If you’ve ever experienced painful red bites when outside but didn’t notice mosquitoes in the area, you may have been the victim of no-see-ums. Unlike their name suggests, you can actually see no-see-ums, but you will rarely notice them until they bite you. If these nagging insects plaque your property, we’ll teach you in this article how to get rid of no-see-ums.
What Are No-See-Ums?
No-see-ums comprise a family of insects referred to as Ceratopogonidae. No-see-ums can also be called biting midges, devil flies, or midgies. Additionally, these tiny pests are often mistaken for gnats or sand flies. No-see-ums are actually a type of flies even though people more commonly associate no-see-ums more closely with mosquitos. These tiny flies only grow to be about 1-4mm in length, allowing them to go unnoticed in many situations.
Although no-see-ums primarily feed on nectar from flowers, female no-see-ums also need blood to aid in reproduction. Female biting midges feast on both humans and animals, so your pet could be bothered as much as you are! However you refer to these pests, you’re undoubtedly more concerned with how to get rid of no-see-ums and how to treat their bites.
No-see-ums pack a hefty punch for their size. They can leave you with itchy red welts which last up to days for some individuals. Because you’ll rarely encounter just one stray no-see-um, you may be covered in bites after a day outside.
Identifying No-See-Ums’ Bites
You will certainly notice when you’ve been bitten by no-see-ums because the painful red welts they leave behind can be itchy for days. Their bites resemble the bites of mosquitoes but will probably appear a bit smaller. On dogs, no-see-um bites typically surface as bright red circles, and they will appear more noticeable on dogs’ stomachs, which are covered by less fur. You will most likely notice several bites in a similar place on the body. An itching or burning sensation and a bright red color characterize no-see-um bites. Additionally, the redness and itching may last for a few hours or several days. Preventing bites from biting midges requires learning how to get rid of no-see-ums. Try not to itch the bites you receive because this can open up the wounds, exposing you to infections.
Why Do No-See-Ums Bite You?
The carbon dioxide and lactic acid odors that mammals give off attract no-see-ums. These odors allow biting midges to locate targets. Light has also been shown to be slightly attractive to no-see-ums, so try saving a little more money on your electricity bill and flipping the switch off. Male no-see-ums feed on flower nectar while the females use both flower nectar and blood for nourishment. Female biting midges utilize blood meal as a protein source for her eggs.
Although no-see-ums only survive for a few weeks in the wild, female no-see-ums can still reproduce 5 to 7 times in their life. Although the number of eggs female no-see-ums lay depends on the species, you can expect 25 to 100 new no-see-ums each time the female reproduces. To sustain their eggs and continue reproducing, female no-see-ums rely on the blood of your family and pets.
Why No-See-Ums’ Bites Hurt
Before sucking mammal blood, no-see-ums inject saliva containing an anticoagulant with their needle-like mouth. Anticoagulants keep the blood flowing, allowing these pests to draw more blood. This anticoagulant triggers an immune response causing the red, itchy bump to form. You will notice a burning sensation shortly after being bitten, followed by a prolonged itchy feeling.
How to Treat No-See-Um Bites
If you’re seeking answers to how to get rid of no-see-ums, you’ve probably already experienced their painful bites. Before we discuss how to eliminate no-see-ums from your home and property, we’ll ease the pain of the bites you’ve already incurred. First, make sure to wash the area or wipe the bites with rubbing alcohol to prevent infection. A common anti-itch and anti-inflammation treatment is the use of hydrocortisone.
However, if you’re hesitant to use a topical steroid cream, a few natural methods can also help to relieve the itching. Holding an ice cube on the bites can provide temporary relief from itching. Additionally, using calamine lotion or pure aloe vera gel can offer relief. Many people choose to take an antihistamine (Benadryl) to aid with sleep later in the day, as the itching and burning can keep you up. Of course, talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about the health side effects of any of these treatments.
How to Get Rid of No-See-Ums
In order to get rid of the no-see-ums bothering you, you will ideally limit what attracts the no-see-ums to encourage long-term prevention.
Attractions for No-See-Ums
No-see-ums are most common in coastal areas because they thrive in humid, warm climates. Specifically, biting midges love to live near still or slow-moving water sources. While on a large scale this habitat may look like a marsh or lake, the birdbath or river behind your house could also be attracting these tiny pests. If you have standing water behind your house (such as a birdbath), make sure to clean the sources regularly to try to prevent no-see-ums.
Repelling and Getting Rid of No-See-Ums
If no-see-ums are already plaguing your property and you can’t get rid of what is attracting them, other useful options exist for getting rid of no-see-ums or limiting their bites. One of the most foolproof methods for reducing the number of bites you receive is to cover up. Wearing long-sleeves or long pants prevents no-see-ums from biting you. However, this option may not appeal to you on a hot summer day, so other control methods are also available.
CO2 Removal Traps
This effective method uses CO2 to attract the no-see-ums before using a quiet vacuum system to suck the biting midges into the trap. Hang these traps outside near your house, such as in a close tree or on your back deck. However, you can also use traps indoors. Additionally, this kind of trap can be effective at removing mosquitoes. Producers create these mosquito and no-see-um traps at varying strengths and sizes for the amount of area you need to clear. This trap is formulated for half an acre, but there are also ¼ of an acre or even a full acre. This type of effective trapping requires patience. It can take a few weeks to notice a significant difference in the mosquito and no-see-um population on your property
Some controversy exists surrounding the effectiveness of DEET repellents for no-see-ums. However, if using DEET repellents has helped in your fight against mosquitoes in the past, it will probably be useful against no-see-ums for you as well. DEET repellent works by making it more difficult for insects to smell the carbon dioxide we exhale. Others believe that DEET repellents also present a repulsing smell to insects. Therefore, DEET repellent does not actually kill biting flies or get rid of no-see-ums, but it reduces the number of pesky bites you receive. Because this option is relatively inexpensive, we recommend giving it a try. Make sure you follow the application instructions on the label of your repellent to gain maximum effectiveness.
Because no-see-ums are so tiny, they are weak fliers. Turning your fan on high will prevent no-see-ums from being able to enter the immediate area. This strategy may be most useful on outdoor decks and patios.
Although an infestation of no-see-ums inside your house is extremely unlikely, a few annoying no-see-ums could often find their way inside. Because of their small size, no-see-ums are capable of fitting through the traditional mesh screens (US 16 Standard mesh) used on windows. Swapping your screens for smaller mesh screens will help prevent any no-see-ums from entering your house. These smaller screens may prevent airflow to an extent but will still allow you to get fresh air indoors.
Implementing these tips will save you from painful bites and get rid of no-see-ums on your property. After eliminating the pesty biting midges bothering you, we hope you can continue to enjoy gardening, cookouts, fishing, and other outdoor activities.