For many, biting midges or no-see-ums can be troublesome pests. Even the mildest cases of these flying insects’ bites are distressingly itchy and sometimes painful. Some of the more acute effects can include allergic reactions, blisters, or swelling that sometimes necessitate a trip to the hospital. Worse, still, certain midge species found in parts of America, Africa, and some Caribbean islands can be vectors of parasites that cause skin lesions and infections.
Given all of this, anyone would agree that it is important to find out how to prevent midge bites. As discussed in other articles on the site, there are various interventions and even technologies for eliminating biting midges, but if you would also like to learn how to protect yourself from getting bitten, read on.
How to Prevent Midge Bites
For individuals wondering how to prevent midge bites, various things can be done.
1. Avoid Midge-Infested Areas
Perhaps the simplest, most straightforward way to prevent midge bites would be to avoid midge-infested areas.
While no-see-ums can be found virtually anywhere in terms of geography, it is not difficult to recognize spots that are likely to be home to midge populations. These pests’ habitats are either aquatic or semi-aquatic, with enough organic matter to sustain larvae. Such areas to consider avoiding, if necessary, include marshes, swamps, lakes—both fresh and saltwater—and coastal bodies of brackish water such as tidal pools and mangroves. Wet or damp detritus such as rotting tree stumps and piles of dead leaves are also viable habitats for biting midges, so it would be best to avoid areas.
2. Wear Appropriate Gear
While avoiding infested areas is ideal, it can get in the way of enjoying the great outdoors to the fullest. Fortunately, when trekking into areas where biting midges may be present, wearing the appropriate gear can make a world of difference.
No-see-ums are unable to bite through most fabrics, so even simply covering up with pants, long-sleeved collared shirts, and socks with closed shoes can be an immense help. Some people prefer mesh coverings, as these are more breathable options for hikes and outdoor activities. Despite allowing for more air circulation, these coverings can still work to prevent midge bites if the size of the mesh is fine enough.
Another piece of clothing for preventing midge bites is a protective hat. Not only do these have fine mesh attached to drape over the face, neck, and shoulders, but they also help keep no-see-ums from being drawn to you in the first place. Biting midges are attracted to the heat and natural odors the human body produces, a lot of which escapes through the head. For this reason, hats make a terrific addition to your anti-biting midge gear.
3. Ditch Dark Clothing
Above are suggestions for articles of clothing to wear to prevent midge bites, but what should you avoid wearing?
Many claim that ditching dark clothing helps keep biting midges at bay. While studies are conflicted on whether it is visible color that lures biting midges, it is an undisputed fact that dark fabrics absorb and retain heat, which in turn attracts these pests.
In any case, it is best to stick to light-colored clothing when suiting up for areas that may be home to no-see-ums. Try wearing more white-colored clothing when trekking through infested areas.
4. Use Repellent Candles
When outdoors but not on the move— maybe spending time relaxing out on the porch or in the garden—repellent candles are another means to prevent midge bites.
In fact, a combination of the compounds geraniol (35%), citronellol (4.6%), and citronellal (5.8%), have been proven to repel biting insects. Fragrant with a citrusy aroma, citronella is commonly used in scented candles for a formulation that not only smells wonderful but also helps ward off no-see-ums. Incense sticks and coils that use these same essential oils are also widely available.
However, as these rely solely on natural oils, the area of coverage for most repellent candles, sticks, and coils is limited. They are therefore most effective when used in multiples, placed every 18-36 inches to form a perimeter around the outdoor space you intend to use.
5. Avoid Walking/Strolling in Areas at Certain Times of the Day
Even in or near areas that are no-see-um habitats, to prevent midge bites, it can be helpful to take note of the time of day when you engage in outdoor activity.
Host-seeking time varies across species, but in general, biting midges are crepuscular feeders, meaning both dusk and dawn are particularly busy windows of activity for them. So, if you can, skip going on walks or taking strolls during twilight, an hour before to an hour after dawn and dusk.
Although biting midges occur all year round, many species increase in number and activity during the months of March–June, which would be spring going into summer as well as monsoon or rainy season for many countries. Taking note of these patterns may help you plan outdoor excursions accordingly.
6. Moisturize with Avon Skin So Soft
This last method may come as a surprise. Despite being marketed and intended to be a moisturizer, word of mouth has made Avon Skin So Soft a popular insect repellent, with customers praising its ability to prevent midge bites.
In controlled trials against DEET-based and other formulations, Avon Skin So Soft was found to be nearly as effective as 95% DEET against mosquitoes. Against biting midges specifically, field tests have also proven the product’s unexpected repellent power. You may also use formulations that are designed for midge repellency.
How to Prevent Midge Bites, Conclusion
With all these options to consider when thinking of how to prevent midge bites, no matter what method (or better yet, combination of methods) you end up using, hopefully, this article helped take you one step closer to enjoying a bite-free life.