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What are no-see-ums?

Biting midges, or “no-see-ums,” are winged insects from the Ceratopogonidae family, which includes over 4,000 species. They are tiny gnat-like insects (only 1-3 mm long) and, like black flies, inflict painful bites.

Biting midges can be a nuisance to campers, fishermen, hunters, hikers, gardeners, and others who spend time outdoors during early morning and evenings, and even during the daytime on still, cloudy days. They readily bite humans, but they are so small that they may look like black lint or some flecks of dirt. Consequently, the person being bitten often cannot see what is doing the biting — hence the name “no-see-ums!”

Biting midges are sometimes incorrectly referred to as “sand flies.” Sand flies are insects that belong to a different biological group and should not be confused with biting midges. Interestingly, both male and female biting midges feed on nectar; however, only the females feed on blood, which is needed for the maturation of fertilized eggs. The Culicoides genus, in particular, is known to occasionally feed on animals and humans and acts as a possible vector in the transmission of diseases such as Oropouche fever, filariasis, and Japanese encephalitis, though disease transmission to humans in North America is extremely rare.

The distribution of biting midges in the genus Culicoides is world-wide; 47 species are known to occur in Florida alone! Species belonging to the genus Leptoconops occur in the tropics, sub-tropics, the Caribbean, and some coastal areas of southeast Florida. They are often found in or around environments characterized by mud or moist soil around streams, ponds, and marshes. They fly only in the warm months of the year and are most active before and during dusk.

Bites can lead to severely itchy bumps or hives, which are the most common lesions observed with biting midge attacks. Because “no-see-um” bites may occur without known (or even suspected) contact with Culicoides, it is important to remember several clues that may help make the diagnosis of a biting midge-induced rash. First, bumps are usually found only in areas of exposed skin on the legs or forearms; such lesions tend to end abruptly at areas normally protected by clothing. Second, family members or friends may have similar lesions, usually acquired within the same time period. Third, recent travel history to areas where “no-see-ums” are known to be active can often be elicited if the time is taken to inquire.

Although the skin bite reactions are temporary, biting midge lesions often require several weeks for complete resolution to occur. Lesions can be extremely itchy and can lead to intense scratching. First aid management includes oral antihistamines and topical steroids to relieve itching and inflammation. In addition, the threshold for starting oral antibiotics should be low given the risk of bacterial super-infection secondary to scratching.

60 Comments on What are no-see-ums?

  1. The Donut Man // June 30, 2019 at 8:45 am // Reply

    My wife was bitten in the parting lot of Wal-Mart in Grand Prairie, Texas. I didn’t know that they were in Texas until yesterday after she was bitten.

  2. Try water as hot as you can stand it or a hot hair dryer it hurts and feels good at the same time! It’s the best remedy I found for instant itch relief! Try it you won’t be disappointed! Florida resident I know😎

  3. Do they move around on your body?

    • For 2 days my bites itched real bad after trying everything I could think of then decided to dump some wintergreen alcohol all over them and itching literally stopped within a minute and stayed gone for hours ,I couldn’t believe it and for $1 a bottle I never go without it . I tried 4 differnt itch creams cost a fortune and did absolutely nothing to stop it. It works for ant bites also. Just pour it all over your bites let it dry . It worked for me so try it next time you get itchy bug bites

  4. I’ve been swarmed by these monsters four or five times. They bite your scalp and all around your hairline plus all over your body. They burrow in like a chigger, the skin swells up around them protecting them from topical medicine so they can feed on your blood for weeks before they die just like chiggers except OMG they fly too 😱🤯😩

  5. HATEnoseeums // February 17, 2019 at 7:01 am // Reply

    To get rid of the itch…this sounds crazy, but works: set blow dryer on hot and hold about 6” from bite until you feel the burn, only a few seconds. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Itch stops for hours. Be careful not to hold it n one spot for too long to avoid damaging your skin. It’s the only thing that works for me.. I’m so allergic to them!!

    • OMG! I have been eaten up by these no-see-ums. I have never felt anything like this. I can’t hardly sleep or stop scratching. !st my top half was covered and before I knew what did it, the next day my legs and ankles where covered. I have visited Florida a number of times this has never happened before. I have tried everything for the itching NOTHING works for more than a couple of hours.

      • I will try that if I run out of wintergreen rubbing alcohol cause it totally relieves the itching . I tried everything and it was the only thing that worked instantly and kept the itching gone for hours

  6. Anyone know how to get rid of them in the house ? Use terminix ?

  7. Scratching in Florida // January 15, 2019 at 7:59 am // Reply

    I’m covered in them once again this year here in Florida. Hubby too. I used a cold wet face cloth to get back to sleep early this morning. We’ve used spray Benadryl my cortisone cream,antihstimane and benadryl cooling gel.Most work for a while but at least after 2 weeks the itching passes but the bumps stay for a long while. Scratching is a bad thing but oh so hard to stop.

    • I keep a bug zapper in the house. It gets rid of all kinds of bugs. Put it close to the door you use the most. Also works as a good night light. I keep mine on 24/7 year around.

  8. OMG…I am here a wedding and I got eaten alive my these tiny things. They look like fleas; tiny black bugs. The upper half of my body is COVERED on bites. I cannot stop itching. This is the worst ever!!! It is waking me out of my sleep. I have a flight in the morning, I don’t know how I will be able to flight.

  9. Mosquito Squad treats for no see ums. It really works

  10. I have been in Fort Myers Beach for a week with my wife and she doesn’t have a single bite. I, on the other hand have bites all over me. My arms, legs, ankles and my sides itch so bad it’s actually somewhat painful. Good luck, because I haven’t found anything that really works.

    • No-See-Um Magnet // October 24, 2018 at 9:48 pm // Reply

      Try Noooooo No-See-Um, made on Sanibel Island. Shouldn’t be too hard to find! I’m right there with you except I’m the one that gets bitten and my husband doesn’t. They go after the sweet ones I guess!

      • Look for Cutter Skinsations spray. I find it does warn them off. Label is only one I have found that names no seeums! (Walgreens/CVS)
        Suggest you use antihistamine cream and take an allergy pill. Seemed to help me.

      • Go to walmart and get a plastic jar of chigger x it is also for bites of all kinds and the best stuff ever. It will stop the itch and sting. $5 max. Miracle.

      • Anonymous // March 13, 2019 at 7:32 pm //

        You

  11. JiggersLoveMe! // September 5, 2018 at 1:51 pm // Reply

    THEY BIT ME TO DEATH ! ! ! ITCH IS WORST I EVER FELT ! NO MORE TRIPS TO N. ARIZONA!

  12. Help!!!! I can’t get rid of noseeum ‘s.

  13. I use tee tree soap they do not like this it gives some relief but now I know what I have and yes golfing in Florida going back to skin doc haven’t tried lighter fluid n a match yet

  14. the best spray I have found is Sawyer’s Premium Insect Spray with 20 percent Picaridin. Picaridin works better than Deet on these little buggers

  15. I am new to Florida, how can I keep these little pest at bay.?

  16. There seems to be a debate about the the bites of no see ums and chiggers.
    I’ve been told that what I thought are chigger bites are really no see ums because I got them in Utah. Some people say they are in every state, some people believe chiggers stop at the Utah border. It would be nice to read an authoritative opinion on the matter

  17. In Florida one summer, I go bitten real bad around my ankles. It itched like crazy – but applying a cortisone ointment relieved it almost at once.

    • I know for a fact we have chigers and no see ums in southwestern.Iowa.

      • To repell the no-see-ums, use 1/2 Reg.Listerine (gold color),
        1/2 witch Hazel (good kind) & a few drops of good Tea Tree Oil in a spray Bottle of your choice and spray your body…. They won’t bite you & it’s good for your skin.

  18. Shave one side off..set the other side on fire and when they run across, stab’em with an ice pic

  19. I use Sulphur Powder to deter chiggers. Put it down my pants and in and around my socks.It may work on these bugs too.

  20. skin so soft works the best to keep them from biting, but than you will have all these black dots all over your skin from the bugs but its better than the sting from the no see-ums.

  21. How do I get rid of this

  22. Mix meat tenderizer with baking soda into a thick paste. Cover the affected area with the paste. It takes the itch out of the bites that seems to go on for days.
    We use fabric softener sheets to keep them off of us at the beach.

  23. After being bitten it is recommended to use witch hazel on a cotton swab,do this whenever itch gets bad, then use over the counter anti-histamine, Diphenhydramine HCI 25mg.

    Good luck…..

  24. Buy some bug fogger one for each room in the house.

  25. I was covered and researched different methods to get comfort. What really worked for me was a very hot Epsom salts bath(one in the am, another at dinner time) to relieve the extreme itch followed by prescription hydrocortisone lotion 2.5%. The over the counter hydrocortisone cream is not nearly strong enough.

  26. Mix peppermint oil and water in small spray bottle. I spray a mist of this on me. It keeps them off of me. No-see-ums and spiders do not like peppermint oil.

  27. Spray peppermint oil mixed with water .That is the only thing I have found to keep them off of me. I have a small spray bottle that I spray a mist of it on me. It works. I can only find peppermint oil in small bottles. It can get expensive.

  28. I got bit several (literally hundreds) of times while camping. I felt stinging around my elbows, face, and legs. The welps or hives didn’t show up right away, in fact, some are still showing their little ugly selves, still, a day later. I used Cutter bug spray but it was applied too late to do any good. The little critters already did a job on my skin. I have taken over the counter benydryl and used hydrocortisone but they still itch terribly.

  29. midge food // August 1, 2015 at 9:55 pm // Reply

    Got over 150 of these bites in south Missouri. Miserable vacation. Thanks for the good article.

  30. I got bit by one a few minutes ago..it’s hurts like crazy now

  31. I got bit while posting this comment

  32. my friend got bites from gardening. Exterminator sprayed her yard to get rid of them. No more bites!

  33. Let me tell ya there hear in northern oklahoma. Had never had a issue until the last 2 years. They hit the ankles and back of the neck. And you can’t stop itching until you make lesions on your self. I suggest clip your finger nails. You won’t tear the flesh to bad. And reduces infection from dirty nails. It’s really different than a mosquito. And it hurts for days. Malithyon ,DDT, Diazinon. These chemicals kept them away. HELP!

    • Help my dog is driving me crazy will a flea shampoo help my dog I live in Florida and cannot avoid this All of your helpful hands are great But you’re talking about people be bad what about dogs do you use the same products on a dog no one has mentioned that about animals Help.

  34. Use redneck cologne hint deep woods off spray everywhere especially ears n neck area

  35. how do you get rid of them in your house?

  36. Vicks Vapo Rub does work to relieve itch for a period of time.

  37. It is reported that if you have a Downey fabric softner sheet near any exposed skin the no see ems will leave you alone.

  38. itchy bites // January 3, 2015 at 9:37 am // Reply

    I use the product After Bite ,works great,

  39. I use after bite ,great relief!

  40. These little things crawl up my legs and bite my body. I can’t see them crawling, but I can feel them and then they bite. They are not bed bugs. I live alone and don’t know how to get rid of them. I’ve used all kinds of itch medicine but they just crawl over it..Please help me someone.

  41. Uncle Buck // May 8, 2014 at 7:31 am // Reply

    Every year we visit my brother and sister in law who live in Florida and we get bitten alive by no -see-ums.Why is it they don’t they even get one bite?

    • still scratching // March 20, 2015 at 7:14 pm // Reply

      For the last 3 yrs I have visited FL in March and came home with lots of extremely itchy bites. FL is not for me!

  42. no see ums look like little specks of pepper sometimes in a triangular shape. very very small but i have seen them with the naked eye and then watched them with a magnifying glass

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