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Sarah Stultz: It’s a case of revenge of the no-see-ums

Nose for News by Sarah Stultz


Their bites feel like little zaps every time you step outside for longer than a couple minutes.

You look down at where the zap came from, fully expecting to see some type of large flying insect or a mosquito, only to see a little black speck one or two millimeters long.

After the initial zap, you give it a day or so and then it looks like a lump is in its place.

It’s fall and we live in Minnesota, and that means it’s officially no-see-um season.

I was not familiar with these little devil flies, also known as biting midges, until I moved to Minnesota 14 years ago, but every year around this time they seem to be prevalent around the area.

I don’t know about you, but they seem especially bad this year for me — to the point they have practically kept me inside a few times instead of venturing out to take part in an outdoor activity. I’ve also had to adjust my outfit to wearing long-sleeve pants and shirts to avoid any exposed skin for these little blood-suckers.

Doing a little research, I’ve discovered that no-see-ums belong to the family of biting flies called Ceratopogonidae and they have a four-stage life cycle.

Like with mosquitoes, no-see-ums are attracted to carbon dioxide, which humans naturally exhale, as well as other chemicals people exhale such as lactic acid, uric acid and fatty acid.

How much of the chemicals people exhale is often influenced by our genetics.

No-see-ums are also attracted more to type O blood and are least attracted to type A.

No wonder they’ve been attacking me recently; I also have always been a target for mosquitoes, and it sounds like they are attracted to the same things.

But is there anything to do to keep them away? I’ve tried repellent, and it didn’t work well for me.

I’d be up for any suggestions anyone might have. I’m also going to look up some potential solutions with essential oils to see if those will provide any relief. I’ve seen there could be some benefit to lemon eucalyptus.

In the meantime, I’ll have to time my outdoor outings to more in the middle of the day, as what I’ve read says they can be worse in early morning and late evenings.

Do I dare say I welcome colder weather? Then we don’t have to deal with these types of pests any longer.

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.