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No see ums

October 2, 2016
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

Last week when ending the news column, I got the bright idea for this week's topic. No See Ums.

Of course, last week I was talking about those pesky and even dangerous mosquitoes. This week's subject consumes blood, as well but in a biting rather than a sucking action. The end result, however, can be a nasty welt on your skin just like the mosquito bite.

I have always liked this nickname, No See Um, because it supposedly came about from the American Indian description. Another common name is pirate bug. I don't like them .and I try to get along with everything.

Whatever you grew up calling them, they are tiny, biting midges. A common observation upon experiencing a bite from this insect is that something is biting, but the person suffering cannot see what it is. Hence the American Indian name.

There are over 4,000 species of biting midges in the Ceratopogonidae family, and over 1,000 in just one genus, Culicoides. The distribution of midges in the genus Culicoides is world-wide.

Late summer and the warm days of Indian summer are prime times for these little pests. Let me tell you from personal experience that the season for them is right now!

Biting midges can be a nuisance to campers, fishermen, hunters, hikers, gardeners and others who spend time outdoors during early morning and evenings, and even during the daytime on cloudy days when winds are calm. They will readily bite humans; the bites are irritating, painful, and can cause long-lasting painful lesions for some people. Just ask my wife who will carry the resulting welts for sometimes weeks.

In the U.S., the biting midges are primarily a nuisance and the major medical issue associated with Culicoides is allergic reactions to the bites.

The only recommendations that I have for avoiding them is to wear long sleeves and pants, use an insect repellant containing DEET, and probably the best advice wear dark clothing rather than white or light colored clothes. It has been my experience that they are attracted to light colors.



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