If you’ve been to the beach recently around dusk or early evening, you might have had the unpleasant experience of being bitten on your feet and lower legs. These biting bugs go by a number of names, including no see ‘ums, sand gnats, and sand flies. All of these names are referring to the same annoying nibbler called a biting midge.
What are Biting Midges?
There are 4,000 species of biting midges and they are found all over the world. They especially like coastal sandy areas and salt marshes, of which we have plenty in our area. Similar to mosquitoes, only the females bite and drink blood to get the protein required to reproduce. They are also most active at dawn and dusk/evening as well as right after rainstorms. Biting midges do not transmit the West Nile virus or Zika virus like mosquitoes do but they can transmit other illnesses to people and animals in some cases.
The bites of biting midges typically feel like small sharp pinches and can cause an allergic reaction with swelling, redness and itching. Like with mosquito bites, it’s important to avoid scratching the bites to prevent secondary skin infection caused by scratching. Calamine lotion, aloe vera or even Benadryl can help tone down the itch.
Avoid Biting Midges
The best way to avoid bites from these critters is to avoid the bug. Avoid being at the beach or in salt marsh areas during their active times. Wear long pants and long sleeves whenever possible (we understand, it’s HOT out). Use a bug repellent with DEET, Picaridin or lemon and eucalyptus oils to try to repel them. Note: bug repellents might help but are not as effective on biting midges as they are on other types of bugs. Also be sure to protect your pets from biting midges as they view any warm-blooded creature as a source for a blood meal. You can also try using a portable fan as they dislike wind and it could help deter them.
While biting midges tend to bite the feet and lower legs, if you sit or lay down on the sand during their active time, they’ll bite in other areas. They can also sometimes hitch a ride home with you in your beach bag, on towels and on clothes. Be sure to shake out all of your belongings before you leave the beach to avoid bringing a home any unwanted house guests. If you have questions or suspect some biting midges have hitchhiked home with you, give The Pest Force a call!