No See Ums: Frequently Asked Questions

In a recent post, we highlighted a few methods that the family can use, while working as a unit, to get rid of no see ums in their yard. If you haven’t seen that post, be sure to check it out. You can learn how to get rid of no see ums here.  


What are no see ums?

No see ums are tiny biting flies. Think of them as minified mosquitoes with super stealth ability, minus the annoying buzz sound. These biting flies are so small that it makes them difficult to see, but not invisible.

Because it’s hard to see them, they have been labeled as no see ums. That name is fitting because you’re only made aware of their presence after their nasty and irritable bite.

What is the real name for no see ums?

No see ums are scientifically called Culicoides spp. (Insecta: Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) or biting midges. Within the Ceratopogonidae family, there are over 4000 species of biting midges. Regarding Culicoides, about 1400 species have been named with about 40-50 known for transmitting diseases – both to man and animals.

While the species can be found all over the world, Florida has reported some 47 known species. Species belonging to the genus Leptoconops can be found in the tropics, Caribbean, and coastal areas of southeast Florida.

No see ums are erroneously called sandflies in Australia. However, biting midges and sandflies are two separate orders and should not be confused.

Can you see no see ums?

Yes, you can see no see ums. However, it’s rather difficult to do so and would take much focus. An adult no see um is approximately ⅛ inch long. In comparison to mosquitoes, no see ums are very small.

 Can you see no see ums - Size comparison of a no see um

Image 1: Culicoides furens shown next to a U.S. dime and pencil point to demonstrate the relative size of this adult biting midge species. Photograph by Roxanne Connelly, Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida.

 

What does a no see um look like?

Egg: The eggs are approximately 0.25 mm long, cigar-shaped, and white in appearance after being laid, but later transform to black or brown.

Subsequent to emerging, no see ums eggs would take about 2 – 10 days to hatch. The time the eggs take to hatch typically depends on temperatures and the species involved.

The number of eggs a no see um pops out depends on the species and the size of their blood meal. For instance, Culicoides furens (Poey) can push out approximately 50 to 110 per each blood meal had.

Larvae: The larvae of a no see um looks like a worm. It has a white creamy hue and is around 2 – 5 mm long. No see ums larvae need moisture to survive. While these pests aren’t restricted to terrestrial or aquatic factors, they need moisture to keep alive.

You’ll mainly find these larvae hanging out around muddy areas, ponds, mangroves, and salt-marsh. Any moist area, you name it, they’ll be there. No see ums larvae will feed on small organisms for food.  

Depending on the larval species, they might stay within that state for about 2 weeks to a year.

Note: The larvae cannot develop within animals or humans.

Pupae: The pupal stage is fleeting and may run up to about 2 to 3 days.

Adults: Adult no see ums have two wings with close-knit hairs, which create various color patterns. The wings of no see ums are used as identifiers, to distinguish one species from another.

A female no see um has extended mandibles, naturally carved to make feeding seamless and more fulfilling. The thorax goes above the head and the abdomen has approximately nine segments and recedes/fades at the end.

The complete adult stage of a no see um might take about two to six weeks to complete. Again, that strictly depends on the species and the state of their environment.

Adult no see ums tend to harbor in close proximity to conducive breeding sites, but will later ‘roam’ to mate and collect their next blood meal.

 

 

What does a no see um look like?

Image 2: Adult biting midge, Culicoides sonorensis Wirth and Jones, showing blood-filled abdomen and the characteristic wings patterns used for species identification. Photograph by Ed T. Schmidtmann, USDA/ARS.

What attracts no see ums?

Though not definitive, it is said that no see ums are attracted to the odor humans (including mammals) omit from their bodies. They can detect the odor you give off, particularly carbon dioxide, and so that attracts them. Lactic acid also attracts no see ums.

Since no see ums are attracted to carbon dioxide, this means that CO2 mosquito traps can be used to attract and kill no see ums.

Why do no see ums bite me?

No see ums bite because they need your blood to reproduce. After snacking on your blood, they are better able to reproduce and in greater quantities.

Only female no see ums feed on the blood of animals and humans.  

How long do no see um bites last?

A single bite from a no see um can last for about 2 weeks after welting. However, if the welt is scratched, this could make the situation worse and possibly get infected.

As the bites will take a while to fade, ensure to use an anti-itch cream to relieve discomfort and alcohol wipes to disinfect the area.

A no see um bite will also last longer if you develop some skin sensitivity or reaction to it. In this case, consult your doctor.

How long do no see um bites take to heal?

How well a no see um bite heals depends on how the area is treated. If the area becomes itchy and is scratched, the healing process might be extended from 2 weeks to up to a month.

Please refer to the section of this article entitled “how long do no see um bites last?”

When is no see ums season?

No see ums will typically breed when the weather is warm, nice, and cozy. This is during springtime – around May and June. You’ll also find them abundant during the summer season.

During this season, extra precautionary measures should be put in place to get rid of no see ums and prevent them from biting.

How do I get rid of no see um bites?

To get rid of no see um bites, there are several home remedies that you can try. Whatever you do, resist the urge to scratch the area. That will only make things worse. (see section: “How long do no see um bites take to heal?” in this article) If you have issues with scratching, it’s best to keep your nails short.

You can also wash the area with soap and water and then try to numb the bite. With a cotton swab, you can apply heated water to each bite. An ointment is also handy to relieve itching and discomfort.

How do I get rid of no see ums in the yard?

Are you currently struggling to get rid of no see ums in your yard? You’re not the only homeowner with that problem. You can read the full article on how to get rid of no see ums, or read our quick tips below:

  • Use insecticides
  • Chemical foggers
  • Wear the right clothing/gears outdoors in no see um zones
  • Use repellents
  • Control the level of moisture.

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No see Ums Frequently Asked Questions

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