No summer season is complete without biting gnats. While a single image may come to mind when you hear the term biting gnat, the term is generally used to describe the biting midge from the family Ceratopogonidae. These tiny insects are known for breeding in moist, organic material and have a knack for inflicting painful and itchy bites. At beaches and in backyards across the country, they’re commonly referred to as no-see-ums. But no matter what you call them – they’re a nuisance.
For a being that spans no more than a quarter-inch, biting midges can pack a powerful punch. Both male and female biting midges feed on plant nectar. However, while males can survive on nectar alone, females need to feed on blood to produce their eggs by using mouthparts developed for cutting into skin. This is why humans and pets make perfect targets for their tiny, but mighty bite.
On humans, their bites can be similar to mosquito bites in that they are small, red lumps that are incredibly itchy, sometimes painful, and can even become swollen.On dogs, midge bites are usually found on their stomachs, and also produce small, itchy red lumps similar to those found on humans.
Although biting midges are primarily a nuisance and not significant vectors for human diseases, some species can vector animal pathogens, such as bluetongue virus, to sheep and cattle.
While it can feel like the itch lasts forever, most bites clear up within a week. However, excessive scratching of the bite can damage the skin and make the wound more pronounced, prolonging the healing process. And no, you’re not imagining it – the bites can be itchier at night. Doctors attribute this to the fact that cortisol (our built-in anti-inflammatory hormone) levels are higher in the morning than at night. It also comes down to mind over matter – our brains have fewer distractions to process at bedtime, which puts midge (or any insect) bites top of mind.
The best way to prevent midge bites is to wear EPA-registered insect repellent, especially if you’re wearing clothes that expose large areas of skin. Biting midges can’t bite through clothes, but they can get underneath them. When enjoying outdoor activities, like hiking, it’s best to wear long sleeves or pants.
If you are bitten, first wash the area with soap and water. If the bite is bleeding, it’s smart to apply a little antiseptic ointment after you clean it. If the bitten area is swollen and irritated, you can apply a cold compress to reduce the irritation. From there, you can apply an over the counter anti-itch cream to the affected area. Because antihistamines treat allergic reactions, an over the counter option could also help reduce itchiness. Always follow packaging instructions for these products, and if you are prone to sensitive skin or allergic reaction, check with your doctor before treating the bite(s) yourself.
While biting midges are difficult to control, we can help reduce existing infestations with our treatments. We can also help you fight the bight against more harmful insects like mosquitoes and ticks. Contact your local Mosquito Squad today!