Midges: How to Identify Them, and Ways to Prevent and Treat Midge Bites

Midges are biting flies that can be deterred by our permethrin-treated clothing and gear.

What Are Midges?

Despite the cute sounding name, midges can be a real nuisance. Midges are actually many different species of tiny flies. Not all species bite, but, like mosquitoes, the females of some species need blood in order to reproduce. Their mouthparts include cutting teeth that break the skin to extract blood. These bites can be quite painful. 

Although biting midges may be a nuisance to us, many midge species are important food sources for insectivores like fish, frogs, swallows, and spiders. There are over 47 species of biting midge in Florida alone!

Most biting midges look like tiny flies, with short stocky bodies and dark brown wings.

What Do Midges Look Like?

Male midges often circle together in a cloud or swarm at dusk. Male midges do not bite.

Are Midge Bites Dangerous?

Some biting midges can spread diseases like bluetongue virus to livestock and African horsesickness virus to horses, deer and other animals, but they are not known to transmit diseases to humans in North America. 

There are species of no-see-ums in Central and South America, Africa, and some Caribbean islands, whose bites cause infections in humans that lead to dermatitis and skin lesions. Fortunately, these midges have not spread to North America.  

The itching and swelling produced by midge bites in humans are an allergic reaction, not a disease. See How to Treat Midge Bites below.

Where Do Midges Live?

There are over 4,000 species of biting midge, and they are found all over the world.

Midges live in coastal areas, swamps, riverbanks, ponds and marshy regions. The lifecycle of biting midges is similar to that of a mosquito. They lay their eggs in standing water or, in some cases, wet soil. 

Larvae grow in debris at the bottom of the standing water, followed by a pupa stage when they begin to form wings and legs, moving toward the surface. The larval stage can last up to a year, often through the winter, depending on the climate. Midge larvae play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to break down leaves and other organic material on the bottom of these watery areas. The rest of the life cycle usually lasts two to three weeks - plenty of time for adults to mate and females to bite you, and then lay more eggs! 

The life cycle of the biting midge goes through four stages: from egg to larva to pupa, and then the adult stage.

What Do Midge Bites Look Like?

Midge bites: clusters of red dots that look like tiny blisters on skin

How to Repel Midges and Prevent Bites

It’s not always easy to prevent midge bites, but there are precautions you can take. If you have to be outside when midges might be present, follow these tips:

1. Know when midges are active in your area, usually at dawn and dusk.

2. Avoid midge breeding areas like marshes and ponds.

3. Wear Insect Shield repellent clothing. Insect Shield clothing provides excellent protection from midge bites by covering arms, legs, neck and head without the toxicity and mess of DEET or other topical repellents.

4. Apply permethrin spray to your clothing and gear.

5. You can also send your clothes to Insect Shield and we will treat them with our repellent for you. This treatment lasts up to five times longer than permethrin spray you apply yourself!

6. On exposed skin, you can use topical insect repellent with DEET or Picaridin.

How to Treat Midge Bites

One way to treat midge bites: apply ice or a cold pack to the affected area

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