Several adult individuals, Glyptotendipes paripes, one of the species commonly referred to as "Blind mosquitoes.

Aquatic Midges, also known as “Blind Mosquitoes”

Blind mosquitoes are a type of freshwater midge. This particular type of midge does not bite, suck blood, or carry diseases. However, blind mosquitoes can still be a nuisance and their populations are often extremely difficult to manage. Read on to learn more about blind mosquitoes and the most effective ways to control their numbers.

Basic Information

Blind mosquitoes are one of the most common organisms in both natural and artificial water systems.  There are four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Part of midges’ life cycle is aquatic, and part is terrestrial. Large populations of freshwater midges are often indicative of a system that is abundant in nutrients and contains high counts of algae. When midges emerge from their habitat, they come off in swarms, which can be a nuisance. You can find midge larvae in numerous systems such as:

  • Small and large natural lakes
  • Wastewater channels
  • Sewage oxidation and settling ponds
  • Residential and recreational lakes

Why They Are Problematic

According to P.G. Kohler, over the past 20-30 years, blind mosquitoes have become more of a nuisance due to:

  • New midge-producing habitats constructed near residences
  • Deteriorating water quality which helps midge populations thrive
  • Increasing desire of homeowners to live close to lakes and rivers
Chironomid larva, also referred to as "bloodworm" or "wriggler"

Chironomid larva, also referred to as “bloodworm” or “wriggler”. UF/IFAS Photo by Lyle Buss

Between April and November when midge populations are highest blind mosquitoes can be an extreme nuisance, especially to residents living in breeding areas. Midges prefer cool, shady areas during the day and are attracted to the lights surrounding houses and businesses at night. When the population of blind mosquitoes is high, they often cause home and business owners grief by staining paint, stucco, and other wall finishes. They can also damage the headlights, windshield, and paint of automobiles due to their bodies becoming mashed onto the car from driving. Blind mosquitoes will fly inside of residences and cause indoor issues such as ruined laundry and stained indoor walls, ceilings, draperies, and other furnishings.

Spiders are natural predators of midges. Dead midges and spider webs force residents and business owners to frequently wash and maintain their homes and businesses. This is because dead midges have a similar smell to rotting fish as they decay.

Controlling Freshwater Midge Populations

Macro image of a Chironomid adult on vegetation

Chironomid adult. UF/IFAS Photo by James Castner

It is impossible to completely control blind mosquitoes and partial control is often too expensive or too complicated to be practical. The use of insecticides on adult midges is only a short-term fix and can even be counter-productive if it also kills the natural predators of midges such as spiders.

Blind mosquitoes can be more populous in polluted water. Waste from food-processing plants, septic tanks, sewage treatment plants, and leaching of fertilizers from lawns and agriculture around lakes provide the nutrients needed to produce the food that allows freshwater midges to thrive. As pollution continues to increase, so do blind mosquito populations.

University of Florida IFAS researchers (UF/IFAS) has developed a Freshwater Aquatic Midge Integrated Pest Management Plan to aid in controlling the blind mosquito problem in stormwater ponds and man-made stormwater lakes.

The plan to help reduce the population of these pests has four steps:

  1. Controlling algae count by treating private or man-made ponds with algaecides
  2. Using insectivorous fish to biologically control blind mosquito populations
  3. Implementing light traps to trap and kill midges
  4. Using insect growth regulators (IGRs) to prevent larvae from developing into the adult stage, in private or man-made ponds

If your freshwater midge issue involves one of Polk County’s natural lakes, please note that Step #3 is the only part of this plan which can be used by residents. Residents are not allowed to use any chemical treatments in natural freshwater lakes without an approved permit from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Please see below for additional recommendations.

Recommendations for the Waterfront Resident

Chironomid adult on vegetation

Chironomid adult. UF/IFAS Photo by James Castner

Because light attracts blind mosquitos, reducing the use of unnecessary home lighting at night will help prevent blind mosquitoes.

A “light trap” can be used in an unoccupied corner of the yard to attract blind mosquitos away from the home. This can be accomplished using any bright light. The best way to trap the midges is to shine the light on a lightly colored wall or surface, such as a white fence. The light should come on at dusk and stay on an hour past sunset.

For the best results:

  • Convert all outdoor lighting that shines on the house (like porch lights) to motion-activated lights and keep the brightness lower than the light trap (if in use). Motion activated lighting should reduce the attractiveness of your home to the midges, who tend to gather near lighted areas.
  • Prevent additional nutrients being added to ponds and lakes by reducing fertilizer use in the landscape, creating a 10-foot no-maintenance zone (also known as a buffer strip) of un-mown, un-fertilized landscaping, and keeping grass clippings out of the water. Learn more, by reading about Florida-Friendly Landscaping, here: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/ffl/protecting-waterfront.html 

More Recommendations, by water type

For natural lakefronts and areas where planting is allowed: consider planting aquatic plants that improve the waterfront such as pickerelweed, soft rush, duck potato and others. Aquatic plants can help remove excess nutrients that midge larvae feed on from the submerged sediments in which they live. This process, although slow, will also help to improve overall lake health and wildlife habitat.

For pond owners: consider stocking your pond with insectivorous (insect-eating) fish and bottom-feeding fish, such as catfish. These types of fish will help control midge populations by feeding on their larvae that live in pond sediments and the water column.

For decorative ponds, the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has compiled a list of freshwater fish recommended for midge control.

Glyptotendipes paripes, one of the species commonly referred to as "Blind mosquitoes" on grass

Glyptotendipes paripes, one of the species commonly referred to as “Blind mosquitoes.” UF/IFAS Photo by Lyle Buss

 

For more information on freshwater midge population control, please visit UF/IFAS EDIS’ document:

Managing Pestiferous Freshwater Aquatic Midge Emergences from Storm Water Retention Ponds

Sources:

 

This blog post was written by Natural Resources Extension Program Intern, Ms. Paxton Evans, under supervision by Natural Resources and Conservation Extension Agent, Mrs. Shannon Carnevale.

If you have a question that is not answered here or in the existing comment section, please contact your local extension office for more information. If you live in Polk County, please send Mrs. Carnevale an email with your additional questions: scarnevale@ufl.edu

25 Comments on “Aquatic Midges, also known as “Blind Mosquitoes”

  1. UF/IFAS University of Florida,
    We are having an enormous problem with millions of Blind Mosquitoes around and on our homes. They have literally invaded our homes, cars and anything that stands still outdoors. They rush through home and vehicle doors by the dozens when entering or exiting, and YES they stain everything. Is there any sprays or chemicals you can recommend to our residents???
    We are being taken over!!! HELP…
    Disgusted in Des Allemands, Louisiana
    Ms. Jeanne Jacob

    • Hi Ms. Jacob,
      I’m so sorry to hear about the issues you are describing. The blind mosquitoes can certainly be a big problem here in Florida, so I understand the uncomfortable situation you’re in.
      We don’t typically recommend chemical control for aquatic midges to residents since they aren’t especially effective, can be expensive, and often kill predator species too (which can mean less natural control of midge populations). The biggest recommendation we have is to reduce the amount of light around residences or to use a “light trap” in an unused corner of the property. Essentially, these insects are attracted to light. They will swarm doors and windows to get at the lights in and around your home.
      You can try switching to motion activated porch lights, using curtains to block light from inside your home, and add a bright yard light to an unused area to attract them to that part of the yard. The good news is, they rapidly die off. You can use a blower or broom to remove the old ones and reduce the smell.
      Hope this helps! You may want to contact your local Louisiana Extension Service: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/portals/our_offices/parishes for information more specific to your area.

  2. Will yellow “insect lights” around the house help keep them away ?

    Thanks

    • Hi Greg, Thanks for the great question!
      I just spoke with one of our researchers in the Entomology and Nematology Department and they indicated that the color of the light wouldn’t make much of an difference unless it was a red light. Red light falls outside of the light spectrum that most insects respond to and so, it’s logical to think that the midges may not be attracted to it.
      If you are interested in reducing the attractiveness of your home to midges, and other insects, I generally recommend a switch to motion activated lights instead of leaving a porch light on all night. In addition, a bright light farther away from the porch can draw the midges away. This light may have an added benefit of illuminating your home or porch, but for this strategy to work, it cannot be brightly illuminating the porch area.
      I hope this is helpful; thanks for reading!

  3. Will a zapper with a bright light work and how big should it be. I live on lake Dora and walking through the grass will cause an attack. I don’t know about a red light because when the sun is out they will pretty much cover my red truck.

    • Hi Conrad,
      Typically, I do not recommend bug zappers for insect pest control. My reasoning for this is they tend to kill a lot of non-target species which do not bother residents and aren’t all that effective at targeting the species you want to eliminate. For the bright light to work, it can be a regular lightbulb but it needs to be the brightest thing in the yard. All other lights should be switched off or be motion-activated. The bright light will attract them away from your home, at night to the area of the yard where you put the light.
      During the day, they will rest on any vegetation or surface they can find, although they seem to prefer the shade and to be out of the wind. Some residents have reported some short-term (as in the rest of the day) success by using a leaf blower to blow them away from doors during the day, but it is not a long-term solution. This may work for a few hours or for the rest of the day as blind mosquitoes are not strong fliers and will prefer to rest wherever you have blown them to.
      Red light at night or the color red during the daytime is not thought to repel the blind mosquitoes, but at night it is not expected to attract them as white or yellow light does.
      I hope this is helpful, thanks for reading!

  4. Shannon; Thanks for responding to this question.
    We are like Ms. Jacob above; we built a new home on 50 acres where a 5 acre pond is yards from our backdoor. Beautiful view…but from 5PM-11AM, the midges are everywhere, The pond looks as if it has pollen on it, the film of midges is so heavy. We spray the entry doors every night with bug spray just to open the door.

    We have found something recently; a 30-day non-hazardous release treatment of the EPA-approved insect growth regulator, (S)-Methoprene. It claims they’re ideal for aerial and ground applications, targets only aquatic flies, with no impact on beneficial insects and organisms and will not harm aquatic wildlife.
    It also says it Is an Insect Growth Regulator, therefore midge and filter flies will not develop into adults.

    What are your thoughts on this? We would like to order some ASAP. Thank you

    • Good Afternoon Rhonda,
      I’m sorry to hear that you are also dealing with midges. If it’s any consolation, under normal conditions, they are a valuable part of the ecosystem.
      In my answer to Ms. Jacob, the chemical control we don’t typically recommend are contact insecticides where the midges rest, like walls, windows, and other property. The reason for this is that those “bug sprays” also kill insects which hunt and eat the adult blind mosquitoes, reducing any natural predators you may have to help with the issue and not actually tackling the issue of having too many adult midges.
      To answer your question briefly, yes, (S)-Methoprene is an appropriate chemical treatment for freshwater non-biting midges in Florida and is recommended by IFAS researchers. Please remember that the label is the law and you must not apply it any in any does other than the recommended dose, per label instructions.
      However, to answer fully, use of that treatment is recommended as part of the 4-step process described in the blog post, Freshwater Aquatic Midge Integrated Pest Management Plan. Use of (S)-methoprene is step four of this plan. For effective control of midges, IFAS researchers recommend implementing all four steps.
      1. Control Algae: Midge larva eat algae. Control algae in the pond and reduce the food source.
      2. Stock insectivorous fish (bluegill, red ear) to biologically control aquatic midges in ponds.
      3. Use Light Traps in unoccupied parts of the yard and reduce or eliminate outdoor house lighting. (I recommend using motion-activated lights)
      4. Use of Insect Growth Regulators (IGRS) in non-natural lakes like ponds and storm water features.

      If you have any further questions, please feel free to email me. My contact information is on my profile. Thank you and best of luck managing this all-to-common issue!

  5. I have a house by a retention pond. Blind mosquitoes are terrible. We have a HOA that maintains the pond by mowing only. Might they be responsible for control? Hillsborough county is giving away gambusia fish.Will they eat blind mosquitoes? Where could someone get bluegill or red ear as you suggest.Can all three fish live together? Please help.

    • Good morning Roger,
      I’m sorry to hear of your blind mosquito problem. In most cases, the Home Owner Association is responsible for all maintenance and management of storm water ponds which are part of the housing development. This would include management for blind mosquitoes and other pests but I cannot comment on whether they are obligated to provide that service or not. I do recommend providing the integrated pest management plan for freshwater midges to them as a management option to reduce the blind mosquito populations.
      Gambusia are small insectivorous fish which may help by eating the blind mosquito larvae but for effective control in a stormwater pond, you’ll likely need to combine it with landscaping changes and chemical management as well. See the integrated pest management plan for more information on this. All the fish species you mentioned live together in natural lakes, they all eat insects. Largemouth bass are predator fish and will hunt these species.
      For information on where to purchase fingerlings, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has a list of known hatcheries who sell fingerlings for stocking private ponds: http://myfwc.com/media/131389/Freshwater_FishStockingList.pdf If you have questions about properly stocking the pond, please call your regional FWC office at the numbers provided here: http://myfwc.com/contact/fwc-staff/regional-offices/
      Thank you for your question!

  6. Would installation of a fountain inn a pond which will continuously make the water choppy work to keep them from laying eggs?

    • Hi TJ,
      In my review of the literature, I’ve not found that as a recommended practice to break the reproductive cyce of blind mosquitoes. Remember, blind mosquitos are not true mosquitoes. They breed in natural and man-made water bodies, often large in size. The lakes and ponds naturally have water movement to them due to wind and storms. Therefore, a fountain is unlikely to have a large effect on populations.
      If the pond is small, then aeration caused by the fountain may help improve the water quality slightly by increasing dissolved oxygen. However, this is unlikely to improve the water quality to such a degree that midges would be reduced.
      Review the Freshwater Aquatic Midge Integrated Pest Management (FAM IPM) Plan for more information.

  7. We just recently bought a house on the lake with white siding and a red metal roof. The midges are making us crazy!! Are they attracted to a white house??? What color could we paint it that won’t attract them?!

    • Good morning Rhonda,
      Unfortunately I know this problem all to well! I also suffer with a white house on a lake, and the midges love it. Current research is not robust enough for me to give you a certain answer on the best color to paint your house; however, research suggests that they are attracted to lighter colored surfaces.
      As you can see from the blog post above, one of the “trapping” recommendations involves using bright light and another, to shine bright light on a light colored surface like a white fence.
      My recommendations would be a combination approach.
      – First and foremost, you must reduce the lighting around your house. Switch to motion-sensitive lights outside only, and use curtains or blinds inside the home to reduce the light coming from windows. You’ll see the biggest improvement from these changes.
      – If you are already looking to paint your house or have already tried all the other suggestions, you might consider a darker paint color. Specifically, my logical assumption would be that paint which reflects less of the street lights and moonlight would be best for reducing the number of midges resting on the wall. At my house, I can anecdotally say that the shaded areas of my white house attract far less blind mosquitoes than the areas reflecting the streetlight. HOWEVER: Note that blind mosquitoes land on anything they can to rest (even dark dirt or plants) so changing the paint isn’t likely to have a huge impact on its own.
      – Try a light trap in addition to the two suggestions above. If your yard is large enough, put a bright yard light in a far corner. This will attract the blind mosquitoes over to that point, and away from your home.

      Keep in mind, changing paint color may have a slight impact on your home cooling costs as darker colors retain more heat.
      Additionally, a yard light acting as a light trap will cause some light pollution on your lakefront. This could impact negatively wildlife and your views of the water or the stars. Unfortunately, this is a complicated problem with best results coming from a combination approach. Start with the excess lighting around your house, and see if that makes a difference.
      Simply switching our front door light to motion-activated has made a world of difference for my family. We still have a lot of midges at times, but they no longer gather in plague-like numbers around the front door.

      Best wishes and please, feel free to reach out with any follow-up questions you may have.

  8. We live in a subdivision with a 40 acre lake. The two deepest coves on the lake are about 30′ and 40′ deep. A company which installs water circulators and fountains performed an “analysis” suggesting that these deep areas are a problem due to low dissolved oxygen and that installing water circulators in these areas would alleviate the midge problem. I have paddled the lake in kayak with a sonar and there is an apparent thermocline in these areas, thus it is easy to presume that these areas would have lower dissolved oxygen due to the lower temperature. Otherwise, the lake should be well oxygenated due to persistent agitation from daily sea breezes. The lake has a healthy population of fishes including bass, bluegill, shell crackers and schools of minnows. The systems that the company installs and maintains are expensive. Are these systems effective in reducing midges?

    • Hi John,
      There is a lot to unpack in this comment; you’ve done your research! I’d like to start off by saying, this sounds like a question that would be better handled over the phone so that we can chat about some local conditions and then I can follow up with some entomology experts. However, I’ll share some thought I have, below:

      — Current UF/IFAS Extension recommendations for managing non-biting freshwater midges do not include aeration systems as an effective means of treatment

      — Treatment options and recommendations will vary greatly depending on if this is a natural lake or a large stormwater pond (aka, man-made lake in a development)

      — A quick search of research findings on aeration and midge populations yielded a paper from University of South Florida (1986) that showed an increase in midge larva due to aeration (https://www.clean-flo.com/files/The_Influence_of_whole_lake_aeration_on_the_limnology_of_a_hypereutrophic_lake_in_central_Flordia.pdf)

      — Any lake management treatment that is costly and ongoing should be quoted from a variety of lake management companies to see if there is consensus on the “best” treatment for that specific waterbody. Then, you can choose the company or plan you most trust to do the job well.

      Overall, I recommend following the four-step, Integrated Pest Management Plan laid out in the blog post. Experts in the field have researched it extensively and continue update the plan when needed.
      Please feel free to give me a call or email if you’d like to discuss this further. My contact information can be found here: http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk/natural-resources-and-conservation/

  9. Shannon,

    My wife and I live in a home located on a cove off Lake LBJ in the Texas Hill Country. The midge infestation is unbearable and precludes us from sitting on our deck at night to enjoy the summer evenings. With approval from local authorities, I have used Aquathol Super K, a granular aquatic herbicide, manufactured by United Phosphorus, Inc. to control (with moderate success) milfoil and hydrilla. We pull the shades down at night and have established a light trap between the house and the cove, all to little or no avail. When my wife and I lived in Houston, we put “Dunkin Sticks” (available at Lowes and Home Depot) in the in-ground valve boxes of our sprinkler system to help reduce the number of mosquitoes. Will the “Dunkin Sticks” work if put in the water along our 125 feet of shoreline? Any other suggestions? (S)-methoprene? We are at wits’ end. Help! Thanks.

    • Hello Doug,
      I am so sorry to hear about your troubles with midges! Hopefully, the light trap and your behavior changes are alleviating the issue at least a little bit, but I do understand they can still be a horrible nuisance.
      First off, please note that these recommendations are intended for stormwater ponds and waterfront owners in Florida. It’s entirely possible you have a different species in your neck of the woods, and I’m not at all familiar with Texas’s lake ecology. That said, if you were in Florida, this is what my response would be …
      Dunkin sticks aren’t likely to have any impact on blind mosquitoes as they primarily target true mosquitoes, which are susceptible to the active ingredient at a much lower concentration. They don’t reproduce in puddles as true mosquitoes do. But, real mosquitoes are probably problematic for you too, so no need to stop using the dunkin sticks. The dunkin sticks active ingredient, Bti, is only effective on blind mosquitoes at really high concentrations so I wouldn’t recommend using it on the lakefront. However, (s)-Methoprene, with permission from your local authorities, is an effective treatment. from our Integrated Pest Management Plan:
      “An IGR labeled for the control of aquatic midges contains (S)- Methoprene and is sold in pellets. These pellets release the IGR for up to 30 days. (S)-Methoprene can effectively stop the formation of midge pupae in the water (Ali 1991). The (S)-Methoprene label recommends a dosage of five to ten pounds per acre which should be applied twenty feet from the waters edge. Always read and follow label directions. Although the use of (S)-Methoprene can effectively manage aquatic midge pupae, it can be expensive.” – http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in825
      Please know that the use of Insect Growth Regulators, IGR, like (s)-Methoprene are not legal in public Florida waterbodies. Please check with the local authorities before applying it to your lakefront. As a reminder, I am not fluent in riparian (waterfront) laws of Texas and this is not to be considered legal advice. 🙂
      Best of luck with your midge issues, I truly sympathize with you. Our local problems have been a bit better this year. It’s a complicated issue, for sure!

  10. Would bats or installation of bat boxes help with Aquatic Midge control?

    • Thanks for your question, Kevin! I would put a bat house and improving local bat habitat in the “couldn’t hurt” category.
      Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that even a large colony of bats would be able to control a booming midge population. Bats are likely eating midges they encounter when they are out looking for flying insects, but midges aren’t strong fliers. They tend to stay close to structures (buildings or vegetation) which give them a place to rest or protect them from strong wind.
      You’re much more likely to see noticeable improvement by reducing artificial light near your home. Removing porch lights and such will not reduce the population, but it will reduce the attractiveness of your home to the midges that are out and about.

  11. What exactly is the life cycle of the midges? Do they crawl out of the water or hatch & fly? Where do they reproduce? I am on Lake June & I constantly have midges – 12 months a year.
    Does spraying the lawn help?

    • Hi Julie,
      I’m sorry to hear about your midge troubles. Freshwater aquatic midges live almost their entire lives in the water, and then when they become adults, the emerge as a flying adult. The midges lay their eggs in the water, from which larvae hatch out of the eggs and live in the lake sediments. After that stage they pupate and become a swimming pupa, from which stage they finally mature an become a flying adult. The purpose of this final stage is to mate, so they are a species that tends to emerge as a mass group. Unfortunately, it sounds like the cycle has become constant in your area.
      You can learn more about the life cycle here: https://www.pinellascounty.org/PublicWorks/mosquito/pdf/Blind-Mosquitoes.pdf
      There are several “Lake June” in Central Florida, so I am not sure exactly which one you are at but if it is a natural Florida waterbody, as opposed to a stormwater pond, the best course of action you have is to reduce the attraction of your house to the adults and work with your community to improve overall water quality.
      If by spraying your lawn, you mean with insecticide, no – that is unlikely to help. In fact, it could make matters worse by killing off predator insects which feed on the midges. If Lake June is a stormwater pond or a private manmade lake, you may be able to apply chemical treatment to the water to break the life cycle’s momentum and then treat for algae and other issues. But, these treatments are very expensive and are not legal in natural, public water bodies because they generally harm all invertebrate life in the water, not just midges.

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