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No See Ums: What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them

No see ums on a white wall

No see ums, often referred to as biting midges, are tiny insects that can cause significant discomfort and annoyance. Despite their small size, their bite can cause severe itching and irritation. These pests are most commonly found in humid and tropical regions, but can also be found in various other parts of the world.

These tiny creatures are known for their nearly invisible presence, hence the name ‘No See Ums’. They are so small that they can easily pass through most types of screens and nets, making them a challenging pest to control. Despite their size, the itchy welts they leave behind after a bite are a clear indication of their presence.

Understanding No See Ums, their habits, and their habitats is crucial in implementing effective pest control strategies. In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know about no see ums, including how to get rid of them.

What Are No See Ums?

No see ums, also known as biting midges, are tiny insects that are part of the Ceratopogonidae family. Their name is derived from their minuscule size, making them nearly invisible to the naked eye. Despite their small stature, these pests are known for their painful and itchy bites.

No see ums are found worldwide, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. In fact, there are more than 4,000 species of biting midges globally and more than 600 of these are found in North America.

A biting midge sucking on a human arm

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These insects are infamous for their early morning and evening feeding habits when they are most active. These pests are not only a nuisance to humans but also to animals, as they can transmit several diseases and parasites.

They are attracted to carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which humans and animals naturally exhale. This attraction, combined with their small size, allows them to easily infiltrate homes and yards, causing discomfort and frustration for the inhabitants.

Lifecycle Of No See Ums

The lifecycle of these tiny pests consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The cycle begins when a female no see um lays her eggs, usually in a moist environment. This could be anywhere from stagnant water bodies to damp soil.

Depending on the species and the environmental conditions, the eggs hatch into larvae within a few days.

The larval stage is the longest in the no see ums lifecycle. During this phase, the larvae feed on organic matter in their surroundings, gradually growing and shedding their skin several times. This stage can last from two weeks to a year, again depending on the species and the environment.

Larva of no see ums on white background

Larvae – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Following the larval stage, no see ums enter the pupal stage. This is a transitional phase where the larvae transform into adults, a process that can take anywhere from two days to a week. Unlike many other insects, no see um pupae are mobile and can move around to avoid threats.

Pupa stage of no see um

Pupa – Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

The final stage is the adult phase, which is when no see ums become a nuisance to humans and animals. The adult no see ums are the ones that bite and feed on blood. The lifespan of an adult no see um is relatively short, usually ranging from two to six weeks.

What Do No See Ums Look Like?

No see ums are incredibly tiny insects that are often challenging to spot with the naked eye. Hence, their name “no see ums.” Despite their almost invisible size, they can be a significant nuisance, especially due to their bites, which can cause severe itching and discomfort.

In terms of physical appearance, no see ums are usually gray in color and measure about 1 to 3 millimeters in length. They have a soft body, segmented into three parts – the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head carries a pair of short antennae and biting jaws, which they use for feeding. The thorax is where the wings and legs are attached, while the abdomen houses their digestive and reproductive systems.

No see um on yellow surface

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Their wings are a distinctive feature. They are broad, paddle-shaped, and are covered with a dense array of hairs. When viewed under a microscope, these wings exhibit a unique pattern that can help in identifying the species of the no see ums.

Despite their minuscule size, no see ums have a complete metamorphosis life cycle, similar to mosquitoes. This means they undergo four different stages in their life – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The adult females are the ones responsible for the biting, as they require a blood meal for their eggs’ development.

Recognising no see ums by their appearance can be a challenging task due to their size. However, their biting habits, the time of the day when they are most active (usually dawn and dusk), and their preferred habitats (areas with high moisture content) can provide significant clues to their presence.

What Attracts No See Ums?

These tiny biting insects are attracted by several factors, which can be categorized into two main groups: the environmental and biological factors.

Environmental Factors

No see ums prefer warm, humid conditions and are particularly active during dawn and dusk. These pests are attracted to areas with standing water, such as ponds, marshes, and damp soil, where they lay their eggs. The larvae then develop in these moist environments.

Regularly watering your plants and lawn may also attract no see ums. They are drawn to the moisture and the organic matter in the soil, which provides a food source for the larvae. If you live near a body of water, like a lake or a river, you may experience a higher presence of no see ums.

Biological Factors

Biologically, no see ums are attracted to carbon dioxide, lactic acid, and octenol, which are all produced by humans and animals. When we exhale, we release carbon dioxide, which no see ums can detect from a distance. Similarly, lactic acid is produced by our bodies during physical activity and can attract these pests.

Octenol, a compound found in our breath and sweat, is another major attractant. It’s also present in the urine and sweat of cows and horses, making these animals prime targets for no see ums.

What Do No-See-Um Bites Look Like?

No-see-um bites are often mistaken for other insect bites due to their similar appearance. However, there are a few distinct characteristics that set them apart.

When a no-see-um bites, it leaves a tiny, red, and itchy bump on the skin. These bumps may appear as a small red dot initially, but they can quickly swell into a larger bump within a few hours. The size of the bump can vary and is often dependent on the individual’s reaction to the bite.

No see um bites on skin

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One of the distinguishing features of a no-see-um bite is the intense itching that accompanies it. These bites are notoriously itchy, often far more so than mosquito or flea bites. The itching sensation can last for several days and can become more intense if the bite is scratched.

Another characteristic of no-see-um bites is the pattern in which they appear. No-see-ums tend to bite in clusters, so you may notice several bites grouped together on your skin. These clusters often appear on exposed areas of skin, such as the arms, legs, and neck.

It’s important to note that everyone reacts differently to no-see-um bites. Some people may have a stronger reaction, resulting in larger, more inflamed bumps, while others may barely notice them. If you suspect you’ve been bitten by no-see-ums and your symptoms are severe or persistent, it’s recommended to seek medical attention.

How Can You Prevent Bites From No See Ums?

Preventing bites from no see ums is important, especially since their bites can be quite uncomfortable and itchy. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can employ to protect yourself and your loved ones from these pesky insects.

  • Wear Protective Clothing: Wwearing protective clothing can be a great way to prevent no see ums from biting you. Since these insects are tiny, they can easily bite through regular clothing. Therefore, consider wearing specially designed insect-repellent clothing or thick fabrics that these pests cannot penetrate. Cover as much skin as possible when you are in an area infested by no see ums.
  • Use Insect Repellents: Using insect repellents can also be effective. Look for repellents that contain DEET or Picaridin, which are known to be effective against no see ums. Apply the repellent on exposed skin areas and on your clothing for maximum protection.
Woman applying insect repellent to a child

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

  • Install Window Screens: Another preventive measure is installing screens on your windows and doors. Since no see ums are tiny, ensure that the screens have a fine mesh that can prevent the insects from entering your home.
  • Eliminate Potential Breeding Sites: Also, try to eliminate potential breeding sites for no see ums around your home. These insects breed in standing water, so make sure to drain any stagnant water around your property. This includes bird baths, old tires, buckets, and any other items that can collect water.
  • Use a Fan Outdoors: If you are planning to spend time outdoors, especially during dawn or dusk when no see ums are most active, consider using a fan. These insects are weak flyers and a strong breeze can keep them away.

How to Get Rid of No See Ums in Your House

Getting rid of No See Ums in your house can be a challenging task due to their minute size and quick breeding habits. However, with the right approach and tools, you can significantly reduce their population and prevent future infestations. Here are some effective strategies to help you get rid of these pesky insects:.

Keep Windows And Doors Closed During Summer

One of the most effective ways to prevent an invasion of no see ums in your home is by keeping your windows and doors closed, especially during the summer months. No see ums are particularly active in warm weather, and they often find their way into homes through open windows and doors.

Hand holding windows

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These tiny pests are small enough to pass through regular window screens, so even if you have screens installed, it’s best to keep windows and doors shut as much as possible. If you need to ventilate your home, consider using air conditioning or fans instead.

During the summer, no see ums are attracted to the carbon dioxide that humans and animals exhale, as well as certain odors. By keeping your windows and doors closed, you can significantly reduce the chances of these pests entering your home and causing discomfort.

Use Mesh Window Screens

You can also prevent no see ums from invading your home by installing mesh window screens. These screens serve as a physical barrier that prevents these tiny pests from gaining entry.

No see ums are very small in size, hence, it’s important to choose a screen with a very fine mesh. Standard window screens might not be effective as the holes are large enough for no see ums to pass through.

Mesh screen on window closeup view

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Opt for screens specifically designed for tiny insects, often labeled as “no-see-um” screens. These have a tighter weave, usually around 20×20 strands per inch, which is small enough to keep out these pesky critters.

Installing these mesh screens on your windows and doors provides ventilation while keeping your home no see ums-free. This is especially important during the summer months when these pests are most active.

Remember, it’s not enough to just install these screens; they need to be well-maintained. Regularly check for holes and tears and repair them immediately to ensure their effectiveness.

Use The AC To Make It Cooler

No see ums, like many other insects, thrive in warm, humid conditions. They are most active during the summer months when temperatures are high. Therefore, one effective strategy to deter these pests from invading your home is by adjusting the indoor environment.

Using the air conditioner to cool down your house can make it less appealing for no see ums. These tiny creatures prefer a warm environment for breeding and survival. When the temperature drops, they tend to seek warmer areas, which means they’ll likely leave your home in search of a more conducive environment.

Woman using the air conditioner

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In addition to making your home less attractive to no see ums, using the AC also reduces humidity levels. High humidity is another factor that attracts these pests as it is essential for their eggs to hatch. By running your air conditioner, you can maintain a cooler, less humid environment that is unfavorable for no see ums.

Remember, it’s not just about turning on the AC; it’s about maintaining a consistently cool temperature, especially during the peak activity times of no see ums, which are usually dawn and dusk..

Use a Dehumidifier

Another effective to deter no see ums from your home is using a dehumidifier. No see ums, similar to many other pests, are attracted to areas with high humidity. Therefore, by reducing the humidity levels in your home, you can make your indoor environment less inviting to these pests.

A dehumidifier works by extracting excess moisture from the air, thereby lowering the humidity levels. This device can be particularly useful in rooms that tend to have higher humidity such as the kitchen, bathroom, or basement. It’s also beneficial in areas of your home where you’ve previously noticed the presence of no see ums.

Hand turning on the dehumidifier

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When using a Dehumidifier, it’s important to regularly empty and clean the water collection tank to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria. Once the Dehumidifier is set up, you can adjust the settings to maintain the desired humidity level.

Purchase High-Quality Gnat Traps

You can also use high-quality gnat traps to get rid of them. These traps are specially designed to attract and capture these tiny pests, thereby reducing their population significantly.

Gnat traps work by emitting a light or scent that is irresistible to no see ums. Once the insects approach the trap, they get stuck on the sticky surface or are sucked into a container from which they cannot escape.

When purchasing gnat traps, ensure they are specifically designed to catch no see ums. Some traps are better suited for larger insects and may not be effective against no see ums due to their small size.

Gnat traps with trapped insects

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Remember to place the traps in areas where you have noticed high activity of no see ums. This could be near your windows, doors, or even in your kitchen.

Regularly check and replace the traps as needed. A single trap can capture hundreds of no see ums, but their effectiveness reduces as they become full.

How To Get Rid Of No-See-Ums In Your Yard

Controlling No-See-Ums in your yard can be a challenging task due to their tiny size and breeding habits. However, with the right techniques and products, you can significantly reduce their population and enjoy your outdoor spaces without the annoying bites.

Use Natural Repellents

Certain plants like lavender, marigold, and citronella are known to repel No-See-Ums. Consider planting these in your garden to keep the pests at bay. You can also use essential oils made from these plants as a natural repellent.

Remember, No-See-Ums are more active during dawn and dusk. Therefore, try to avoid spending time in your yard during these hours, especially if you have a significant No-See-Ums problem.

Eliminate Standing Water

One of the most effective ways to control the population of no see ums in your yard is to eliminate standing water. No see ums, like many other pests, are attracted to water as it is a crucial part of their lifecycle. They lay their eggs in water, where they hatch into larvae and begin their transformation into the annoying pests we all know.

Standing water can be found in various places around your yard. It could be in a bird bath, a puddle that hasn’t evaporated, a water-filled container, or even a clogged gutter. No matter where it is, if it’s standing water, it’s a potential breeding ground for no see ums.

Standing water on a log

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

To eliminate standing water, you should regularly check for and empty any containers that may have collected water. Clean your gutters regularly to prevent water from pooling. If there are areas in your yard that are prone to collecting water after rain, consider landscaping solutions to improve drainage.

Maintain Cleanliness

Maintaining cleanliness in your bird bath is another effective method to get rid of no-see-ums in your yard. No-see-ums, like many other pests, are attracted to stagnant water, which often accumulates in bird baths. This water can serve as a breeding ground for these tiny pests.

To prevent this, it’s crucial to keep your bird bath clean and the water fresh. Regularly empty the bird bath, scrub it well to remove any potential eggs or larvae, and refill it with clean water. This should be done at least once a week, or more frequently during the peak of no-see-um season.

If you have a bird bath that can’t be emptied, consider adding a water agitator. These devices create movement in the water, which deters no-see-ums from laying their eggs.

Use Insecticide Spray

Insecticide sprays are a highly effective method to get rid of no-see-ums in your yard. These tiny biting insects can be a real nuisance, especially during the warmer months. Applying an insecticide spray can help control their population and give you some much-needed relief.

Choose an insecticide spray that’s specifically designed to combat no-see-ums. These sprays contain chemicals that are toxic to the insects but are generally safe for humans and pets when used as directed. Always read and follow the instructions on the label for proper use and safety precautions.

Hand spraying insecticide

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You can apply the insecticide spray around your yard, focusing on areas where no-see-ums are likely to breed and feed. This includes places with standing water and dense vegetation. The insecticide not only kills adult no-see-ums but also their larvae, disrupting their lifecycle and preventing future infestations.

For a more targeted approach, you can also use the spray directly on no-see-ums if you see them. However, remember that these insects are tiny and often hard to spot. Therefore, a broad application around your yard is usually more effective..

Try Conceal Candles

Conceal candles are a great tool in your arsenal against no see ums. These candles are specially designed to repel a variety of biting insects, including no see ums. They work by emitting a scent that is unpleasant to these pests, effectively deterring them from coming near the area where the candle is burning.

To use conceal candles effectively, place them around the outdoor areas where you spend the most time. This could be your patio, deck, or even near the entrance of your home. Light them a few hours before you plan to be outside to allow the scent to disperse and create a protective barrier against no see ums.

Remember, while conceal candles can significantly reduce the number of no see ums in your immediate vicinity, they are not a standalone solution. They work best when used in conjunction with other methods of no see um control, such as eliminating standing water and using insecticide sprays.

Natural Methods To Get Rid Of No See Ums

No see ums are not only annoying, but their bites can also cause severe itching and discomfort. While there are several chemical methods available to combat these pests, many homeowners prefer natural, non-toxic solutions that are safe for both the environment and their families. Here are some effective natural methods to get rid of no see ums in your house and yard.

Use Essential Oils

Essential oils with flowers in the background

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Certain essential oils, such as lemon, eucalyptus, mint, camphor, citronella, and lemongrass are known to repel no see ums. You can create a homemade spray by mixing a few drops of these oils with water and spraying it around your home and yard. Alternatively, you can also add these oils to a diffuser to keep the bugs away.

Install Bug Zappers

Bug zappers use ultraviolet light to attract and kill no see ums and other insects. While they use electricity, they do not release harmful chemicals into the environment, making them a safer alternative for pest control.

Plant Insect-Repelling Plants

Certain plants, such as lavender, marigolds, and basil, are known to repel no see ums and other bugs. Plant these in your yard or place them in pots around your home to deter the pests.

Lavender and marigolds in the garden

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Use Vinegar Traps

Vinger traps are an effective way to eliminate no see ums. Fill a jar with apple cider vinegar, cover it with plastic wrap, and make small holes in the wrap. The no see ums will be attracted to the vinegar and will get trapped inside the jar.

Try Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth is a natural powder made from tiny fossilized aquatic organisms. Sprinkle this powder around your home and yard to kill no see ums. It’s non-toxic for humans and pets, but deadly for insects.


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