“One midge is an entomological curiosity, a thousand can be hell!”
Very accurately were put those words in 1962 by Kettle. Today we are discussing midges. ‘Midge’ as a term defines not any particular taxonomic group but is inclusive of various families of Nematoceran Diptera. To break it in layman’s words, Nematocera is also known as the long-horned fly. The term originated from the Greek word ‘Nemato’ meaning ‘thread’ and ‘cera’ meaning ‘horn’. On the other hand, ‘Diptera’ is also derived from the Greek ‘di’ meaning ‘two’ and ‘pteron’ meaning ‘wings’. Therefore, Diptera is an order of flies.
These 1-2 mm long flies have a body and legs built sturdier than gnats(Chironomidae) or mosquitoes(Culicidae).
Do Midges Bite?
Not all midges are biting midges. Some play important ecological roles. While some are prey to most insectivores, others take part in the various nutrient cycles. The ceratopogonid midge plays a very important role in pollinating of Theobroma Cacao or the cocoa tree.
However, there are surely the biting kinds. Anybody who has ever been in an intimate encounter with this nasty kind knows the pain well. Among all the midges, the Ceratopogonidae, also commonly known as ‘no-see-ums’ or ‘biting midges’ are the ones that make life quite troublesome when comes in close contact. There are more than 5000 species of this family which is present across the globe apart from the Antarctic and Arctic. Surprising much?
Of all the species, the one of utmost concern is the Culicoides species as this is mostly the vectors of disease-causing pathogen. These pests feed both on humans and other mammals. The most common livestock diseases that some of these pests spread are the Blue Tongue disease and African Horse Sickness.
The Ceratopogonidae has four stages of development namely egg, larva, pupa and imago or adult. Both the males and females feed on nectar and plant sap. However, the blood of vertebrates which includes humans is what the female mostly feeds on as it needs protein to lay eggs.
What Does A Midget Bite Look Like?
This super-annoying insect of the minuscule size can inflict pain of tremendous intensity. Well, that has been established quite well among the ones who have had the ‘not so pleasant experience’ of being prey to these nasty critters. This piece of information is, however, for the ones with lesser knowledge about midges.
The biting midges are the female ones, while the male midges usually feed off pollen and plant sap. Carbon dioxide in our breath attract midges to humans like a moth to fire and they can detect it from 200 meters away.
Midges bites look more or less like mosquito bites. However, it’s not easy to spot a midge biting you but you are only left with a sharp sting or burning sensation as the aftermath of the bite. A midge bite is often a small, red, itchy bump. If watched closely, a small hole can also be spotted within the bump where the skin has been punctured by the bite. Cases have also been reported of developing fluid-filled blisters around the bite.
So, now you know if the last time you were a feast to unseen little dementors, they could have been midges.
Symptoms Of Midges Bites
These pesky critters can inflict greater pain with their bites and the symptoms are quite easy to tell. Persistent itchy bites but without any insect to be spotted is one of the easier ways to tell that you have been food to a midge. Sometimes the itch is persistent and can continue for hours at a stretch. There are possibilities of severe local allergic reaction. However, the intensity of it can vary from person to person.
How To Treat A Midge Bite?
It’s not easy to control biting midges. However, by fogging by insecticides a temporary solution can be achieved. As soon as the chemical droplets settle, the midges can reinfest those areas. Another way of keeping midges at bay is by using residual sprays. But the effect lasts only up to 6 weeks.
While on a spraying spree to get rid of those midges, we should keep in mind that too much exposure to residual spray can also affect other insects and spider population.
There are remedies to treat a midge bite at home. At the outset, the area must be bathed with salted water and then ice pack can be applied to keep the burning sensation under control. A mild antihistamine can also be applied for some relief.
Tea tree oil proves to be a good remedy too.
The most common reaction is caused by intensive itching. Therefore, wear those oven mitts if you may, but keep your nails away from the affected area.
In case of a severe allergic reaction, seek immediate medical attention.
Nevertheless, one can always prevent such pain by taking some caution when visiting those relatives in the tropics. Covering your skin is the most common of all. You can also try and stay away from swampy wetlands. Another measure is the use of baby oil mixed with Dettol before stepping outside. Using Insect repellents that contain either diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin is the most effective measure.
There are a hundred ways of beating these bugs. However, one should be much aware of the fact that everything you apply to keep these little ‘beasts’ away is also going to repel everyone else. So, choose your weapon wisely to combat this midge menace. Usually, midges prefer the blood of cattle over humans. However, most of the times humans do become the nutrient target for the pregnant female midges who need protein to lay eggs. Midges attack in a swarm. On identifying a food source, to call the others to join, midges emit pheromones. And this is why the victims are usually attacked more than just once.
The remedies mentioned above may be effective for some while not helping much in other cases of midge bites. However, what seems to work in most cases is the chewing of garlic. To ward off these tiny marauders , one can also eat a lot of vitamin B rich food as midges apparently are not a fan of the scent of Vitamin B in the blood. So, what are you waiting for? Chomp off those bananas and take in all that Vitamin B.