See if this sounds familiar.
You decide to fire up the grill for dinner. Everything is going great—until you feel the familiar bite of a bug. Then it happens again. Suddenly, you feel another twinge. Each time, you can’t see what could possibly be attacking you.
At first, you assume it must be mosquitoes, but none seem to be around. Then you see the swarm. Dozens of tiny, flying insects hovering nearby in a cloud. Sandflies. Biting midges, or as they are sometimes more commonly called, “no see ‘ums”.
Oh well, you think, they’re annoying, but at least they’re not dangerous. Or, are they? What can you do if you don’t want to have to deal with these pesky pests?
Lots of Florida residents wonder if there is anything they can do to deal with midges. Why? First off, they’re everywhere. Needless to say, they can be incredibly annoying if you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors around sunrise or sunset.
Because most people have just seen these insects as a small nuisance, few people really understand what midges are exactly and how to avoid getting bitten. In this post, you can learn more about midges in Florida and other parts of the country, what you can do if you get bitten, what the differences are between midges and mosquitoes and how to prevent midges from spoiling your next outdoor outing.
How To Deal With Midge Fly Bites
Most midges don’t bite. They just swarm around or near you in the most annoying way possible. When you come across varieties that do bite, however, you’ll be wishing for the other kind of annoyance.
Why? Because it’s rarely ever a single bite.
As you might remember, midges come in swarms. That means that when a midge bites you, they produce pheromones essentially saying, “Hey, guys, yummy stuff over here!”
In effect, they call their friends over to enjoy the meal with them, leading to you getting bitten over and over and over.
What happens if you get bitten?
People tend to feel a burning sensation at first, followed by a small red welt where they were bitten. Those with allergies may experience extreme itching. Some can suffer for several days after the bites occur.
Keep in mind, though, that typically you are dealing with many, many bites. So, even if you only feel minor discomfort from an individual bite, you’re talking about that sensation numerous times over.
Bottom line: midge bites are not pleasant. And for some, the experience with these beach bugs that bite, which can also be found near salt marshes, mangrove swamps and other humid environments, can be absolutely horrific. You can also run across these bugs in your backyard. When you are trying to identify different swimming pool bugs, types of midges can congregate poolside, which can certainly interfere with a relaxing swim.
Should you worry about diseases?
Not really. No midges have been recorded as transmitting “disease agents” to people in our country. That being said, there is some evidence that midges might be “vectors” of a parasitic worm that can infect people.
This human nematode parasite is native to South America and has also been found in the West Indies. In people who have been infected, the worms live primarily in the blood, but also (while the worms are juveniles) in the skin.
Not exactly pleasant to think about.
If you are bitten and experience discomfort, try calamine or other types of anti-itch ointments and creams. Some people find quite a bit of relief with these products. If the discomfort is extreme or continues for several days, it may be wise to seek out the help of a doctor.
Midge Vs. Mosquito: How Can You Tell Them Apart?
Here’s the bad news: it’s really hard to tell the difference between most mosquitoes and biting midges just by looking at them. Unless you manage to trap some and get a magnifying glass, the distinct visual characteristics won’t be apparent to the average person.
So, how can you tell which one is which?
There are two big ways to differentiate between these pesky insects:
- Midges are pretty much always in swarms. If you walk through a “cloud” of insects and they fly into your ears, eyes and mouth, you’re most likely dealing with midges. In contrast, while mosquitoes can swarm, they also often travel—and attack—alone.
- Midges are ridiculously slow. Seriously. These bugs fly slower than you can walk. If you want to get away from midges that are attacking you, just start moving. Any bothersome midges will quickly be left behind. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to get rid of mosquitoes this way.
So, which pest one is worse?
That probably depends on your specific experience.
If you’re looking at the potential damage that can be done, mosquitoes (pictured directly above this section) are clearly worse because of the incredibly serious diseases they can carry. Malaria. West Nile Virus. Zika. Yellow Fever. Dengue Fever. You don’t get much worse than that.
However, if you ask someone who has suffered a typical mosquito bite or two against someone who has dozens of bites from a midge attack, you might get a different answer—especially if they have an allergic reaction that increases swelling and itchiness.
Yes, at the end of the day, midges are still more annoying than anything else, but sometimes extreme annoyance can feel worse.
The No See Ums Florida Season: When Is It?
So, when do Floridians need to watch out for biting midges?
Generally speaking, midges are more common in warmer, wetter weather and less common in cooler, drier weather. So, summer is especially bad in the Sunshine State. Because Florida has warm weather most of the year, conditions in spring and fall can also be suitable for these biting insects. Winter tends to bring a bit of a reprieve, though there are some areas of South Florida that have to deal with midges year-round.
The long and short of it is that Florida is pretty much a haven for midges. Still, you can probably let your guard down a bit in the winter, and you should be particularly alert right after the warmth of spring kicks in and female midges are most active, during their mating season.
What You Can Do to Avoid Biting Midges
While there is little that can be done in Florida to completely avoid midges, there are strategies that you can use to minimize your contact with these creatures.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Minimize your time outdoors around dawn or dusk. Early morning and late afternoon are the peak biting times, just like for mosquitoes. If you simply stay inside during these times, you’re far less likely to get bitten.
- Use repellents. Insect repelling lotions and sprays generally work against biting midges, particularly if they contain DEET.
- Keep moving. As mentioned above, midges are slow. If you’re going out for a run—or even a brisk dog walk—you’re probably pretty safe from midge bites.
- Wear long sleeves. Midges can’t bite what they can’t get to. It may not be the most comfortable feeling in the world to cover up when going out in the hot Florida sun, but it sure beats getting eaten up by midges.
How To Get Rid Of Midge Flies
What if you can’t avoid biting midges and the problem is so bad that the typical protections just aren’t working? How can you get rid of midges?
Unfortunately, there’s not much out there that has been found to eradicate midges in any meaningful way for more than a short period. The simple fact is that there are too many of them, and they are too widespread.
Insecticides have been effective in some cases, but even then, only for a short time. There aren’t really any traps that have proven effective either.
Environmental changes may be the best way to reduce the midge population in a specific area.
Specifically, homeowners can follow many of the same suggestions that apply to keeping mosquitoes away. The tactics below can make your yard less attractive to these pesky insects.
Remove Standing Water
One way that mosquitoes and midges are alike is that females of both species lay their eggs in standing water. Removing these moisture sources can, therefore, help to curb an infestation. Midge eggs must stay moist, or they will dry out and die, so dumping out containers after your sprinklers run or a rainfall can help reduce your midge population.
Invest In Fans
Want to enjoy your screened-in porch? Midges are so small that they can slip through most screens, but they don’t do well in windy areas. Use a high-velocity fan or two, and they probably won’t even attempt to come in. With this advice in mind, you should take note that if it’s windy, midges will probably stay way.
Get “Biting Midge Screening”
While the holes in typical screens are not small enough to stop midges from getting in, you can find screens that have been specially created to keep biting midges away.
Turn Lights Off
Similar to many other types of bugs, midges are attracted to lights. If they see your light on at night, they will be drawn to it, which can result in you getting bitten. Turn off your lights, and you’re less likely to attract them. You can also consider investing in a bug zapper, so they will be fried when they approach your light. If you’re attracting swarms of midges, some are almost guaranteed to get a bite or two in before they perish.
ABC Can Protect You From All Types Of Pests
Unfortunately, midges live alongside us here in Florida. Fortunately, you can call in the experts if you have an infestation or if you are having problems with any other pesky insects or animals. If you have pest problem, ABC’s experienced technicians can diagnose your issue and provide you with a personalized treatment plan.