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Department of Entomology
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Insect Note - ENT/rsc-17

Biting midges (Culicoides sp.) are small, sometimes barely-visible, blood-sucking flies more commonly known in many areas as biting gnats, sand flies, biting midges, punkies or “no-see-urns .‘ Their biting activity is extremely annoying, and it can have a deleterious effect on the economy of some coastal areas by discouraging tourism.


Adult (A-B)- Biting midges are sometimes only 0.5 mm long. The legs are unmarked or banded and the wings are clear or spotted.

Egg (C)- Only 0.25 mm long, the tiny eggs are initially white but soon turn dark brown.

Larva (D)- The wormlike larvae are white with dark heads and are 3.5 to 4 mm long when fully grown. A short, brush-like breathing structure protrudes from the last abdominal segment.

Pupa (E)- The light- to dark-brown pupae are sometimes about 4 mm long.

biting mide life stages


Distribution - Biting midges breed in salt and fresh water habitats throughout the world.

Feeding Habits - Biting midge larvae consume decaying organic matter in mud, intertidal sand or wet soil around water holes and seepage areas. Along the coast, decaying seaweed that is tossed up onto beaches after storms presents an ideal breeding habitat. Adults feed on liquid substances ranging from plant juices to body fluids of insects and the blood of vertebrates. Females of many species feed on mammals, including people.

Life History - Biting midges generally overwinter as larvae and pupate in spring. The adults deposit eggs on mud or on sand and about one week later larvae emerge. The larvae are found in mud, salt marshes and intertidal sand. If removed from the substrate, each of the four larval instars is large enough to be seen by the unaided eye. After feeding and developing for 6 months to a year, larvae pupate and adults soon emerge. Adult biting midges live about a month. Females take several blood meals and lay several batches of eggs. The males feed on plant juices. Along the North Carolina coast and around inland breeding sites, flies are usually present throughout most of the warm weather seasons.


Control of immature biting midges is impractical in North Carolina. Chemical controls (ULV, fogs, mists and sprays) used against adult mosquitoes are temporarily effective against adult biting midges, but more adults rapidly invade the treated area after the spray has dissipated. Though screening is effective in keeping mosquitoes outdoors, it does not completely prevent biting midges from entering houses. As with mosquito control, wide area control programs should be administered by professionals.

For anyone engaging in outdoor activities, the best defense against biting midges is personal protection in the form of repellents. Children and pregnant women should use repellents sparingly.

Prepared by
Charles Apperson and Michael Waldvogel
Entomology Extension Specialists

Pest information and control recommendations presented here were developed for North Carolina and may not be appropriate for other states or regions. Any recommendations for the use of chemicals are included solely as a convenience to the reader and do not imply that insecticides are necessarily the sole or most appropriate method of control. Any mention of brand names or listing of commercial products or services in the publication does not imply endorsements by North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services. All recommendations for pesticide use were legal at the time of publication, but the status of pesticide registrations and use patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal regulatory agencies. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for using these products according to the regulations in their state and to the guidelines on the product label. Before applying any chemical, always obtain current information about its use and read the product label carefully. For assistance, contact the Cooperative Extension Center in your county.

Distributed in furtherance of the acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914. North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. North Carolina State University, North Carolina A&T State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and local governments cooperating.

Last updated - 4/2/99

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