Midge flies, commonly known as “blind mosquitoes” or “fuzzy bills,” can be a nuisance for homeowners and outdoor enthusiasts alike. These non-biting insects closely resemble mosquitoes in appearance but differ in their behavior and impact on humans. While they don’t pose a direct threat to health, their large populations can create discomfort and annoyance for anyone trying to enjoy time outside.
Effectively getting rid of midge flies starts with understanding their life cycle and habits, as this knowledge will help inform the most suitable control methods. Midges breed in aquatic environments such as ponds and lakes, with larvae residing in the organic muck at the bottom, making them difficult to control source. By targeting the areas where they thrive, it’s possible to dramatically reduce their populations and in turn, minimize the inconvenience they cause.
Identifying Midge Flies
Types of Midges
Midges can be broadly categorized into two types: biting midges and non-biting midges. Biting midges, also known as Culicoides, feed on the blood of animals and humans, while non-biting midges resemble mosquitoes but do not bite.
Biting Midges (Culicoides):
- Feed on blood for a meal
- Can cause irritating bites
Non-biting Midges (Chironomidae):
- Do not bite or feed on blood
- Mosquito-like appearance without the biting behavior
Life Cycle of Midges
Midges have a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The entire process from egg to adult takes approximately two to three weeks, depending on temperature and environmental factors.
- Eggs: Female midges lay their eggs in water.
- Larvae: Eggs hatch into aquatic larvae that feed on organic matter in the water.
- Pupae: Larvae transform into pupae before emerging as adults.
- Adults: Adult midges mate, and females lay eggs to continue the cycle.
Table comparing the life cycle stages of midges and mosquitoes:
|Laid in water
|Laid in water
|Aquatic, feed on organic matter
|Aquatic, feed on algae and microorganisms
|Aquatic, rest before emerging as adults
|Aquatic, rest before emerging as adults
|Mate, females lay eggs
|Mate, females seek a blood meal
Midges inhabit both inland and coastal areas with natural or man-made water bodies such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Non-biting midges thrive in environments with rich organic matter, such as lake or pond bottoms, where their larvae feed on decomposing materials.
- Found in coastal and inland areas
- Common near water bodies (lakes, ponds, rivers, streams)
- Non-biting midge larvae thrive in organic matter at the bottom of the water body
In conclusion, identifying midge flies involves understanding their types, life cycle, and habitats. Recognizing the differences between biting and non-biting midges can help in determining the appropriate methods for controlling and managing their populations.
Preventing Midge Infestations
Removing Standing Water
- Standing water is an ideal breeding ground for midge larvae.
- Examples: bird baths, potted plant saucers, and stagnant ponds.
Preventing midges starts by eliminating their preferred habitats, like standing water. Identify and remove unnecessary sources of standing water around your property, such as bird baths and saucers under potted plants. For larger water bodies, like ponds, consider introducing water circulation features to prevent stagnation.
Maintaining Garden Hygiene
- Regularly clean and maintain your garden.
- Remove decaying plant material and organic debris.
A clean and well-maintained garden can minimize midge infestations. Routinely remove decaying plant material and organic debris to discourage midges from breeding in moist and mud-prone areas. Maintain a healthy garden by trimming overgrown plants, and consider installing a layer of gravel or sand around ponds or wetlands to reduce available breeding sites.
Introducing Natural Predators
- Aquatic insects (e.g., dragonfly larvae) and fish (e.g., mosquitofish) are natural predators of midge larvae.
Introducing natural predators to your garden or pond can help control midge populations. Examples of such predators include:
- Aquatic insects: Dragonfly larvae are effective predators of midge larvae.
- Fish: Mosquitofish and other small fish feed on midge larvae and can be stocked in ponds or streams.
Additionally, using larvicides, like Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), can effectively control midge larvae populations. According to the University of Florida, Bti is a bacterial larvicide that specifically targets the larvae of midges and mosquitoes, without harming other aquatic life.
Comparison Table: Midge Control Methods
|Removing standing water
|Effective, low-cost prevention
|Limited to smaller water sources
|Discourages breeding sites
|Requires regular maintenance
|Eco-friendly, long-term control
|May take time to establish
|Targets specific larvae
|Requires careful application
Midge Control Methods
Chemical control methods involve the use of insecticides and larvicides to target midge larvae and adults. Examples include:
- Adulticides: Applied to areas where adult midges are active, such as near light sources or breeding sites.
- Larvicides: Applied to water bodies to target larvae and pupae, such as using methoprene or other pesticides.
Some chemical control methods come with potential risks to non-target organisms and the environment. Therefore, it’s essential to follow an integrated approach to minimize these risks.
|Targets adult midges
|Risk to non-target organisms
|Targets larvae and pupae
|Risk to the environment
Biological control involves using natural predators to reduce midge populations. Some examples of biological control agents include:
- Bats: Helpful in reducing swarms of midges as they feed on them during nighttime flight.
- Frogs: Contribute to controlling midge larvae and adults near ponds and water bodies.
- Diving beetles: Aquatic insects that feed on midge larvae in water bodies.
These biological control methods usually have a minimal impact on non-target organisms, making them an environmentally friendly option.
Physical control approaches focus on creating barriers or traps to remove or reduce midge populations. Examples of physical control methods are:
- Midge traps: Using CO2 traps or electrocution devices to lure and kill adult midges.
- Screens: Installing insect screens on doors and windows to prevent midges from entering indoor spaces.
- Foggers: Spraying a fine mist of insecticides to reduce adult midges, commonly used for sandflies and biting gnats.
In some cases, combining physical control with chemical or biological methods can provide better results.
|Environmentally friendly, targets adults
|May not be effective against all midge species
|Prevents indoor infestation
|Does not address outdoor populations
|Quick reduction of biting midge population
|May affect non-target insects, needs proper application
Remember to choose the most suitable method based on your specific situation, and always follow proper safety guidelines for chemical and biological control methods.
Protection and Repellents
Personal repellents are essential when defending against midge flies. For the most effective protection, apply insect repellents to your skin and clothing. Some common ingredients in these products include DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Similarly, wearing long sleeves and pants can also help minimize skin exposure to midges.
There are a few effective solutions to keep midge flies away from your property:
- CO2 traps: Attract and kill midges by simulating human presence. CO2 is emitted to lure the insects, and then they get trapped or electrocuted.
- Citronella candles: Emit a smell that repels midges. Place them strategically around your outdoor living areas.
- White lights: Switching to white LED lights in your exterior can minimize the attraction of midges.
- Electrocution traps: Utilize UV light to lure midges and then eliminate them. Make sure to place them away from your sitting area to avoid attracting insects into your space.
There are several natural remedies and predators that can help reduce the population of midges around your home:
- Apple cider vinegar: Combine it with water and dish soap, and set it around your garden to trap and kill the insects.
- High-sugar juices: Similar to apple cider vinegar, high-sugar juices can help attract and trap midges.
- Natural predators: Introducing fish species like carp and catfish to your pond or inviting dragonflies to your garden area will help control the midge population.
Remember, finding the right balance of personal, barrier, and natural repellents will provide optimal protection against midge flies.
Unusual Midge Situations
Midges in Homes
When adult midges find their way indoors, it can become a nuisance. They’re drawn to light sources and can gather around windows. To address this issue:
- Ensure window screens are in place and free of holes.
- Seal gaps around doors and windows.
Midges found in homes are typically non-biting and look similar to mosquitoes, but they lack the long proboscis that mosquitoes use to bite. Common indoor midges include chironomid midges and moose flies.
Midges Around Livestock
Midges can also cause problems around livestock, as they might be attracted to ponds or other water sources in the area. Here are some steps to manage midge situations:
- Implement proper waste management.
- Remove any stagnant water near the livestock’s living spaces.
Comparison of Common Midges:
|Adult Midge Features
|Livestock, water edges
|Irritation to animals
While midges are not usually harmful to livestock, their presence can lead to increased stress and discomfort for the animals. Some biting midges, like moose flies, may pose a risk to livestock and transmit diseases. Controlling the midge population around livestock is essential for maintaining a healthy environment and minimizing their potential as a food source for other pests.
Remember to monitor the midge situation around your home and livestock area, implementing preventative and control measures to minimize their presence and the issues they can cause.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Male Midge
Subject: Bug ID
January 16, 2017 5:16 pm
I cannot ID this very small bug. 5mm maybe.
I think it might be a midge? It was taken in Mississippi in April.
Signature: Stephen Kirkpatrick
We wanted to be certain this male Dipteran was indeed a Midge, so we contacted Mosquito expert Angel van Gulik who wrote back to us: “That is a rather beautiful midge. ” We will attempt a species identification for you. We believe based on this BugGuide image, that it is in the genus Ablabesmyia. The genus is described on BugGuide as being: “A distinctive genus, with hairy, dark-spotted wings; three or more brown bands on each tibia; acrostichal hairs diverging around a more or less prominent circular spot in front of the scutellum; and cubical fork sessile (M-Cu intersects C at or after fork).”
Letter 2 – Male Midge
Subject: Curious about bug in rural area
Location: Thornton, CO; rural
May 5, 2017 6:08 pm
Hi! We get these particular bugs around our house every year and my husband thinks they’re mosquitos but I think they are more related to something like a silverfish. We live near an alfalfa farm, horses and water in Colorado. We would appreciate your help on our debate!
Signature: Lori G
While you are both incorrect, your husband is actually closer in his identification. This is a male Midge in the family Chironomidae, and Midges are classified together with Mosquitoes in the infraorder Culicomorpha. Here is a similar looking BugGuide image. According to BugGuide, they are called: “Non-biting Midges, Blind Mosquitoes, Common Midges” and they are described as “Small, delicate flies, resemble mosquitoes but do not bite. Often “dance” in the air in large swarms over water or lawns. At rest, characteristically hold their front legs above head-height and extended forward, giving the illusion of elongate antennae to the untrained eye. Other family characters wings long and narrow, without scales (wings of mosquitoes have scales) males have long, feathery (plumose) antennae … .” If you have standing water near you home, you might have seen their aquatic larvae known as Bloodworms. BugGuide also notes: “The haemolymph of the red Chironomus larvae, called “bloodworms,” contains hemoglobin, unusual for insects. Larvae are often very abundant and are an important food item for many freshwater fish and other aquatic animals.” Several weeks ago we shot a poor quality image of Dancing Midges and we have not had a chance to post it yet.
Letter 3 – Male Midge
Subject: Bug question
Location: Bemidiji Minnesota June 3, 2017
June 3, 2017 8:41 am
These bugs are all over the outside of our cabin. Wondering what they are and how to get rid of them.
Signature: Kelli Roxhe
This is a male Midge in the family Chironomidae. According to BugGuide, they are: “Small, delicate flies, resemble mosquitoes but do not bite. Often “dance” in the air in large swarms over water or lawns. At rest, characteristically hold their front legs above head-height and extended forward, giving the illusion of elongate antennae to the untrained eye.” BugGuide notes that the habitat is: “Usually damp areas, or near bodies of water. Larvae mostly aquatic; a few occur in decaying matter, under bark or in moist ground. Larvae of some species tolerate seasonal desiccation.” We do not provide extermination advice.