Sarah Stultz: It’s no-see-um season in Minnesota, folks

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

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Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

Though the monarch butterfly is Minnesota’s official state insect, I’m starting to think that should be reconsidered — not for positive reasons but for prevalence. 

In the summer, the most prevalent insect around by far is the mosquito, while at this time of year it is the no-see-ums, also known as biting midges.

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To say I really dislike both of these insects would be an understatement.

Growing up on the East Coast, I am very familiar with mosquitoes. I remember as a child welting up every time I got a mosquito bite. It seemed like no matter what I did, the mosquitoes were drawn to me, and the bites would swell up real big. 

Even though the mosquito bites were frequent, I could usually get the itch under control easily, and they often looked worse than they felt.

Then I remember moving to Minnesota and taking a trip with some friends to see the Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth, and I was introduced to what might perhaps be an equally bothersome  insect. 

I remember hearing my friend call them no-see-ums and not actually realizing that was the actual name of the small flies, which are actually only a millimeter or two in size. 

Over the years since, I have been bothered by them a little here and a little there, but this weekend I had an experience with the little devils that I will likely not forget anytime soon. 

On Saturday I was staining my deck, taking advantage of the warm weather to finish a summer project, when I felt a little zap here and a little zap there and looked down and saw some no-see-ums on my arm or shirt. 

There was a little bit of a breeze at that time, but when the breeze stopped the zaps picked up in pace and before I knew it, they were all over. 

Some were even landing on the fresh stain on the deck.

A few minutes later, my husband, who was inside with my son, peeked out to check on the progress on the deck and commented on seeing them around me and even mentioned what almost seemed like a cloud of the flies above me. 

I kept painting a little longer before calling it a day, and it wasn’t until the next day that I woke up and remembered seeing all these little red spots on my arms.

And then the itching began. 

It looked — and still does —  look like when I had chicken pox as a child. On my lower arms from my elbows to my hands I counted 43 bites, while on my upper arm there were probably about half that many. It made sense knowing I had a short-sleeved shirt on when I painted. 

As I write this it has been three days since the no-see-um encounter, and the itch is still lingering. 

Anyone have any advice on keeping those little guys away? Or on getting a little relief once you’ve been attacked? Whatever you do, don’t scratch them.

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