The mosquito’s pesky relatives: NO-SEE-UMS

Patrick Linn, MS, MSHAPI
Executive Director, Collier Mosquito Control District

No doubt you’re familiar with Southwest Florida’s mosquitoes and the itchy, red welts their bites can leave behind, but there is another pesky biter that can wreak havoc on our outdoor  activities: no-see-ums. Their bites not only itch, they can be painful and leave an irritating
bump that can take many days to dissipate.

No-see-ums is actually the nickname for minute Culicoides midges, which are a mere 1/8th inch long. It’s very, very difficult to see these winged bugs, which are also referred to as biting
midges, biting gnats, or punkies. Florida is home to some 47 species, and our state provides abundant habitat where they can lay eggs: any moist soil in the vicinity of water, especially salt marsh and mangrove areas.

The female no-see-um draws your blood because she needs protein for the development of her eggs just like a mosquito; in fact, these insects could be described as distant cousins. In Collier County, we have five mosquito species of concern that we closely monitor because they can vector diseases such as Zika, dengue fever, West
Nile virus, and Eastern equine encephalitis.

Unlike the mosquito, our area’s no-see-ums do not transmit diseases to humans. Various Culicoides species have been shown to vector parasites to animals and humans in some Caribbean islands, and Central and South
America, but those parasites are not present in the United States. Mosquito control districts in Florida are not funded to provide control of no-see-ums, and it’s no surprise that we field complaints about these insects year-round.

The following tactics have proven helpful for residents:
∙ Because of their tiny size, no-see-ums don’t fly well in the wind, so using strategically placed fans on your lanai helps keep them away.
∙ Typical screening doesn’t have holes small enough to keep them out, but special screening with smaller openings is
available. Also, a variety of store bought insect sprays can be used on screens; purchase them at home improvement and hardware stores.
∙ As with most other bugs, no-see-ums are attracted to lights, so try to minimize lighting when you’re enjoying the outdoors after sunset.
∙ Remove breeding sources around your home, including draining containers of standing water.
∙ Defend yourself by wearing insect repellents (the most effective are those containing DEET).
∙ For those who want to avoid the use of chemicals, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) also recommends using oil of lemon eucalyptus, which is almost as effective as DEET.
∙ Avoid being outdoors when no-see-ums (and mosquitoes) are most active at dawn and dusk when the air is still.
∙ When reasonable, dress in long sleeves and long pants.

To learn more about the District’s operations, public tours are available which include presentations by our scientific team in the laboratory, our
operations/surveillance team, and a visit to the hangar. Please call our
office at (239) 436-1000 to schedule a tour or if we can provide more
information

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