Called no-see-ums because of their small size, biting midges (Culicoides spp.) are a common pest in damp areas, especially in the early morning and around dusk. With a wing-span that's less than 1/8 inch, the flying and biting insects often go unnoticed until they begin to bite the skin. Adult biting midges feed on blood, but do not spread diseases among humans, making them more of a nuisance than a serious pest. Though chemical insecticides have historically been the weapon of choice against no-see-ums, natural methods and preventative measures can go a long way.
Many natural insecticides and insect repellents rely on botanical oils and extracts, and may work against no-see-ums with varied results. Look for candles, sprays and fragrances that contain active ingredients such as citronella, eucalyptus, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass or geranium oils. Typically, botanical-based bug repellent sprays, to be applied to the body, last up to 20 minutes, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension.
Instead of scrambling to obliterate a booming population of no-see-ums, take steps to make your garden or yard less attractive to the flying pests. No-see-um eggs require standing water or damp soil, so if you can remove any pools or swampy ground from your yard, you can dramatically reduce their population. Naturally, if you live in a place where marshland predominates, you have less control over potential breeding grounds. On the other hand, if you live in a dry climate, simply clearing any water that's pooled around your air conditioner may cut out a prime breeding territory.
Screens and Fans
If you live close to marshes or ponds, you can't stop no-see-ums from proliferating. However, you can use screening and install ceiling fans to repel the insects from your favorite outdoor spots. Screen in any patios or verandas with the smallest gauge mesh you can find. As an additional measure, install ceiling fans above your preferred seating areas. The continuous gusts of wind from a fan make it difficult for tiny no-see-ums to fly.
While natural insect repellents and physical barriers can partially cut down on no-see-um problems, the best way of avoiding their bites is to keep your body covered with long-sleeve shorts, long pants and socks. When spending a long period outdoors around dusk or dawn, such as during gardening, wear a netted hat to protect your face. For lightweight but bug-proof clothing, try specialized jackets or pants made from the same insect-proof mesh. If the problem persists, contact your county or municipal insect control authority and ask what programs they have in place.
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