Biting Midges
Culicoides furens (Poey);
Culicoides hollensis (Melander and Brues);
Culicoides melleus (Coquillett),
Ceratopogonidae, DIPTERA


Adult -- So tiny that they often go unobserved, biting midges are sometimes only 0.5 mm long. These blood-sucking flies are known as biting gnats, sand flies, biting midges, punkies or "no-see-ums." The bodies are gray or yellowish. The legs are unmarked or banded and the wings are clear or spotted.

Egg -- Only 0.25 mm long, the tiny eggs are initially white but soon turn dark brown.

Larva -- The worm-like larvae are white with dark heads and are 3.5 to 4 mm long when fully grown. A short, brush-like breathing structure protrudes from the last abdominal segment.

Pupa -- The light- to dark-brown pupae are sometimes about 4 mm long.


Distribution -- Biting midges breed in salt and fresh water habitats throughout the world.

Feeding Habits -- Biting midge larvae consume decaying organic matter in mud, intertidal sand, or wet soil around water holes and seepage areas. Adults feed on liquid substances ranging from plant juices to body fluids of insects and the blood of vertebrates. Females of many species feed on mammals, including man.

Damage -- The biting activity of biting midges is extremely annoying, and it can have a deleterious effect on the economy of some coastal areas by discouraging tourism.

Life History -- Biting midges generally overwinter as larvae and pupate in spring. The adults deposit eggs on mud or on sand and about one week later, larvae emerge. The larvae are found in mud, salt marshes, and intertidal sand. If removed from the substrate, each of the four larval instars is large enough to be seen by the naked eye. After feeding and developing for 6 months to a year, larvae pupate and adults soon emerge.

Adult biting midges live about a month. Females take several blood meals and lay several batches of eggs. The males feed on plant juices. Along the North Carolina coast and around inland breeding sites, flies are usually present throughout most of the warm weather seasons.


Control of immature biting midges is impractical in North Carolina. Chemical controls (ULV, fogs, mists, and sprays) used against adult mosquitoes are temporarily effective against adult biting midges, but more adults rapidly invade the treated area after the spray has dissipated. Though screening is effective in keeping mosquitoes outdoors, it does not completely prevent biting midges from entering houses. As with mosquito control, wide area control programs should be administered by professionals.