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….
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).
I got bashed I these little critters and I didn’t even go outside. Check out my poor feet and ankles here…
I love in florida,usa. Next to wildlife conservation area. Did not realize what that entirely meant until…. Nightmare on elm street began. I guess it’s a lot of different bogs. Mostly nighttime is the worst. I have colostomy and kidney problems so I am sweet bait. Would all these midges u describe be in central Florida also? People think I am down right crazy. Any advice or drs., People in my area that might help? I am desperate. Either way, to u sincerely for the time. A Walters.
Yes, I’m afraid so, Florida has a very similar climate to areas where the mozzies favourite hangouts are in Australia, so I’m pretty sure that will be what you have there.
They also like a good bog, they breed in stagnant water. Not sure what you can do about it though, they are very difficult to keep away. There are lots of suggestions for things that could work, check out the comments here, but I would definitely see your doctor in case something else is going on in your area.
Hope you find a way to deal with it, cheers, Bob
I’ve lived in Florida…and…not quite the same as Florida. We never sprayed for mozzies in OZ like they did in the states. Our environment is less affected by insecticides. I now live in far north queensland and I must say, our tropics are far more…tropical…than Florida. Having said that, I used to live in Perth (a dryer, more mediteranean climate) and they were just as bad there.
I moved to the great ocean road 2 years ago. Midgies still bite me but I’m not itchy anymore but I have bites on my face that last ages !! I use Avon skin so soft dry oil spray to stop the biting.I read about it ages ago and was recommended by people Iiving in the tropics. Think they can’t penetrate the oil layer on skin. But the midgies just started 2 nights ago and I got 8 bites the first night on my face without even knowing. When we first moved here we were covered in bites, fumigated the house, put tea tree oil everywhere, we even thought we had lice and did our hair. All lasted for 2 days maximum. We even threw out a lounge coz we thought something living in it. My hubby now has no reaction at all. I have red spots all over my face ?
Yes, I think somehow or other we start to tolerate these bites better and they just don’t itch as much as they do at first. I used to itch like crazy after a mozzie bite and that itchiness would come back day after day, not constantly but at various times.
Now when I get bitten I itch for about half hour and then I’m okay.
I’ve also had people mentioned to me about this Avon skin cream thing, but I haven’t tried it, I’m a bloke 🙂 Must be horrible getting bitten your face though, I hope you find a way to deter it. Try multi vitamins B tablets every day, I’m convinced that has worked for me, but you do need to take a tablet every day.
Worth a shot I reckon. Good luck, Bob
Ow Cathy im at my wits end! I moved to Cronulla 2yrs ago & this past 6mths has been living nightmare. My partner never gets bitten just me…yet i have seen them on him here & there. They soar straight up my nostrils & back of my throat. Crevices of groin & armpits OUCH!!! The worst i think is my scalp (long hair must b kept tied up!), eylids…any tips here please??
I had my place fumigated over a month ago. I think i got 1-2wks relief. It seems to have gotten worse ?
I bath in Epsom salts, adding tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, cinnamon & clove oils & ‘RID’ from chemist I found has helped straight after shower dry off/face cream etc. This stuff tames the pain but never ceases ?
I find that around every 3wks or so the stings/bites get real vicious – cyclic…
No one i know understands my pain…
Oh I understand your pain, I’ve felt it, check out my feet and ankles…
Kathleen, I’ve lived in Woolooware for 15 years but never had any issues until the summer in 2015. I absolutely feel your pain and I’m at my wits end and. I’m covered in bites mainly on my neck, face, arms and hands. Last summer I scratched one on my wrist which turned into an ulcer. I have problems booking haircuts, facials or even booking a massage etc due to the bites and scabs. Obviously there are health and safety issues involved and even if a therapist, hairdresser etc was willing to assist you, it would just be embarrassing and too hard trying to explain them. The other thing I find hard is that I seem to be the only person I know who has a problem with these things so it seems really unfair and it totally affects your quality of life. I use apple cider vinegar on the bites and although it smells terrible it seems to dry them out so they heal a bit faster. I’m buying a bug zapper today and I’m going to get some b vitamins, eucalyptus oil and vegemite. I hope you are able to find something that will give you some relief and just know that you are not alone. Good luck
My first encounter with “noseeyems” was in Indooroopilly shortly after arriving in OZ. I got around 50-60 bites on each leg from the knees down that swelled into welts and itched like CRAZY and nothing really helped. I moved to the Perth area near the river a few years ago and learned a few tricks.
A) I found I was D deficit (a result of living in the UK 6 years) so built up my D levels
B) Mozzie coils (lots) and “Off” spray are a must outside.
C) Avoid wearing perfume outside during spring, etc when they are plentiful; particularly during the day.(Like….DUH?)
D) Once you’ve been stung, “Stingose” is a great off the shelf spray for relief, but I found out by accident that a tiny dot of my Vitamin C serum does an even better job (and helps it heal faster).
The good news is that it does seem you can build your resistance…or rather, decrease your “desirability” over time.
Yes, I think you can build up resistance as well over time. That may mean you get bitten fewer times, or it may be that when you do get bitten it doesn’t itch so much. I remember my first mozzie bites here itched like crazy for days, now they seem to barely bother me for more than an hour.
I’ve never been hassled as much by mozzies. Its the midges that terrorized me. Really alarming that first time. Went on for days and days, and huge welts all over my legs. They are out here as well, but nowhere near as bad. My big discovery was the Vit C serum. It stops the itch & sting immediately and heals tons faster…best of all…no welts! Second biggest was the ceiling fans in the bedrooms. Nice to sleep without buzzing and itching.
Vit C serum! Look, it doesn’t stop the blighters, but I found out by accident that a tiny drop when first bitten stops it in its tracks. Stops the swelling, and heals up WAY faster! Also found that it works well for most spider bites, etc.
Useful tip, thanks Chris. I think I’ve had some success taking vitamin B tablets as well, although it’s hard to measure and to be sure.
Best remedy found for Sandflies after bitten – Put a dob or two of eucalyptus oil (pure strength) on a tissue / loo paper etc then scratch some layers of skin off the exact spot of the bite only (to get to the squirming parasite and be quick
before the oil starts drying), and hold
the dob of very wet oil on the spot for 20 -30 seconds. This asphyxiates (chokes) the parasite to death and blocks its escape access after the top layer skin has been removed. The squirming will cease and itching will calm down. No bug can breathe around ‘menthol’.
Preventative measure -: Dab same oil on socks at ankles, bottom of trousers, around collars, cuffs, and spray overall body with the eucalyptus spray can (hold breath).
For the home -: Hang used washed teabags on screen doors (particularly around each opening edge) and window screens, and periodically (hours) dob eucalyptus oil on each teabag.
Personal use repellent -: Use an empty roll-on deoderant bottle with a mixture of baby oil and eucalyptus oil to apply to the skin. Make the mixture as strong as tolerable of eucalyptus.
Remember that bugs cannot breathe around eucalyptus. I hope this information brings you relief. All the
Some good tips here Deb, eucalyptus oil seems to be very good for so many things.
I had to go to physio once a week a while back, and each time they put this great big plaster wrapped around half of my leg and when I removed it, there was all that horrible sticky plaster remains all over the place and at one stage I resorted to sandpaper trying to remove it.
Then somebody said “try eucalyptus oil” – worked a treat.
Anyway, your tips, you say sandflies, I assume these things work for mozzies as well?
Yes, I neglected to mention that these remedies are also for mozzies (which are almost a pleasure to deal with compared to sandflies). When I am covered in ‘Rid’ repellant, eucalyptus
dobs, and an overall spray as
mentioned in my last post – the
sandflies then eat’ my scalp (which is
torturous – like having nits I imagine)
and the only remedy I have found to
control that situation is the ‘choking /
suffocating’ method (as mentioned in
my last post). This was after much trial and error, including allergy pills
‘Phenergan’ which provided distracted
relief – for a while.
I believe that people with more
elastisticity in their skin are bitten less
(or not at all) than people with dry, taut
skin, as these ‘miniature vampires’
(both midges & mozzies) have to work much harder to get through the skin ‘thickness’ of people with elasticity in
their skin, so they prefer to access blood from people they don’t have to
work hard for (bludgers, lol) with ‘thin’ skin.
I hope this information helps fellow victims. They really are hideous creatures that need a very strong talking to upon an encounter. Keep the eucalyptus handy ….
Cheers Bob, and sundry.
Thanks for clearing that up Deb, glad to hear it works for both of these critters. Some excellent tips here, I’m sure they will help out many people. Next time I’m getting bothered by these things I’m going to grab my eucalyptus spray instead of the ghastly deet. Thanks, Bob
Good choice, Bob. Deet is ghastly. Deadly toxic to the body. I have chemical poisoning (perm) & need to stay away from chemical anything as much as possible, thus always using natural products as much as possible. And I’m glad to hear that you didn’t end up sand-papering your legs away by the use of eucalyptus oil instead. Lol. It’s great for removing the ‘sticky’
after removing price tags from items
as well for further info, but controlling sandflies is certainly my greatest use
of it. All the best to everyone for the sandfly season. Let’s not feed them. Cheers ….
Yes, and the best action I think is to remove all water sources from your backyard so that they cannot lay their eggs. For more see…
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 !
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 🙂
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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..
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!
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
I call these little black things,bastermites,l have been putting up with them for about three months,and the only thing I find that helps is plenty of garlic,the don’t seem to like biting as much.
Yes, why not, it works for vampires 🙂
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
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.
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…
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?
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.
Oh dear, it sounds like they love you, and that’s not good. Hope you find a way to get rid of them soon.
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.
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
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!
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.
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
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?
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???
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
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
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
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.
hey bob hve been here about 5 years
Ooh, then you’re not going to acclimatise now, are you? Sorry, don’t know what to suggest then. Pesky midges!
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.
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.
John, they got me too, I’ve just written a new post here…
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.
Crikey! 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!
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.
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?
Ahhh, they like you 🙂
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.
Yeah, Punkies. Easier to remember than their real name…. Ceratopogonidae!
Pron: Sara towpoe gone e-day (just guessing)
Eeeeck! Punkies? A very funny read!!! 😉