You may not see them, but no-see-ums see you…and they’re hungry.
They’re called by many names: no-see-ums, punkies, sand fleas, sand flies, and gnats. But the most common term used to describe those biting midges ruining your picnics and days at the shore is “pests.”
The more you know about no-see-ums, the easier it is to banish them from your next patio party. So, here are four quick no-see-um facts.
#1—You actually can see no-see-ums.
They’re small—just 1-3mm—so it’s easy to miss them. At first glance, a no-see-um might appear to be a bit of fluff or speck of dirt, something so small you don’t bother brushing it away.
But when that tiny dot on your arm suddenly bites you—that’s when you know a no-see-um has come to call.
No-see-ums are normally gray, but when one slices through your skin and sucks blood from you, that no-see-um takes on a reddish color. Not that you’d notice—they’re still too small to be easily seen.
#2—No-see-ums have you surrounded.
That’s because there are more than 4,000 species of no-see-ums spread around the world, with around 600 calling North America home. Unfortunately, many of those 600 species absolutely love Texas and other Gulf and Atlantic states.
No-see-ums thrive near water. No-see-um larvae do best in aquatic or other damp environments such as areas near lakes, swamps, bogs, beaches, and marshes. Moist forest floors and irrigated agricultural acreage are also ideal breeding grounds.
So if you enjoy fishing, hiking, camping, hunting, gardening, or harvesting, you’re walking straight into some no-see-ums living room. But you needn’t seek them out—they’re looking for you.
No-see-ums are attracted to the carbon dioxide humans and other animals exhale, plus they’re drawn to warm body temperatures, lactic acid (you’re brimming with it), and light.
This means if you’re sitting around a campfire at night, or you have lights on in your home after dark, you’ve laid out a no-see-um welcome mat. And they’re happy to oblige.
#3—A no-see-ums bite is brutal.
First, the good news—no-see-um bites aren’t generally dangerous to humans. Yes, they’re irritating, but no-see-ums aren’t known to spread pathogens causing human disease. It’s a different story with animals. No-see-ums can easily infect horses, deer, antelope, and cattle with viruses that cause blue tongue and epizootic hemorrhagic disease. The loss in livestock production can run into the millions of dollars.
It’s actually misleading to say a no-see-um “bites” you. In reality, a no-see-ums mouth is a sheath armed with tiny cutting blades that slice through your skin. The result—a burning sensation and small red welt. If you happen to have an allergic reaction, the welt may be considerably large and the itching severe. Again, the results are seldom serious and usually disappear in less than two weeks. A miserable two weeks—no-see-um bites are considerably more painful than mosquito bites.
By the way, only females do the slicing. While both male and female no-see-ums eat plant nectar, a female no-see-um requires protein—preferably blood to lay eggs. A no-see-um will feed on birds and reptiles but prefers mammals…like you.
A warning—no-see-ums generally feed during the hours around dawn and dusk. You’re especially fair game if you’re out and about during those times.
Treating no-see-um bites
There are many ways to treat a no-see-um bite, but all remedies begin with this advice: no scratching. Scratching only aggravates the site and opens up opportunities for infection.
It’s better to hold a bag of frozen peas or a clean cloth soaked in cool water on the site to reduce pain and itching. Other home remedies include wiping the site with rubbing alcohol, applying toothpaste, or dabbing on a paste of baking soda and water.
We can’t speak to how effective those home treatments are, but we can tell you this: it’s far better to avoid being bitten by a pest—any pest—in the first place.
#4—DIY remedies aren’t all that effective.
If no-see-ums are making your property less enjoyable, you could try installing new
screens woven tightly enough to keep them out—16-mesh insect wire is about right. But no-see-ums will still find their way in as you come and go, or if there’s any unprotected opening such as a dryer or furnace vent.
And since no-see-ums are fragile flyers, keeping ceiling fans constantly on will discourage their presence, but only as long as fan blades are turning.
Carbon dioxide-baited traps will help, but they actually draw no-see-ums to your property, so think twice about using them.
And if you choose to blast away with insect repellent, you’d best buy gallons of it.
The truth is that if mitigating no-see-ums—or any other pest—is a goal, you need professional help.
Bonus Fact—855Bugs is your no-see-um solution.
We bring over 100 years of pest extermination experience to the fight—as well as fully-licensed technicians who are State-Certified Applicators.
Our “Don’t Bug Me Plan” lets you settle on a solution and then forget about it because we’ll battle pests for you, year-round. Mosquitoes, bed bugs, fleas, ticks, ants, termites, rodents, wildlife—we’ll even go after those pesky no-see-ums. And we’ll use the least toxic methods
More than 16,000 of your neighbors—the ones sitting outside at dusk enjoying a bite-free Texas sunset—called us for a free consultation, and they’re now enjoying the results. Join them!