What are No-See-Ums?

No-see-ums are tiny insects from the Ceratopogonidae family known for their nearly invisible size and irritating bites. This article explores their biology, preferred habitats, and why they’re particularly active during warmer months at dawn and dusk. Additionally, it offers guidelines for managing infestations and natural methods for repelling these pests.

What are No-See-Ums?

No-see-ums, scientifically classified under the Ceratopogonidae family and the Culicoides genus, are renowned for their nearly invisible size, making them difficult to spot and earning them their unique name.

No-see-ums earn their unique name from this elusive characteristic and are notorious for their disproportionately irritating bites, which can cause significant itchiness despite their small size.

Often appearing in clusters near specific breeding habitats like salt marshes and muddy areas, these insects have a high nuisance level and are hard to swat due to their rapid and erratic flight patterns.

On a more basic level, no-see-ums are generally 1-3 mm long and have a moderate to high level of annoyance to humans. They usually have a lifespan of a few weeks to months and are most active during the warmer months and at dawn or dusk.

While they are vectors for certain diseases, their potential for transmission is generally considered to be low. No-see-ums have a variable resistance to pesticides and a tendency to be attracted to light, although this is not consistently observed. These insects play various roles in ecosystems but are primarily considered a pest due to their bites and high nuisance factor.

How to Get Rid of No-See-Ums

Addressing the problem of no-see-ums requires a multi-faceted approach due to their unique attributes of rapid flight and small size, as well as their root characteristic of breeding in moist areas. The most effective strategies to get rid of no-see-ums include eliminating breeding habitats by draining standing water and using fans or air currents to disrupt their flight patterns.

Pesticides can offer some relief, but their effectiveness is variable due to the insects’ rare attribute of occasional resistance. In indoor settings, fine mesh screens and insect repellents containing DEET or picaridin can serve as deterrents. Thus, a combination of mechanical, chemical, and environmental controls is often the best way to manage a no-see-um infestation.

In outdoor areas, yard sprays specifically designed for biting insects can be an effective tool in your anti-no-see-um arsenal.

How to Get Rid of No-see-ums Naturally

To get rid of no-see-ums naturally, a variety of holistic methods can be employed.

  • Plants like lavender, marigold, and citronella can act as natural deterrents when planted around outdoor areas where these pests are active.
  • For a homemade solution, a mixture of water and vinegar can be sprayed in areas where no-see-ums congregate, as the scent repels the insects.
  • Thermacell devices, which can emit a natural insecticide, can offer a chemical-free zone of protection.
  • Avon’s Skin So Soft is often cited as an alternative to traditional insect repellents, although its effectiveness can vary.
  • Citronella candles or oils are also commonly used to ward off a variety of pests, including no-see-ums.
  • Natural bug sprays containing essential oils like eucalyptus or lemon can offer some relief, although they often need frequent reapplication.
  • When looking for the best natural repellent, products containing a combination of these natural elements may offer the most comprehensive protection.

What Does a No-See-Um Look Like

No-see-ums are generally 1-3 mm long, making them challenging to spot. In terms of appearance, a no-see-um is an embodiment of its own name—nearly invisible to the naked eye. Although their minute size is a defining attribute, their color often varies from gray to black, blending them seamlessly into their environment. Despite their elusive nature, once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll recognize their compact form, which includes tiny wings and an exoskeleton.

Due to their minuscule size and neutral color, no-see-ums are often easier to identify by the itchy sensation of their bites rather than by actually spotting them visually. In other words, you’re more likely to feel a no-see-um before you see one.

Where Do No-See-Ums Live

No-see-ums primarily live in moist and humid environments, often found near bodies of water like lakes, rivers, and salt marshes. They have a particular affinity for muddy and swampy areas where they lay their eggs.

When investigating no-see-um bugs locations, it’s crucial to note that these pests are not confined to any single geography but are found worldwide, particularly in temperate and tropical climates where their breeding grounds are most conducive.

While their minuscule size might make one wonder if they can take residence in places like human hair or clothing, they are not typically known for such behavior.

Unlike lice or fleas, no-see-ums do not live on hosts but rather return to their natural habitat after feeding.

When Do No-See-Ums Come Out

No-see-ums are most active during the warmer months of the year, with peak activity often observed at dawn and dusk. These are the times when no-see-ums come out for their blood meals. Their temporal behavior, a root attribute common to many biting insects, aligns with lower wind speeds and cooler temperatures, which are conducive for their flight and feeding activities.

So if you’re planning outdoor activities and wish to avoid these pests, it’s advisable to be especially cautious during these early morning and late evening hours.


No-see-ums bite primarily to feed on blood, a behavior mostly exhibited by females who require the nutrients for egg production. Their bites can be particularly itchy and irritating, but the fastest way to heal them is by cleaning the area with soap and water and applying an anti-itch cream or a dab of hydrocortisone.

Although no-see-um bites are primarily an itchy nuisance, questions like, ‘are no-see-um bites dangerous?’ reveal concerns about potential health risks, which are generally minimal unless the individual has a severe allergic reaction.

In response to concerns about whether ‘can no-see-um bites spread?’, it’s important to understand that while the bites themselves do not spread from person to person, excessive scratching can lead to secondary infections that may require medical attention.

In comparison to bed bug bites, which are usually arranged in lines or clusters and may not immediately itch, no-see-um bites tend to manifest as intensely itchy red welts right away.

The duration of the bites can vary depending on individual sensitivity, but they generally last for a few days to a week. Prompt treatment can alleviate symptoms more quickly and potentially prevent secondary infection.

What Attracts No-See-Ums

No-see-ums are primarily attracted to the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and animals, a trait common to many blood-feeding insects. Additionally, no-see-ums are drawn to warmth and moisture, including sweat, which makes people engaged in outdoor activities particularly susceptible.

Why are some more susceptible to no-see-um bugs?

Individual factors such as blood type, body heat, and the amount of carbon dioxide one exhales can influence an individual’s attractiveness to these pests, making some people more prone to bites than others. Some rare attributes suggest that no-see-ums may also be lured by certain scents or colors, although this is not consistently observed. Therefore, when spending time outdoors in areas where no-see-ums are prevalent, being aware of these attractants can help in taking preventative measures.

How Long Do No-See-Ums Live

The lifespan of no-see-ums varies but is generally brief, ranging from a few weeks to a couple of months. This short lifespan is a root attribute of many small, blood-feeding insects. While the adult no-see-ums live for this limited time, their entire life cycle—from egg to larva to pupa and finally to adult—can extend the species’ presence in an environment across multiple seasons.

Understanding their limited lifespan can be useful in planning control measures, as addressing their breeding grounds can be more effective in the long term than just targeting adult insects.