body. The pupae of biting midges look similar to several other animals or related species.

Where do biting midges come from?

There are over 200 species all over Australia of biting midges. However, not many of them actually create an inconvenience to humans. An interesting fact is that only the female flying midge bugs bite. She utilizes any blood obtained from the bite as a source of protein for her developing eggs. However, some are autogenous species, meaning their first set of viable eggs are produced sans a blood meal. Subsequent egg batches then require these blood meals.

Biting midges are aquatic insects, and capable of surviving in a number of environmental conditions. A species identification factor is the showing blood-filled abdomen. Some believe they are disease vectors like the Phlebotomus and other blood-sucking pests.

Australia has over 200 species of biting midges found all over the continent. The nonbiting midges, or the phantom- called Chaoborid, and the meniscus midges or Scatpsidae are common species.

Biting midges natural habitats are variable according to the species type. However, places with lots of organic materials, such as salt marshes and coastal areas are normally big producers of several species of biting midges. They are also found near mangrove swamps, tree holes, and in rotting fruit.

How many types of midge bugs are there?

There are more than 4,000 species and 78 worldwide genera of biting midges. These pests belong to the fly Order Diptera, also known as the Ceratopogonidae family. In North America, more than 600 species within 36 genera have been professed.  Of these species and genera, a boundless preponderance feeds on non-human animals or other insects. There are only four genera of biting midges that forage for mammal blood.

The Culicoides, Forcipomyia, and Culicoides are the most important genera in regard to United States livestock and humans. In Indiana, there is not much information in existence regarding the biting midge insect. However, the data distribution of many species does reveal their occurrence within the state.

The breeding cycle of a midge bug

The breeding cycle of a midge bug

Besides a body of water's edge is where the biting midge bugs typically breed. The female adult midge bug prefers the following areas for laying her eggs:

  • In soil that is damp or moist
  • Leafy, moist, and decaying matter
  • Vegetated, sandy, or muddy substrates

What is the midge life cycle?

The midge insect life cycle begins in the larval stage. This is when it appears worm-like and then the pupal or cocoon stage prior to its adult stage. This whole cycle takes from three to twenty-two weeks to complete.

Only the females bite, the flying bugs do this to utilize blood obtained as a protein source for their developing eggs.

The majority of a midge insect lifetime is in the larval phases. Normally spent at the bottom of a pool of water, pond, or other form of the water body. It is here where they find most food sources as they are scavengers, preferring various organic matter.

Some midges are predatory and hunt other invertebrates that are small in size. An adult midge insect has a short mouth tube or proboscis, unlike mosquitoes.

Some biting midge families

The biting midge insect is part of several families or species which include:

  • The net-winged midge or Blepharicerid
  • Gail midges or Ceratopogonidae
  • The punkies or no-see-ums species of biting midges found in North America
  • The Australian sand fly or Chaoborid
  • Chironomidae, also known as phantom midges

The non-biting midge species or muckleheads, include:

  • Muffleheads
  • In the Great Lakes area, North American lake fly Dueterphlebiidae
  • Mountain midges Dixidae
  • The Scatpsidae Meniscus midges,
  • The solitary midges
  • Thaumaleid dung midges

How midges transport themselves

The midge will fly upwind towards a marker zone's farthest edge, then permit itself to slowly drift toward the downwind side. Finally, flying back towards the alternative extreme upwind. When watching this as it happens, it appears the group of midges are tied together to the marker, similar to miniscule balloons.

How are adult midges controlled?

How are adult midges controlled?

One of the best ways to deter the adults from causing you annoyance is to keep the blinds shut and cut down on the lighting. No see ums are weak fliers, therefore you can turn the fans in your home too high to deter them. The adults only live for a few weeks according to medical entomology studies.

When camping traveling, or planning outdoor activities or holiday events ensure you pick a location far from any breeding sites. Adult biting midges come out more frequently during the full and new moon phases making themselves a public health issue.

Additionally, use fine mesh material for camping gear, tents, and screen caravans to keep midge insect out. There are also some residual surface spray insecticides that can be a great chemical control.

Where are some of the midge bug aquatic habitats?

Midge bug larvae are referred to as bloodworms. This is due to the red tint created by hemoglobin molecules that are inside their thin bodies. Residing in aquatic habitats such as the bottom of ponds and lakes. Midge bug larvae often create tubes within the mucus and fine sediments of the water beds. Other species that are similar to and appear like the midge bug are mosquitoes.

How to get rid of adult biting midges?

The best way to avoid midge bug bites is to plan outside events during the hours flying midges are least active. You will only get a limited amount of protection when using pesticides that contain permethrin or DEET.

A recent textbook in 2002, called “Where Can I Find More Information on Biting Midges?” written by G. Mullen and L.Durden, Medical, and Veterinary Entomology, goes over the behavior, biology, and both the veterinary and medical risks of midges. Both authors share a dedication to personal safeguards, approaches, and methods for controlling biting midges.

Controlling midge flies naturally can be done using certain fish species. Some fish feed off midges, therefore, by adding these fish to the ponds or other water sources on your property, you can control them.

Are midges and mosquitoes the same thing?

Midge vs mosquito

Although midges are bothersome, for the most part, they pose no harm and people often mistake them for mosquitoes. The reason for this confusion is due to the fact that they have similar appearance and feeding habits as mosquitoes. Sharing much of the same sources of water during the larval stages and pupal stages. Midges are also able to live in water that is stagnant and polluted, similar to mosquitoes.

Are they no see ums or mosquitoes?

No see ums is a common name we use when referring midges. Rice flies, sand flies and gnats are other names incorrectly referring to these small, non-biting flies with two wings.

One popular species you might come across is the Chironomid midge, belonging to the Chironomidae family of non-biting). Although the Chironomid midge looks pestiferous like mosquitoes, they are actually harmless. However, the flying bugs can attack exposed skin creating a painfully irritating bite.

Depending on the species, when the eggs hatch and the larvae develop. Adults emerge about 2 or 3 days later, they will either swim in water or dig deep into the moist soil. Their life cycle starts as a larval which is worm-like, and then a pupal stage (cocoon-like) prior to when the adult emerges.

The biting midge belongs to the Culicoides species, carriers of pathogens capable of creating disease in animals and humans.

They are able to endure in water that has become stagnant and polluted just as mosquitoes do. Although most species are unable to subsist within a couple of inches under the interface of water.

Some of you might come across

Below are a couple of popular species of genus Culicoides that you might come across when camping or hiking around water.

  • The Clear Lake Gnat:  Chaoborus astictopus, otherwise known as the Clear Lake gnat as adult flying bugs they have smaller mouthparts and are unable to bite. Much smaller than mosquitoes, they are able to get through larger screened windows. Also called “Phantom Midges” because the transparency of their larvae makes it hard to notice them.
  • The Rice flies:  Chironomus plumosus is another one of the several, common midge species. The larvae are typically a reddish hue, hence the nickname “Bloodworms”. This color is due to the amount of hemoglobin present in their lymphatic system. Rice fly larvae primarily inhabit mud, which enables them to filter through the organic debris at the bottom of the lake for food, the larvae construct tubes in the shape of a horseshoe. This permits water to circulate the water around their bodies and through the tubes. As adults, they come out in big plumes, forming swarms for mating during the evening. Nearby residents can witness this as a single adult survives for 48 hours or less.

How can I tell if they are biting midges?

Characteristics of a biting midges

Biting midges are tiny, only about 1.3 millimeters long. Typically, biting midges are a gray color, but mostly red due to the blood they are filled with. Many other species, even those feeding off humans, have wings with dark patterns giving them the appearance of being grey. Adult biting midge has a thorax extending a little above their head, and a tapered, and non-segmented abdomen.

The biting midge has mouthparts that have a fleshy sheath within it. This sheath has four, minuscule blades used to cut through skin and create a burning, intensely sharp pain.

The larvae of a biting midge can be compared to white-colored, tiny “worms”.  Yet, certain species appear a lot like little caterpillars, with their false legs and fleshy processes along their body length.

However, their tiny head capsule and even smaller chewing mouthparts are only visible via a microscope. There are a number of insects related to them that also look a lot like this pupae.

Is a midge bite deadly?

The midge is referred to as “Scotland’s secret weapon”.  However, you don’t need to worry that a midge bite is going to create serious issues. Some people might get a burning sensation and a few red welts as a bite result of flying bugs.

Biting midges have been accused of spreading certain diseases between livestock. The Blue Tongue virus and African Horse Sickness are serious diseases midges are possibly guilty of spreading. There is yet a lot we have to learn in regard to their habitat and ways of controlling them biologically.

When it’s time to call a professional

Midge insect infestation

If you think you can control midge insect by simply fighting the adults, you are going about it incorrectly. You need to realize that the adults are only part of the problem. You need to get control over their breeding sites. All the eggs, larvae, and pupae, need to be eradicated.

When you need help with midge control because they are wreaking havoc on outdoor activities and your property? If so, you need to call a professional pest control company like A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox for help regarding fly control.

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