Biting midges pose a tremendous nuisance to those who spend a lot of time outdoors during the spring and summer months, and just as their common name makes clear, these insect pests readily bite humans. Biting midges are exceptionally small in size, but they possess fierce mouthparts that lacerate skin, resulting in pronounced pain and surprisingly heavy bleeding. Their elongated jaws are outfitted with many super sharp teeth that surround the proboscis, which is the needle-like mouthpart designed for sucking blood. Due to their small size of less than ⅛ of in an inch in length, people who sustain painful bites are sometimes unable to visually spot the insects on their skin. Biting midges reproduce in massive numbers in salt marshes and coastal areas, making them common insect pests in Massachusetts during the spring and summer months.

More than 600 biting midge species have been documented in the US, the majority of which prey on insects and other non-mammalian animals. Species belonging to three genera, Culicoides, Leptoconops, and Forcipomyia, are considered biting insect pests in the US. While biting midges are excessively small in size, it is not impossible to accurately identify these flies. Biting midges are usually grey, but they may appear reddish after collecting a blood meal. Their mouthparts are outfitted with four blade-like features that lacerate skin, resulting in a painful burning sensation. Bite victims sometimes notice tiny red dots on the affected area of skin. These red dots are biting midges that are engorged with blood.

Male and female biting midges emerge during the late spring and early summer in Massachusetts, and while only females bite, males can be a nuisance due to their habit of swarming around humans. Biting midges in the Culicoides genus are the most troublesome species in Massachusetts, and they are attracted to lights and readily enter homes in order to feed on the blood of humans. Biting midges in this genus become active at dusk and continue feeding at night. Most biting midges are small enough to fly through window screens, as well as 16-mesh insect wire screens and netting. However, since biting midges are weak flyers, keeping ceiling fans on at full blast will prevent the pests from congregating within interior living spaces.

Have you ever sustained bites from biting midges?