Sunday, May 19, 2024

No See Um Bites: All You Need to Know

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No see um bites are notorious around the world.

Punkies, sandflies, the Scotland midge, biting gnats–you name them—they are problematic wherever they are.

For such insignificant insects, they create a large problem for people who love chilling outside.

If they are common aggressors and turnoffs in your life, this article explores no see um bites, including what you can do to prevent and treat them.

Before delving into treatment and prevention, let’s consider the question: why do no see ums bite?

Why Do No See Ums Bite?

If you’ve ever asked the question, “Why do no see ums bite?” you’re not alone. You probably think no see ums are mere mean aggressors (and they probably are) but there is a reason for their incessant biting.

No see ums bite because they need the blood. Not all no see ums bite, might I add.

Only female no see ums bite, as they need a blood meal to lay their eggs and secure the proper development of their young ones. At least they are nurturing mothers, right?

Some female biting midges are autogenous. This means they can pop out those eggs without a blood meal. This is because they’re able to store sufficient nutrients from the larval stage, which is used within their first breeding cycle. So, if a female no see um feeds and gives birth, some of her larvae may have enough ‘nutrient juice’ to lay her eggs without their first blood meal.

Either way, rarely do female no see ums not require a snack before oviposition. Female biting midges will snack on the blood of vertebrates, including you, horses, cows, and others.

Since female no see ums are the perpetrators, what about their male counterparts? What do they eat?

Both adult male and female no see ums feed on the juice or sap of flower plants. Energy to support flight activity is derived from plant nectar, along with long life.

How Do No See Um Bites Feel?

How do no see um bites feel?


It’s going to sting.

Although no see ums are tiny, minuscule flies that are difficult to see, their bites pack a punch. And a nasty one at that.

The female no see um mouthpart is built for biting. As such, it pierces skin tissue effortlessly. The floor of the female’s mouthpart contains a proboscis. Although elongated, it’s comparatively short and is as long as the no see um’s head.  

This proboscis contains sharp, bladelike mandibles and a protracted channel through which saliva travels while a female feeds. At the tip of her mandibles, there is a line of teeth at the edge. These are used to puncture the skin while feeding.

As pool feeders, they cut into the skin and tissues beneath. This causes blood to gush into the surrounding area. From this pool, no see ums draw up blood and it’s passed into the midgut after traveling through the foregut.

Overall, no see um bites are uncomfortable. The bitten area will sting and emit a burning sensation. The unpleasantness of a bite may last for minutes, or even hours.

Notably, no see um bites are itchy, and if the victim is hypersensitive, the itch may span across 2 to 3 days (sometimes weeks). Their bites are painful and depending on your skin’s sensitivity, may prove excruciating for you.

How Do No See Um Bites Look?

While you may not see the culprits, you will be met with a reddened area. Reactions to no see um bites differ. In harsh, extreme cases, blisters and secretions will be obvious at the site.

Skin complexion is also a factor.

Caucasian skin will mainly show redness, while marks aren’t always visible on darker skin tones.

If you are allergic to no see um bites, watch out for swelling, blisters, and welts. In extreme cases, a doctor’s visit is warranted.

How to Prevent No See Um Bites  

For transparency and honesty, there’s no best or single tip available on how to prevent no see um bites.

These demon babies are dreadful, difficult biting flies to handle. It’s such a shame that something so tiny can inflict so much pain and turmoil.

While no see ums are no pushovers, you can implement a few things to at least minimize the impact of their bites. As someone who loves the great outdoors, I won’t give up that luxury for no see ums, and neither should you.

My suggestion is to use a combination of factors to prevent no see um bites and keep doing the things you love, like hanging out at the beach, sitting in your garden, and even sailing on a boat.

Avon Skin So Soft products have been making waves on the internet as an efficient way to repel no see um bites.

A handful of studies have detailed how this works, and plenty of Amazon customers swear by the product. Avon now carries a line of bug guard products that are dedicated repellents.  

For in-depth information on some of the studies conducted using Avon skin soft, please consult an article I previously covered on the subject.

Have you ever used essential oils? These are natural plant extracts with concentrated compounds that can be used against no see ums. Some companies have levied the use of essential oils to formulate no see ums repellents, and a famous option is No No-See-Um Natural Insect Repellent.

The product is inexpensive to acquire, and from the reviews, you’ll see that it works.

Another suggestion to prevent no see um bites is to dress appropriately. If you’re strolling outdoors, long sleeve shirts and pants will reduce your risk of getting bitten, but not help you avoid no see um bites altogether. Marrying no see um appropriate clothing with a handy clothing repellent is twice as effective.

If you struggle with no see um bites indoors, you’d likely have to spray the entire place. You and your family can decide what is best for everyone. But spraying indoors with a flying insect killer and then bug-proofing your home to prevent further infestation is a great place to start. This is a difficult task ahead, but you can pest-proof your home.

Since no see ums are lousy flyers, use a fan when indoors to keep them from latching on.

How to Treat No See Um Bites

There’s not a single way to treat no see um bites. Honestly, you will need to use a combination of creams and, in some cases, oral treatments like Benadryl.

If you’ve never used Benadryl, ensure to consult with your physician or pharmacist to ensure it’s right for you and there’s no adverse reaction.

The first step to consider when you attempt to treat no see um bites is to take a warm shower and wash the area with antibacterial soap.

You’ll want to get something like hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itching.

If you’re someone who’s into home remedies, try combining baking soda with apple cider vinegar. Witch hazel gel with baking soda also helps to soothe the area, and since witch hazel is an astringent that contains tannins, it’ll constrict the area to reduce swelling.

There’s also Ivarest Poison Ivy Cream. This contains an antihistamine, which is great for controlling the itch and an analgesic that numbs the pain. It’s also a calamine lotion, so you can’t really go wrong with using this one.

Icy-Dry Super is another product to apply along with Ivarest Poison Ivy Cream. This is ideal for drying up welts if you have them. These products are made for poison ivy but help with no see um bites.

Note: No see um bites are super itchy. Don’t expect the problem to disappear after a few topical applications. Keep at it. You will have better results using a combination of the products suggested above.

This is because no see um bites are often accompanied by swelling, incessant itching, pain, and ugly welts.

You need a team of products to fight for you, and Benadryl, Ivarest Poison Ivy Cream, and Icy-Dry Super work wonders together.

What Not to Do When Bitten by No See Ums?

Whatever you do and no matter how tempting it gets, do not pick at the bites.

Do not scratch the area.

Scratching is one of the easiest ways to get an infection and leave scars behind. Some encourage the use of clear nail polish to cover the bites but don’t put that stuff on your skin.

Keep using the recommended creams and if things get unbearable, seek your doctor’s help. In some cases, you may have a sensitivity to no see ums bites, and this could worsen the problem.  

How Do No See Um Bites Affect People

Most people mainly have to deal with their bites, but no see ums may affect you in other ways. Some biting midges from the ceratopogonid family, like Culicoides, transmit filarial nematodes and viruses.

This is rampant in tropical and subtropical regions, as no viruses and nematodes have been reported in North America.

Of the many viruses transmitted by no see ums, the Oropouche virus is the most significant. Some biting midges may also transmit filarial nematodes that are parasitic to humans. These are responsible for the disease known as mansonellosis.  

No see ums are brutes. Seriously! Although they don’t transmit deadly diseases like mosquitoes, their bites are terrible. Learn to protect yourself.

Don’t be afraid to use various factors to prevent them from biting you. If you’re interested in exploring home remedies for no see ums, consider reading this article.

Sometimes suiting up with a mere repellent isn’t effective, especially if you happen to meet up with a horde of no see ums like this couple was unfortunate to. The video of their experience is embedded below.

Samantha Burris
Samantha Burris
Samantha is a writer with an unhealthy fetish for books and a love-hate relationship with insects, bugs, and creepy-crawlies. She enjoys scouting YouTube for vegan videos, and when she’s not chilling with hubby, she’s masterminding the ultimate plan to take over the blogosphere with her wits, creativity, and treasure trove of knowledge. If you’re looking for a conversational and professional scribe, with the ability to compose content across various spectrums, Samantha is your go-to creative.


  1. what do I do? My husband thinks I’m crazy and paranoid. I am the only one in my house affected. I had termnix fog my house. Didn’t really help. WHAT DO I DO?

    • Hello, Lynn. Sorry about your situation. I know no see ums can be brutal. Might I ask, do you live in a swampy area? Perhaps an area with small bodies of water, or areas where water typically settles? If that’s the case, you’d need to implement an integrated pest management system that includes more than fogging. This article on “how to get rid of biting midges” provide a bit more insight into how no see ums behave.

    • I treated my clothing with permethrin to keep them off of me. I tried several techniques before settling with this. DEET and essential oils didn’t help me at all.

      • Sorry about your situation, Stacie. May I ask, where are you being attacked by no see ums? The “where” is important, as it determines the method of recourse taken.

  2. Great article. I believe I was attacked by the little pests. Over the course of a few days more and more bites showed up. I’ve been in horrible pain with itching. They bit right through my shirt and attacked my shoulder blade. The doctor had to put me on gabapentin for the pain. I’m a week out and it has not gotten any better. Now the pain has traveled to my armpit. I was relieved to know it won’t be fatal. But I’m wondering how this tiny bug can cause excruciating pain. And for how long?!

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