Everything You Need to Know About Midges

July 19, 2019

Chironomid midge adult resting on leaf., NCSU.edu, Matt Bertone, NC State, https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/biology-and-control-of-non-biting-aquatic-midges

Every few years the Outer Banks experiences a influx of tiny flying bugs called midges. Fortunately, midge swarms are usually not a widespread issue, and affect only a small number of vacation homes. But we would like to provide our visitors the following information, not only to educate, but also to offer some helpful tips if you happen to encounter midges while on your Outer Banks vacation.

What is a Midge?

The remains of a swarm in Kitty hawk., Coastal Review, Photo: Lexie Brindle, Outer Banks Voice, https://www.coastalreview.org/2015/07/the-attack-of-the-fuzzy-bills/

Over hundreds of different species of insects fall under the umbrella term “midge.” Midges are distinctly small, numerous at times, and can be annoying. For people living on the Outer Banks and other areas near large bodies of water, midges are a nuisance. However, locals have been dealing with midge populations for many years and have discovered some tips to help you limit the bugs’ impact while you are visiting.

Midges are typically divided into two groups, biting midges and non-biting midges. Biting midges bite humans and other animals to gain the protein needed for egg production. This means that like mosquitos, only female midges feed on humans. A midge bite can leave itchy, red welts on your skin. The welts from a midge bite are more of an annoyance than anything to be concerned about. Midges may be a nuisance, but they do not carry illnesses or diseases that cause lasting or severe harm to humans.

Friend or Foe?

Midges sometimes interrupt outdoor activities and relaxation. A swarm of adult midges can grow so large that you may end up having to remove them from the pool by the bucket. An increase of midges can result in an increase of spiders. Spiders feed on midges, so the more food there is to eat, the more the population will increase. Conventional pest control methods like spraying may help temporarily control spiders. But because of their long legs, spiders are able to keep their contact with pesticides limited to their feet rendering sprayed insecticide residue ineffective. Weekly, or sometimes daily cleaning and sweeping may be the only way to completely rid an area of spiders during times of heavy midge activity.

Unfortunately, midges are just as crucial to our ecosystem as they are annoying. According to North Carolina State University researchers, midges play a couple of very important roles in our ecosystem. Midges provide a source of food for many predatory fish and birds in the area. With a decrease in the midge population local fish have less food available, which may decrease the fish population and increase the prices of seafood. In addition, midge larvae help ‘clean’ the environment by consuming and recycling organic debris. High levels of organic debris in the water can cause numerous problems for aquatic organisms. In conclusion, midges are unfortunately a necessary evil in our environment.

What Attracts Midges?

Midges are mainly attracted to bright lights. In addition, they are attracted to humans and other mammals due to the carbon dioxide we emit when we breathe, our body heat, and the way we smell. Female midges will bite any kind of mammal for nourishment. However, midges often become particularly attracted to humans because we are always near some form of electricity or light. Midges love light and are often drawn to houses because of the light inside. This makes it very difficult to keep them out of the house. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can prevent this pest from ruining your peaceful night inside.

How Can You Prevent Midges?

Michael Potter has a doctorate in biology and is committed to controlling and limiting the population of pests. Potter discusses a variety of different options for reducing the amount of midges in your area. Potter recommends three different sprayable insect repellents, Repel 100 Insect Repellant, Sawyer Permethrin Repellent for Cloth, and Buggins Natural Insect Repellent. These repellents are better used for a day trip outside or an outing in the woods. If you are looking for something to get rid of midges in your house and back yard, a bug zapper may be the best option. Potter recommends the Flowtron Insect Killer for outside control and an Aspectek Insect Killer for indoor control.

Now most readers are only vacationing in the Outer Banks, so buying bug zappers is not a very effective method of midge control. However, along with the recommended insect repellent there are a few thing you can do to avoid midges at your vacation home:

  1. Don’t turn on bright lights at dawn or dusk.
  2. Close the blinds or curtains when you turn the lights on in a room . The light will attract a swarm of midges.
  3. Use insect traps.
  4. Plan your walks, parties, and other outdoor activities when midges are not as active. Midges are most active during the early morning and late at night.

Unfortunately, living near the ocean and the sound means that you end up living near a lot of bugs. Wetland areas are the breeding ground for many insects. Therefore, there is only so much that can be done to limit the amount of midges in the area. But whenever the midges become too annoying, just remember that without them the natural ecosystem of the Outer Banks would look completely different, and it wouldn’t be the same place that we have all come to know and love.

Sources:

Biology and Control of Non-Biting Aquatic Midges – Apperson et al.

6 Questions About Midges: Tips to Get Rid of MidgesMosquito Magnet

How to Get Rid of Midges: Top-10 Best Repellents and Killers – Michael Potter

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