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“Have You Seen ‘Ums”?

Contributed by:

Mallory Kelley, Regional Extension Agent

If you are into camping, fishing, gardening, or really just hanging out on your patio grilling you may have come in contact with biting midges or what many people call “no-see-ums.”  They are especially bad early in the morning and late in the afternoon, but can also be present at any time of day when it is cloudy and no breeze.

adult biting midge

They get the name “no-see-ums” due to their tiny size and go unnoticed until you feel their painful bite.  They are barely visible to the naked eye so many times people don’t know what is biting them. Males and females feed on nectar, but the females require blood for their eggs to mature. The females will blood-feed primarily around dawn and dusk; however, there are some species that prefer to feed during the day.  The larvae cannot develop without moisture, but do not require standing water as they can develop in soil as long as it stays moist.

In the U.S., the biting midges are primarily a nuisance and the major medical issue associated with Culicoides is allergic reactions to the bites. However, in some countries they do vector diseases.

Insecticide applications targeting the adult stage are not efficient. While this type of application may kill biting midges activity one night, they are continually dispersing from the larval habitat and entering areas of human activity. Killing biting midges would require insecticide applications on a daily basis in some areas, and this is not efficient or environmentally sound. Many government agencies that provide mosquito control services receive complaints about biting midges. However, most of the programs are not mandated or allowed to respond by providing control measures.

Homeowners can install proper screening for windows and patios to prevent “no-see-ums” from entering areas used for leisure and entertaining. Most biting midges can pass through 16-mesh insect wire screen and netting, so a smaller mesh size is required. The small mesh size does limit air flow through the screens. In addition, because “no-see-ums” are so small and are weak fliers, ceiling and window fans can be used at high speeds to keep “no-see-ums” out of small areas.

Repellents containing DEET for mosquito repellents are also labeled for use against “no-see-ums” and can decrease your exposure to the painful insect. It is important that the directions for application that are printed on the label are followed for any product used as a repellent.

If you have other gardening related questions, please call the Master Gardener Helpline at:

1-877-ALA-GROW (252-4769), Monday – Thursday, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Are you interested in learning more about seasonal gardening topics?  Please join us for the FREE Master Gardener Lunch and Learn Program in your area.  These are EVERY MONTH from 12:00-1:00, Bring a Sack Lunch, Drinks Provided:

June topics and locations:

Montgomery: The 1st Wednesday of EVERY month

Topic: Butterfly Gardening in the South, Jane Mobley, Advanced Master Gardener

Armory Learning Arts Center on Madison Ave.

Wetumpka: The 2nd Tuesday of EVERY month

Topic: Landscape Design, Rip Weaver, Director of Aldridge Gardens

Elmore County Extension Office Auditorium

Prattville: The 1st Thursday of EVERY month

Topic: Herbs, Tia Gonzalez, Director of Auburn University Medicinal Plant Garden

Trinity United Methodist Church, Prattville