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Just one bite from a no-see-um can be incredibly itchy and painful.
No-see-ums and biting midges can be the irritating downside to a summer camping or kayaking trip.
But where are no-see-ums found and how can you avoid them?
To help you avoid getting eaten alive this summer, we have put together a short guide on how to get rid of no see ums whether you’re camping, kayaking, or enjoying a day at the beach.
No-see-ums and midges are common terms for the biting flies that form part of the Culicoides genus of the Ceratopogonidae family. Midges are around 3 mm (⅛ inches) in length and tend to be found at dusk and dawn.
Sand flies are different. Sand flies belong to the Diptera order of the Phlebotomidae or Psychodidae family. A sand fly has long legs and tends to look more like a small mosquito. These flies are around the same size as midges and no-see-ums.
No-see-ums and biting midges can be found everywhere in the world except for Antarctica and the polar regions. These flying insects tend to prefer humid environments, such as muddy or swampy regions, and other areas around water or trees.
Only the female no-see-ums bite. The no-see-um bites to take a blood meal in order for their eggs to mature. No-see-um bites tend to occur around the breeding site during the feeding times of dawn and dusk. The breeding grounds for these biting flies are generally moist soil or wet sand and areas near standing water.
No-see-um bites tend to look similar to mosquito bites and can appear as raised red dots on the skin’s surface. These can be painful bites that are terribly itchy.
No-see-ums are attracted to carbon dioxide given off from humans breathing, so they can be difficult to avoid when you’re outdoors at the same time as they are feeding.
Standing water tends to attract bugs. Mosquitos, midges, and other biting insects can often be found around areas of standing water. This could include swimming pools, ponds, lakes, slow-moving rivers, coastal areas, and even standing water as small as bird baths.
If you plan to fish in the early hours of a calm morning, you may not be able to avoid no-see-ums if you’re on a lakeshore or kayak fishing. Early mornings can be when no-see-ums are at their most active and are looking for a decent blood meal.
However, if you really want to avoid getting bitten by no-see-ums, it can be a good idea to fish when it’s windy. No-see-ums don’t like the wind.
Because no-see-ums are small flies that don’t like the wind, you can easily create your own wind by using a portable fan or an air conditioner. If you’re kayak camping near standing water or in humid environments, a fan can be a good way to keep the biting bugs at bay.
If you’re planning a kayak fishing trip, you could easily mount a small fan to your vessel to keep the midges away.
You’ll find there are many options for fans that are battery operated that can easily fit inside a camping gear bag. And if you’re really low on space, a handheld fan could be useful (although this probably won’t be as powerful as a larger one and may not offer sufficient speeds to keep the bugs away).
If you’re inside, it can be best to keep the air conditioning on to encourage cold temperatures and low humidity, which can get rid of no-see-ums indoors.
One way to get rid of no-see-ums when you’re out and about is to cover up your skin. Opt for long sleeve shirts, especially if you plan to be out in the early mornings between early spring and late summer.
If you’re setting up your camp in tall grass, you might want to consider tall socks and long pants. No-see-ums can still get through loose clothing, remember, so try not to leave any gaps where they might get through.
Wearing light colored clothing might make it easier to spot them on your clothing before they try to bite you.
If covering up your body is not sufficient, you might want to opt for a head net for further protection from no-see-ums, midges, biting gnats, bed bugs, mosquitos, and other insects. This might be a good option for areas with more serious infestations.
Lighting a fire tends to be a good way to keep away many different bugs. And it can be great for keeping away no-see-ums and other biting insects.
Having a barbecue can also help to get rid of no-see-ums, as this can create smoke, which can act as a deterrent for flying insects. You could throw some herbs on your barbecue to add a repelling scent, such as rosemary or sage, as these can give off a strong scent when burned.
Make sure if you light a campfire that it is safe and legal in that particular outdoor space. Some places may have restrictions on fires because of the risk of wildfires, so there may be areas where fires and barbecues are not allowed at all.
One of the best ways to get rid of no-see-ums and prevent bug bites when you’re outdoors is to use a repellent containing DEET.
DEET is generally considered to be the go-to repellent for most biting outdoor bugs, especially mosquitos, and will often be found as an ingredient in many brands of bug sprays and repellents.
When using a bug repellent, make sure you read the product label before you apply it to your skin.
When you apply a no-see-um repellent, remember to cover all exposed areas of your skin.
Try Using Essential Oils
Essential oils, such as eucalyptus, lemon, and mint can be effective at keeping some bugs away. The strong scents given off by these essential oils can be just enough to put off some no-see-ums from getting close to you.
You can apply some oils directly to your skin but some you might find are too strong to put directly on your skin, so you may want to dilute them in water first.
You don’t have to put the oils on your skin, you could create a spray using water and spray it over your clothes or hair before you head out for a hike or a fishing trip. You could even spray it over your sleeping bags and inside your tent before you settle in for the night.
Another useful way to use essential oils is to burn them using an oil burner and a candle. This can be an effective way of transmitting the scent around a small area, such as your campsite.
A mesh screen can be one of the most effective ways to keep no-see-ums and other bugs out of your house or RV. Many tents also come with mesh screens that are designed to keep bugs out.
A mesh screen can be a vital component of your camping equipment, especially if you’re camping in a warm coastal area or close to lakes and marshes.
Because no-see-ums are so small, the mesh you choose will also need to be small enough to prevent them from getting through.
You should opt for a mesh insect screen that’s smaller than size 16, as most midges can usually get through mesh in size 16.
Despite all of your best attempts at repelling the biting no-see-ums, these annoying little insects may still find you. And that’s when you need to move on to plan B: treating the irritating bites.
Applying rubbing alcohol can be one way to treat no-see-um bites. You should also make sure the area is kept clean by washing the skin’s surface with warm soapy water to prevent infection.
Apple cider vinegar or a few drops of aloe vera and witch hazel can be useful natural remedies to treat midge bites and prevent the area from becoming infected. Apple cider vinegar can also be applied to the skin as a repellent.
If the bites do become infected or you feel ill, you should seek medical attention, as some insect bites can transmit diseases.
While there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of getting bitten by no-see-ums or biting midges, you’ll probably find that you’ll cross paths with these insects at some point in the summer months – no matter where you live.
Remember, they tend to be found in humid environments, breeding in moist soil close to standing water and coastal areas.
Keep yourself protected by using mesh screens indoors and applying repellent when you head outdoors.
Maybe you’ve found a home remedy that works better. Tell us about it. And go ahead and share this with your buddies.
You should also consider our Natural Ways To Keep Bugs Away When Camping Or Kayaking article.