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No-see’ums

Q: What is biting me when I work in the yard. I cannot see anything.

Q: I am new to the area and I have been complaining about being bitten by something when I am outside working in the yard.  However, I don’t hear anything buzzing around me and I never see anything.  Do you have any idea what it might be?

A: It might be a small insect called “No-see’ums”.  No, I am not making this up; they are real insects in the order Diptera.  The adults are extremely small, less than 1/16 inch long. They are dark gray to black in color with one pair of spotted wings. Although no-see’ums breed predominantly in salt marshes, some inland species breed in tree holes and other fresh water areas. The larvae of this pest are often found in mud, sand, and other moist debris surrounding the edges of ponds, springs, lakes, creeks, tree holes, or on slime-covered bark. In the water, larvae occur as free-living swimmers that are commonly found on floating twigs or leaf debris. In Florida, larvae can be found in marshes year-round with the period of greatest adult activity during June, July, and August. Eventually, the larvae enter the pupa stage on floating debris or at the water’s edge where they remain until emerging as adults. Like mosquitoes, adult female no-see’ums require blood to develop their eggs; males do not bite. Adult no-see’um activity is associated with air movement. Subsequently, little feeding occurs in the presence of a slight breeze. No-see’ums are also able to detect animals with high body temperatures which are preferred by these pests.  In addition, persons performing hard labor outdoors are frequently severely annoyed by these insects.  The best thing to do is use an insect spray especially formulated to apply to your skin to protect yourself.