Midges—whether biting (Ceratopogonidae) or non-biting (Chironomidae)—are known to many as problematic pests.
While there are multiple ways to protect yourself against them and eliminate infestations, an understanding of these insects’ habitat and ecology can be essential in getting to the root of the problem. Being able to adequately prepare and determine the correct course of action begs the question: Where do midges live?
For this rundown, we talk about the habitat of both biting and non-biting midges.
WHERE DO MIDGES LIVE?
Being an incredibly diverse species, biting midges (also known as “no-see-ums“) can breed nearly anywhere in terms of geography, and are found in various climates and conditions all over the world, excluding the Polar Regions.
Biting Midge Larvae
Given the fact that this flying insect family includes over 5,600 species, it is nearly impossible to definitively list all types of sites where biting midges live. Generally, though, as the larvae feed mainly on decaying vegetable matter, their habitats are primarily characterized by organically rich substrates.
Breeding grounds for biting midge larvae include aquatic and semiaquatic habitats. Saltwater or freshwater, marshes, swamps, and tidal areas are common places where biting midge larvae live. For some species, even rain pools and wastewater seepages can provide livable conditions.
More terrestrial, yet still semiaquatic habitats such as peat bogs and damp tree holes also make ideal breeding grounds due to their abundance in sustenance for larvae. For the same reason, detritus such as rotting wood, decaying leaves, and animal manure also provide suitable shelter for biting midge larvae.
Biting Midge Adult
For no-see-ums to reproduce, females require vertebrate blood meals to yield viable eggs. Therefore, while mature biting midges are still most abundant near the breeding sites mentioned above, they have also been observed to disperse in search of prey.
Depending on weather (especially wind) conditions and the availability of potential hosts, biting midges can travel an average of anywhere from 2-5km from their original site of occurrence. One particular species in the southwestern United States, the Leptoconops kerteszi, has been reported to travel up to 15km within 24 hours. As a result, biting midges can be found in cities and residential areas even without a wetland in the immediate vicinity.
WHERE DO NON-BITING MIDGES LIVE?
Like biting midges, where non-biting midges live span across a wide variety of aquatic and semi-aquatic conditions and habitat types.
Non-Biting Midge Larvae
One of the most abundant organisms in aquatic habitats, non-biting midge larvae occur in both natural and man-made bodies of water. For each square foot of a nutrient-rich lake, pond, or riverbed area, as many as 4,000 larvae may be present.
As residential and agricultural fertilizer runoff increases nutrients for non-biting midge larvae, the presence of non-biting midge populations is often used as an indicator of water pollution level. Consequently, sewage and irrigation pipes may also serve as breeding grounds for these insects, leading to problems with blockage and clogging.
There are also specialized habitats where non-biting midges live, such as pitcher plants. These tubular carnivorous plants provide a favorable environment for Chironomidae by allowing both water and nutrient-rich detritus from decomposing insects to collect at the bottom of their pitcher-like structure. Certain species (Metriocnemus knabi) of non-biting midges live out their entire life cycle within a single plant, with larvae crawling from pitcher to pitcher of the same growth, and adult midges eventually laying eggs in a gelatinous mass on the side of the plant.
Non-Biting Midge Adult
Although unlike biting midges, Chironomidae do not require blood meals whether for sustenance or reproduction. Where these midges live as adults still vary and are not limited to pupation sites or larval habitats. This is due, not only to their minuscule size making them extremely light, but also to the fact that as adults, non-biting midges are weak flyers, making them susceptible to being carried off by wind.
As mentioned above, non-biting midges live in man-made bodies of water as well as natural ponds and lakes affected by largely human-caused pollutants, so it is not uncommon to find these insects in urban and suburban areas.
While they are important contributors to aquatic ecosystems, consuming and recycling organic debris and serving as food for fish and birds, large populations of non-biting midge adults have been known to be a nuisance in residential areas. As they are attracted to light, they tend to swarm densely around house window screens as well as porch and streetlights.
Also, just as non-biting midge larvae clog water pipes, their flying adult counterparts often cause similar problems in air filtration systems.
WHERE DO MIDGES LIVE, CONCLUSION
In conclusion, where midges live vary greatly, whether geographically or in terms of habitat type. Not only do their larvae occur in diverse environments, but also, they are easily dispersed as adults, further extending where they can be found.
When investigating where midges live, it can be useful to remember that generally, their habitats are either aquatic or semi-aquatic and provide some form of sustenance: nutrient-rich organic matter and detritus for both biting and non-biting midges, and vertebrate blood for Ceratopogonidae. If an area satisfies both of these conditions, it is more than likely that it can be a potential habitat for midges.
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.
To support our mission, we ask that you share our blog with those you think would benefit from this information. Like you, many people around the world struggle with biting midges. To date, over 40,000 searches are made using the term “biting midges” each month. That is a colossal number, although it in no way reflects the entire affected populace that needs help. Please take a moment to share this article on ‘CO2 Traps for Biting Midges’ to your favorite social platform of choice.