The Mosquitoes Irritating Little Brother

by BobinOz on August 5, 2009

in Australia's Bad Things

In last weeks post we talked about the world’s worst insect, the mosquito. At the foot of that post I mentioned that this week I would introduce you to the mozzies irritating little brother. Technically I am not sure if they are related, but they are both ‘orrible little bloodsuckers.

First, a picture of this little critter….

midge The Mosquitoes Irritating Little Brother

One in flight.

Did you see him? No!

Well, I’m not surprised. These things are so tiny they often go unobserved. They are the smallest bloodsuckers in the world often measuring less than half a millimetre in length. They are commonly known as sandflies, biting midges, no-see-ums, biting gnat’s, punkies and you little *&%@/()!

But don’t worry, I have zoomed in using special equipment to get a close-up of what I believe are officially called biting midges. You can see that close up at the foot of this article, but first, more about the midge.

It is beyond me how something so tiny can have such a bite! These things are much smaller than a pinhead, they are so light they float, they are just tiny little black specks.

Have you ever tried closing your eyes really tightly and pressing your fingers gently against your eyelids and just observing? You will see what looks like a galaxy of tiny little green specks filling an endless universal void. Well, these midges are smaller than just one of those tiny little green specks.

Did you try it? Do you see what I mean???? Oh. Perhaps it’s just me then.

According to Brisbane City Council, these midges were a minor nuisance in the Brisbane area until October 2004. Then they found their way into some tidal creeks in the western suburbs (great! That’s where I live) and since then their numbers have slowly increased. But it’s not just Brisbane, midges are Australia wide.

Unlike the mosquito, biting midges cannot spread any dangerous diseases, although if you scratch a bite too much it can become infected. Lesson: don’t scratch! That’s actually very good advice for mozzie bites too.

Other than that hugely important difference, biting midges are very similar to mosquitoes. These midges are so small they can often get into your house through the mesh protection. I was plagued by them (or it may even have been just one, I never got a good look at his face) in my office about four or five months ago. I once got bitten six times within about 20 minutes.

But, and I don’t think there is any scientific evidence supporting this, I am pretty sure you build up an immunity to them. Their bites used at to itch like crazy when I first arrived here in Australia. The itching could last as long as four or five days. But now, within half an hour or so of a bite I’ve pretty much forgotten it’s there.

Mind you, it’s taken me nearly 2 years and probably between 100 and 200 bites from both mosquitoes and biting midges to get to this point.

It all sounds quite intolerable, I know. But I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, it’s a small price to pay. And there’s plenty you can do to prevent getting bitten.

Prevention is next week.

Now, for those who want a closer look, please click to zoom in.

I know it looks big on the zoomed in image, but that was taken under a microscope by the Agricultural Research Service, who are the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture. My thanks to them for the image. (And sorry if it scared you).

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn August 6, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Eeeeck! Punkies? A very funny read!!! ;-)

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BobinOz August 7, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Yeah, Punkies. Easier to remember than their real name…. Ceratopogonidae!

Pron: Sara towpoe gone e-day (just guessing)

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Jude February 16, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Can beat your record of bites (although I would prefer not to). Was chatting to a friend yesterday for no more than 5 minutes and got 9 bites on one leg and 11 on the other.

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BobinOz February 18, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Ahhh, they like you :-)

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Chris du Preez October 2, 2011 at 11:10 pm

As a visitor to Australia recently I had an encounter with midges which I am not likely to forget. Firstly not being imune to these little creatures and secondly taking no notice of the hundreds (or were there more) I was in for quite a surprise. It happened at Toomulla.My arms and legs were not covered and I was obviously where I would not have been had I known. I had some hundred or more bytes which apart from the the skin irritation caused muscle spasms to such an extent that I had to seek medical assistance at the hospital at Babinda.

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BobinOz October 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Ouch! Actually, a thousand ouches! I imagine you had a very uncomfortable time of it, it’s bad enough when you get half a dozen bites, but 100 or so?

I’m not surprised you needed medical treatment. Other than that, how was the beach?

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John November 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm

I’ve had my second encounter with these @#$%^%$#! Here at Pokolbin in the Hunter Valley, they are especially active on the first really hot summer nights. They are attracted (along with countless other insects), to the porch light outside my bedroom. They’re so tiny, they make their way in to the bedroom, and if you’ve not doused the room with Mortein, they will have their way with you all through the night. You don’t realize it though until the following day. Scores of sores far more itchy than mozzie bites that can last for 3-4 days. They might be small, but they are well worth avoiding! Thankfully, not common everywhere in Aus.

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BobinOz November 16, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Crickey! They love you, don’t they?

You need some fly screen/mesh over your windows and doors, I reckon. Taking vitamin B is supposed to help. They don’t like the taste of that!

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John November 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Thanks Bob. More bites last night. I must have an allergy. The windows are fly-screened, but they still get in. On a far worse note, friends of ours collie dog was killed by a snake on Monday. They live near Mildura Vic, and its their second dog to die that way in past year. Around here, red bellied black snakes are common. Where they live, apparently, Brown, and Tiger snakes are the chief culprits. Much worse outcome for man or beast by all accounts.

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BobinOz November 19, 2011 at 3:12 pm

Oh yes, I forgot, they do get through the fly screens. That’s why I bought a mozzie-zapper, they definitely help. You can read about it in a post I did about dealing with mosquitoes, click this link about my Yard Guard.

Sad about your friends dogs, it does happen from time to time. I don’t hear about it too often, although a couple of weeks ago someone I know lost one of their cats to a brown snake.

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BobinOz November 30, 2011 at 7:47 pm

John, they got me too, I’ve just written a new post here…

Pesky No-see-ums.

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kim June 18, 2012 at 11:37 am

dont know if you have an answer but i react severly to midgies but only in perth and no where else why is this are they a different breed regards kim

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BobinOz June 18, 2012 at 9:21 pm

How long have you been there? I’m just wondering, maybe you need time to build up your own resistance to the midges on the west?

It took me a year or so to get used to them here in Brisbane.

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kim June 20, 2012 at 8:03 pm

hey bob hve been here about 5 years

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BobinOz June 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Ooh, then you’re not going to acclimatise now, are you? Sorry, don’t know what to suggest then. Pesky midges!

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Helen September 20, 2012 at 2:47 pm

8 days ago I visited St Helena Island Qld. Didn’t notice I was bitten by the midgies until the next day. I can’t count how many I have but the bad ones I have at least 20 and 24 on my legs, lots on my upper armeven on my face and I can feel others just under the skin that itch (burn) but are not visable. Bed is the worst time when my legs get hot and i itch like crazy. I have used Tricortone (cortisone), Medi cream for bites skin irritations etc and now am taking Phenergen to deal with the allergies. Still not working. Every night I am awake hour by hour to get a wet face washer to lay on my legs. Can anyone suggest a better treatment. I have even had new lumps come up as recently as yesterday. Surely this couldn’t be from the bites 8 days ago???

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BobinOz September 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm

Oh Helen, I feel for you, I really do. That’s the pesky thing about these horrible little creatures, you often don’t notice when you are being bitten, by the time you do, it’s too late. You are covered with them!

It really does sound like as though you have had an unusually bad reaction to these things, although I have had bites come back and haunt me at periodic intervals for over four or five days, so I reckon eight days probably isn’t too unusual. And they probably are mozzies or midges, do they look like my unhappy feet from a previous post?

If it’s any consolation, your body is probably already building up its immune system against these bytes, you’ll find over time, probably, you won’t react as badly as you have this time. Cheers

Bob

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gypsy April 20, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Hi Helen I have had mine since 44 C degree heatwave here down south. I have had mine for 3 months of total agony, I cant sleep for the itching night after night. I am still trying to get rid of them

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Donna September 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Moved to a house right near the water (swamp) at Jacobs Well in Qld. Looked like we had chicken pox for the first few months due to the number of scratched bites all over us. If you can get through the first hour after noticing the bite (which can take up to a day) without scratching it goes away very quickly… scratch however and it’s all over! I had a couple of visitors who scoffed when told to put spray on before leaving the house end up on antibiotics after a visit!

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BobinOz September 28, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Yes, swamps and rivers are a magnet for these little critters! I’ve definitely noticed that as well, scratch it and you will make it worse. Sometimes though, it’s really difficult not to scratch them.

As much as I hate putting deet on, sometimes in some places there really is no choice.

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gayle December 21, 2012 at 10:33 am

I lived on macleay Island breeding grounds for sand flies, for houses with fly screens you needed a smaller mesh to cater for gnats also as far as I know they actually burn you with acid and not biting, you do build up a resistance in about 6 weeks ,if you don’t MOVE

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BobinOz December 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Hounded out of your home by a creature smaller than a pinhead, it shouldn’t be allowed to happen. But I have to say, I can’t disagree with you Gayle. The “resistance in about 6 weeks” is interesting, I certainly believe I have built up resistance, does it really happen that quickly?

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John October 3, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Bob, I haven’t commented for a while, but looking at your feet in that photo, you must have copped it bad!! My guess is that the past 5-6 rainy years have created an environment in the Hunter Valley that suits these ¥^%#*’s more than it normally might. Don’t get me started on bot flies though, ten times the size of midges, much easier to spot, but they still manage to get you! I think they’re also known as horse or stable flies. Target the ankles like no other.

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BobinOz October 5, 2012 at 12:35 am

Ah yes, horse flies, I have come across those before, on the beach somewhere if I remember correctly. They are monsters, aren’t they? Fortunately, we don’t seem to get them around here, don’t want them either. They can give you a bit of a nip, can’t they.

For those of you not sure what John means about the picture of my feet, click the link to the picture of My Feet

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Cris April 20, 2013 at 7:23 am

I know what midge bites are, I am currently covered in them. I am getting so many new ones daily that it is like a chicken pox outbreak. And itch! Well don’t get me started. I have been given a antihistamine to control the swellings but hey it’s morning and I have anther 3 bites. I have sprayed, bombed, cleaned and shaken my bed till the cows come home and still the little blighters make lunch out of me
Arrrrrrgh there’s another one.

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BobinOz April 21, 2013 at 9:43 pm

Oh dear, it sounds like they love you, and that’s not good. Hope you find a way to get rid of them soon.

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Denzil April 26, 2013 at 11:48 am

any natural spray or other way of stopping the critters.
I have been here in Brissy for many years and still cant handle the blighters.
ive tried a few home remedies but nothing I have found yet stops them…

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BobinOz April 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

I think there are quite a few natural mosquito repellents, you’ll find a list if you Google them. Trouble is, I don’t think any of them worke very well unless you apply loads and loads of it. Who wants to walk around with, for example, peppermint oil rubbed into their skin and topped up every two hours?

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james April 30, 2013 at 4:20 pm

I am a greynomad and have been on many waterways fishing along the coast of qld since 2001 the first month I was given a reciepie for mosquitos and sandflies it is as follows==1 third baby oil==1 third metholated spirits==the other third equal quanities of detol and any essential oil such as lavender or tea tree spray or wipe on unprotected areas===IT WORKS

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BobinOz April 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Sounds like the kind of mixture that would definitely keep the mozzies away, and everybody else! I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what does it all smell like?

Seriously though, if it works for you, it’s got to be better than deet, that stuff is pretty evil I think. Time to ask Cris, below, to give this one a go.

Thanks James!

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Cris April 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Hey its me again, The Bitten.
And yes I am still getting the bites, the antihistamines relieve the swelling but not the itch, and the cortesone cream relieves the itch not the swelling,Nothing stops these little buggars. and yet my mum lives with me and she never gets a bite.
I go to sleep covered in repelent, i spray the whole house till I choke on the stuff, and still I don’t hear one minor cough from the midges. I think they shower in the stuff. I am thinking of starting a new novel something like War of the
Whorles, or Insect Worlds Collide. I have enough ‘extras’ for the movie version!

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BobinOz April 30, 2013 at 8:21 pm

Sounds like a living nightmare Cris, seems to me you’ve got nothing to lose, I’d be tempted to give the “James” recipe (see above comment) a go.

If it works, you’ll be hailing his ointment as a miracle. Go on, give it a try!

Let us know how it goes, cheers. Bob

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Ashley August 30, 2013 at 9:32 am

Midges are bad – we live next door to a swampy forrest area and midges are in their thousands. The Gold Coast council does regular spraying with the helicopter spraying some sort of chemicals to keep them under control.
A service that we have found and use is midgepestcontrol.com.au.
We get them to spray our yards and lawns and they kill off midges and mozzies keeps them away for a few months – with this at least the kids can get out and play in the yards without getting swarmed on..

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Shauna April 28, 2014 at 10:21 am

Actually, sand flies are the main reservoir for the protozoan parasitic disease, Leishmaniasis. It can result in painful and nasty-looking skin ulcers at the site of a sand fly bite, and if left untreated can spread to your internal organs and cause death in 100% of cases within two years. Look it up. It’s pretty scary.

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BobinOz April 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Yes, I just did Google it, it does look nasty. But I didn’t find any evidence from my brief scan of those pages that any humans have been infected in this country for a very, very long time. Most websites are saying that Australia is free from this parasite (let’s hope it stays that way) although you can catch it from abroad.

The worry though is that this disease has been found in kangaroos. When I have more time, I will look into this further.

Cheers, Bob

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chris August 20, 2014 at 4:49 pm

I got my first intro to the little blighters in west Brissy when I first got here staying at a friends. Between my knees and the ends of my toes I started counting the (visible…as in, swelling) bites and stopped at around 100. Rad up a bit on it and started a course of vit. D for 60 days when I moved to Perth, which def helped. Still get them; but never as bad as that! Here’s what I’ve learned:
They are most attracted to people who drink beer, sweat and pregnant women. I’m too old to get pregnant, don’t drink beer and not a very sweaty person so go figure?
I try to use “off” spray when I go out as it helps. I use “stingose” if I’m already bitten; and if I’m rally lucky and catch it right away, I put an ice cube on it for a bit, then a dab of vit.C serum, which actually makes most bites go away almost instantly.
If you run an overhead ceiling fan in your bedroom at night, your not as likely to get bitten…so I run it whenever I can.
I don’t see them when I’m within reach of ocean breezes, but all year round when its a bit damp and I’m gardening, so make sure your grass doesn’t get high.
Almost makes me yearn for DDT

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BobinOz August 20, 2014 at 10:06 pm

Some good tips Chris, and you are absolutely right about fans and the sea breeze. Mosquitoes can’t navigate very well when it’s blowy, and I think it makes it impossible for them to smell or sense whatever it is that attracts them.

If you have an outdoor eating area, stick some fans on, it’ll help no end. Or buy a house on the beach :-) That’ll get rid of them!

Cheers, Bob

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chris August 20, 2014 at 11:40 pm

Looking at houses on the beach now…in the meantime, its “off”, and “stingnose” when too late. GGRRRRrrrrrrrrr!
I thought it was funny about the study. Seems the worst thing you can be is a trailer trash, beery, sweaty, pregers woman. Yuk on all counts. Tres bogan!

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Also Chris August 22, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Hi Bob
You might remember my comment a couple of years back when I mentioned being bitten by those annoying little creatures which caused me to seek medical assistance in Babinda.
I am now visiting Australia again but this time showing more respect for the little buggers. I now stay away from their favourate areas. Interesting how one learns to protect yourself. I spent a couple of days on the fabulous Russell Island not far from the Gold Coast. I got bitten again by the almost invisibles. 22 bites. Nothing compared to the previous visit. Some one at the Ettamogan Pub suggested the use of an anti histamine. Magic, all itching and swelling gone ! Punkies bye bye no problem any longer. Of course other Chris’s suggestion to put on the fan will blow them away .
Always a solution to a problem in Australia ! problem? No problem !

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BobinOz August 22, 2014 at 8:59 pm

Yes, mostly there is a solution somewhere. Different things work for different people, so it’s worth trying everything until you find something that fits for you. Sounds like antihistamines are your new friend.

It’s funny how relative these things can be, isn’t it? 22 bites and you think you’ve had a result because it was less than last time :-)

Cheers, Bob

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