Blood meals are necessary for female biting midges (Culicoides) to perpetuate their reproductive cycle. These tiny, biting gnats have preferences depending on their genus, but humans are not exempt. They are a source of discomfort and annoyance for folks, and as miniscule as they appear, their bites are dreadful.
What recourse is available for dealing with biting midges? Several. However, how biting midges are dealt with largely depends on the location and where the target is -–indoors or outdoors.
HOW TO GET RID OF BITING MIDGES
When deliberating interventions to get rid of biting midges, challenges will arise. These factors vary, as biting midges are generous breeders and span across vast territories. Hence, for general purposes, this article provides information on how to get rid of biting midges by highlighting some of the most common programs used in the past and present.
Personal protection is vital when dealing with biting midges. They are difficult to see and are often called “no see ums” in some countries. Repellents are among the most powerful weapons deployed against biting midges.
These vary and are available for treating clothing, windows, and screens. Some may also be safe for direct skin application. DEET (N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is the active compound sold in many repellent formulations against biting midges.
However, natural, plant-based products are available for personal use. These include terpenoid compounds such as limonene and citronellal, often derived from plants such as lemon-eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, among others. For example, the oil from Myrica gale was touted in Scotland for its fighting punch against biting midges.
Another product many swear by is the Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard repellent. It may be used as a substitute for DEET-based repellents. You can source it on Amazon.
The use of chemicals to control biting midges remains unpredictable. Although Culicoides are vulnerable to insecticides, success is not guaranteed, as it is challenging to target mature biting midges. It is also common for midges to become resistant to some of these chemicals.
Furthermore, some of these insecticides are best used at the larval stage. During the 1950s and 1960s, thermal insecticide fogging was leveled against mosquitoes and biting midges but flopped. The insects would avoid direct contact with the chemical and hideout in brush areas. Frequent reinvasion was also common. To supplement, these biting flies would migrate back to their established locations or disperse to others after the fact. A homeowner using fogging for his property would be met with steep costs (dependent on zone size), an extraordinary amount of time consumed, and regular applications.
There were also concerns about the impact of these chemical insecticides on the environment. Hence, larvicides containing naturally derived compounds have stepped into the limelight, which bred more neem-based formulations to control biting midges’ larvae.
Elimination of Breeding Sites
Eliminating breeding sites is equivalent to withdrawing ideal conditions for biting midges. Take away the ‘appropriate’ conditions, and a Culicoides populace will likely dwindle. However, as promising as this method on how to get rid of biting midges seems, there are challenges. In some Caribbean countries and Florida, landfilling and the impounding of flooding areas were methods used to reduce both mosquitoes and biting midges’ numbers.
As these methods are costly, labor-intensive, and may affect the ecosystem of other (and sometimes beneficial) organisms, they are least practiced.
Biting midges cannot thrive in free-flowing water. Blocking access to stagnant water is a simple method people can use to prevent midges from breeding on their property. Containers with water should not be left open, and puddles of water should be removed or a larvicide added.
While this option is available, eliminating Culicoides is next to impossible, if you live close in proximity to a large body of still water. You will have issues dealing with these biting gnats, as any measures taken will see them coming back. Your best defense is to secure your home and stack up on personal repellent and wear appropriate gears when roaming outdoors.
Commercial traps for midges, both biting and non-biting, vary. Some traps use light-suction technology to reel these tiny bite flies in, with blacklight producing better results than white lights. Also, odor-baited traps have garnered success against biting midges. While light attraction and odor-based traps work, the latter seems more promising. According to research, odor-baited traps are effective against biting midges, and work well against targeted Culicoides genus. Common odor-baited traps include carbon dioxide, cow urine, 1-octen-3-ol, and acetone.
Using a combination of these traps together, along with a mechanism to capture and kill biting midges, would likely yield exponential results, rather than using a single bait.
There are many budget-friendly and effective biting midges’ traps on the market. Some are designed for both indoor and outdoor use, while others are compact and show better results when used in homes. FENUN and KATCHY are two brands that use light-attractant and sticky trap technology to lure biting midges and trap them. Another popular brand is DYNATRAP, which combines both blacklight (UV) and CO2 to lure and trap biting midges. The company carries a line of traps that differ in size and cover a variety of acreage. They also have options for indoor use.
There are not many studies performed in this arena, but using biological means to control the populace of biting midges is not farfetched. While Culicoides are mainly nuisances and cosmetic concerns for humans (bites may cause allergic reactions), livestock are largely affected.
This is because some genus of biting midges transmit the bluetongue virus, which can be deadly. Targeting Culicoides using nematodes, protozoa, fungi, and bacteria especially at the larval stage might reduce their numbers. While studies on biological parasites and predators of biting midges are scarce, fragments of research provide a basis for further exploration.
*The bluetongue virus does not affect humans.
HOW TO GET RID OF BITING MIDGES, CONCLUSION
Biting midges are aggressive. Their breeding pattern and scope of habitat make it difficult to get rid of them. Some control methods such as landfilling and chemical control are not only costly but laborious and may affect the natural habitat of beneficial insects.
As a victim, the most reliable and effective option you can use at home is to stack up on personal repellents, window screens and meshes to prevent an intrusion indoors, and deploy traps, whether for use outdoors or inside.
HELP MIDGE EDUCATION REACH A WIDER AUDIENCE
Culicoides is the most prevalent and distributed genus of the Ceratopogonidae family. They are everywhere, with exception to the polar regions, and are a concern for animals and humans. Some people show a mild reaction to them, while others are more extreme and may need to visit the hospital.
We want to spread the word about midges, both biting and non-biting. With your help and support, we hope to reach a wider audience and educate people, by distributing information about the behavior, life cycle, habitat, and prevention interventions on how to get rid of biting midges.
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