Fact Checked

What is a No See Um?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

Many people don't know what a no see um looks like because of its tiny size, but if one bites, it's hard to miss. The insect is a bloodsucker many times smaller than a mosquito, but with a bite inversely more painful. The sting causes a large welt that can irritate the skin for several days, causing severe itching. It is tiny enough to pass through window screens, making it a nuisance to people and pets.

The scientific name for the no see um is Ceratopogonidae, but it has accumulated many common names. These include the sand flea, sand fly, biting midge and punkie or punky. Common to beaches, wetlands, creek and lakebeds, the insect purportedly stays within 350 feet (107 meters) of its breeding ground. Therefore, if people find themselves under attack at a camping site, on a picnic, or at the beach, moving a short distance can provide relief.

Wetlands can be a prime breeding ground for no see ums.
Wetlands can be a prime breeding ground for no see ums.

The no see um lays its eggs in standing water, where larvae hatch to feed on dead vegetation. Within a few days, the larva becomes a pupa, then an adult, leaving the nesting grounds in search of food. The bug is most active at dawn and dusk, and people who are unlucky enough to pass through a dark swarm of these insects might get them flying into their eyes, ears, nose, or mouth.

No see ums often live around discarded tires.
No see ums often live around discarded tires.

Like the mosquito, it is only the female no see um that requires protein-rich blood meals for egg laying. When one pierces the flesh, it injects a liquid that thins the blood to keep it from clotting, causing irritation and triggering the body’s immune system. Many species are found in Alaska, Florida, the southern US states, and the California coast, though they can be found anywhere conditions are ideal. The best way for people to protect themselves from their bite is to stay clear of breeding grounds and empty standing water from yard decorations, empty pots or discarded tires. Insect repellent containing DEET will also help to repel this tiny predator.

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Discussion Comments


1. Benadryl cream (blue label, extra strength)

2. Witch hazel really does a good job, especially if you get it on there right away.

3. Burt's Bees insect repellent

4. If no Benadryl cream, hydrocortizone cream.


We've tried a paste of baking soda on the bite with a bandaid over it to hold the paste there. It works overnight so you can get a little sleep. My ankles are banded with bites and they feel as if they are on fire sometimes. How can something nearly invisible carry so much venom?


Does D-Earth kill these bugs? They are in Northern Minnesota.


I started putting S S S oil on lightly. It's oily but stops the biting. I can now sit outside at night.


Could noseeums come in with clothes I hung on the clothes line?


Does anyone know anything about bird mites?


Try hot water or a hot hair dryer. It will take the itching away for quite a while.


I agree totally with the first post. Just don't touch it. Because once you start there is no stopping. Of course you have no control over brushing against one of the many bites and starting the process over again!! Good to know they breed like Mosquitos. Will definitely check for any standing water nearby.


I have about 25 bites on my legs and put a paste of baking soda and water and have gotten relief within minuets! I tried every cream with no relief!


No See Um's have a very short life span and will quickly die off in your home, but if you see them collecting on your walls or ceiling as they easily pass through the holes of window screens, the one way I have found to get rid of them is to use the sticky peel away type lint rollers. Simply roll over them and ta-da! Then toss away the layer of the peel away roller and start fresh for round two and beyond. This works, especially since the little suckers are too small for even a fly swatter to be very effective.


No-see-ums can crawl right through ordinary 14x18 window/patio screens, so you'd need 20x20 to keep them out. In other words, they can get through a hole that is .07-inch square but not .05-inch. Their bites can leave large, itchy scabs that last for days.


@cloudel – I've been the victim of no see um flies before, and I took an antihistamine right after being bitten. This kept me from having as bad of a reaction as I normally would have.

Also, I used aloe vera gel on the bumps that showed up on my arms and legs. It cooled the area and relieved the itching.

I've heard other people say that taking a colloidal oatmeal bath can help with the itching. Also, you can take ibuprofen to reduce the swelling of the welts.

The first time that I got into a swarm of them, I didn't know of any remedies. I just scratched my skin until it bled and stayed miserable for the rest of my vacation. Now, I take a bottle of aloe vera gel and some antihistamines with me whenever I go to the lake.


No see um bites can hurt as much as a jellyfish sting! I was swimming in the ocean with a few friends when we all started getting bitten, and we really thought that we were in a school of jellyfish!

The burning just would not subside. We had to wait it out, because I don't really know of any remedy for no see um bite pain.

Another person on the beach saw us jumping around and screaming and figured out that we had been attacked by no see ums. That did explain why there were no tentacle marks on our legs!


@Oceana – The first time I heard about no see um bugs was when my friend claimed she was being bitten in her room by invisible insects. I thought something was seriously wrong with her, like maybe some sort of mental illness that makes you think bugs are crawling under your skin.

I think we were both relieved to find out that the bug did exist. They are so sneaky, because they are so tiny that you really don't notice them until they have already done their damage!


A no see um insect sounds like something straight out of a horror movie! I've never heard of this, and if anyone had told me about them, I would have thought that they were kidding. “No see um” is a suspicious name, and it reminds me of the “snipes” my brother tried to get me to go hunting at night.


This thing has made my life miserable beyond comprehension for the past five months.

Today, after endless research, I am going to spray garlic paste / pieces around and see how it goes, because everything else has failed.


@anon107139: we get them awful every year. Once I realize they have hatched, my husband sprays from the house 15 feet out into the yard and removes all the screens and sprays them as well, if they are still getting into the house after spraying the yard. He only had to do the screens once in the last seven years, though.

I wish I could tell you what it is he uses but he is unavailable. I know he found out what to use from the Fish, Wildlife and Parks dept. and gets it at Home Depot or Ace Hardware. Everyone around here uses this method to control them. The numbers getting in the house go down by around 95 percent after spraying the lawn. Hope it helps some. Good luck.


Try listerine in a sprayer to eliminate these pests.

This was used by an exterminator in Florida some time ago.


No-see-ums have made our life a living hell. Somehow they got into our home during the time that some construction was occurring close to our residence. there is a pond near this area also. we saw these bugs outside our home but were surprised when they came through our screens. Nothing we try gets rid of them (ex. sprays, swatters).


@cmsmith10: You can use bug spray or mosquito repellent to prevent bites. If working outdoors around moist areas or lakes, it is a good idea to wear long sleeves.


How do you keep from being bitten by a no-see-um?


I heard that no-see-ums are less than 1/4 inch (0.6 cm) long. Pretty tiny! Also, my trick for getting around the drive to itch bites: take your fingernail and press into the bite to make a indentation. Continue to do this until you've made a criss cross over it. Somehow that satisfies the itch without scratching the bite and irritating it more! Of course just not touching the bite at all is best!

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    • Wetlands can be a prime breeding ground for no see ums.
      By: Elenathewise
      Wetlands can be a prime breeding ground for no see ums.
    • No see ums often live around discarded tires.
      No see ums often live around discarded tires.
    • No see ums are a common problem at picnics.
      By: lily
      No see ums are a common problem at picnics.
    • A mosquito is much larger than a no see um, but its bite doesn't compare.
      By: saidin jusoh
      A mosquito is much larger than a no see um, but its bite doesn't compare.
    • No see ums may be referred to as midges.
      By: fabiosa_93
      No see ums may be referred to as midges.