What Are Noseeums?

What Are Noseeums?

Have you ever wondered what noseeums are? Can’t see anything but feel a bite? That bite might be the result of a noseeum in action. Noseeums (family Ceratopogonidae) are tiny flying insects you might also know as biting midges. These tiny insects can cause a lot of frustration, but you can reduce their activity so you can enjoy your home and yard without constantly swatting these pests away.


Noseeums are aptly named for their small size and the fact that you often can’t see them. They have many nicknames around the regions where they’re found. Some of these common names include:

  • Biting midges
  • Sand gnats
  • Punkies
  • Sandflies 

Noseeums are holometabolous, meaning they go through a complete metamorphosis that involves four stages in their life cycle. They start as eggs, become larvae, turn into pupae, and then become adults. For noseeums, it usually takes around six weeks for the entire process to complete itself, but it can take as few as two weeks in some places. 

These insects are much like mosquitoes in that the females drink blood from insects and mammals. Males drink nectar, as do females in addition to blood. 

It’s typical to end up with an itchy, annoying welt as a result of a bite, even if you never saw the noseeum at all. 


Noseeums are extremely tiny biting insects of around ⅛ to 1/16 inches in length. That’s approximately the same size as the tip of a sharpened pencil. 

They are normally gray in color and have wings used for flight. Since they’re so small, it’s hard—if not impossible—to see them, but you may feel their bite. 

If you take a look at a picture of a noseeum, you’ll notice that the insect has fuzzy-looking antennae, wings that are approximately the same size as the abdomen and torso, and a tapered appearance. They have six fuzzy legs with hairs all over them. Some, when you look up close, appear to be mildly spotted when their wings are closed. 

If you’re regularly having welts or itchy spots from bug bites but aren’t seeing the culprit, you may have noseeums nearby.


There are over 4,000 species of noseeums around the world, and 600 of those species are found in North America. The majority of those biting midges feed on insects or other animals.

Four genera of North American noseeums feed on mammal blood, with three of them being of the most importance to humans and livestock: Diptera Culicoides, Diptera Leptoconops, and Diptera Forcipomyia. These noseeums can all transmit parasitic protozoa, nematodes, viruses, and bacteria; they may also spread the bluetongue virus to cattle and livestock. Fortunately, most U.S.-based noseeums are free from human-based illnesses. The most common effects of noseeum bites are allergic reactions, dermatitis, and skin lesions. It’s possible for Diptera Culicoides to spread Oropouche fever, Japanese encephalitis, and filariasis


Noseeum Order and Genus Special Details
Diptera Culicoides Usually, this species doesn’t feed until dusk. It’s the most widespread in the U.S.


Diptera Leptoconops This kind of biting midge can fly up to 10 miles from where it was hatched. It feeds during the day.


Diptera Forcipomyia Weak fliers, these midges usually stay within a mile of their site of larval development and tend to go where the wind goes.




Yes, some noseeums do bite humans. Male noseeums don’t need blood to survive, but female noseeums need blood to complete the maturation of their fertilized eggs. Depending on the specific kind of biting midge, you may need to worry about bites during the day or in the evening. It’s most common to get bitten around streams, marshes, and ponds, but noseeums can get into houses or other areas where the wind carries them.

If you get bitten, try your best not to scratch the bite. Doing so could make it stick around for up to twice as long or lead to infection. To prevent bites in the future, try to avoid sitting anywhere bites are likely to occur outside or in known problem areas. You can also use a topical insect repellent designed for skin or clothing. Always follow label instructions when using pest repellents on people, clothing, and pets.


If noseeums are in or around your home, try these DIY options to get rid of them:

  • Use fans. Since some noseeums are weak fliers, the gentle breeze of a fan can be enough to deter them from coming near.
  • Turn down the heat. Consider cooling down your home since noseeums are attracted to heat. They may leave a cooler indoor area for the warmer climate outside. 
  • Eliminate humidity. Another option is to dehumidify your home. If your home is very dry, the tiny insects may decide to go back to more humid areas. 
  • Choose the right lighting. Noseeums—like many flying pests—are drawn to light, so consider using lights that are less likely to attract insects. Swap traditional outdoor incandescent or fluorescent bulbs for LED ones. LED bulbs emit less heat, making them less appealing to insects. Also, use warmer-toned lights (such as yellow bulbs) instead of insect-attracting cool white lights. And remember: turning off your outdoor lights completely is an easy, cost-effective way to stop pesky bugs from congregating.
  • Try vinegar and soap. A simple half-and-half mix of vinegar and dish soap can become a noseeum trap. The smell of the vinegar will attract the insects, and the dish soap is sticky enough that they won’t be able to get away after landing in it. 
  • Choose the right plants. Certain plants, like lemon thyme, mint, and lemongrass, repel noseeums. 
  • Eliminate wet or damp areas. Noseeums breed in marshes and lakes, so as with mosquitoes, you’ll want to eliminate as much standing or stagnant water as you can to deter noseeums from staying on your property.


It can be difficult to get rid of insects that you can barely see. We know how frustrating it can be to wake up with bites and feel like you’re not protected in your own home. At Joshua’s Pest Control, our experts are here to help you get rid of pests and live more comfortably indoors and out. Give us a call today for a free quote.


Author Bio

Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!