Biting Midges (also known as Sand Flies)

As you move further north, to the more tropical regions of Australia, especially coastal regions, you are sure to encounter the miniature Midge . . .

For a tiny insect, barely the size of a pin head, Midges can pack a punch of irritation and pain to humans.  They are so minuscule that they are hard to see – it is often not until a few hours later, that their bite will be noticed.  Midges are commonly referred to as ‘Sand Flies’ – possibly due to the fact that they are from the fly family, and, that they are usually found in tidal zones – on sandy shores, within mangrove mud and decaying vegetation.


cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Midges are generally encountered in coastal regions such as

→ coastal lagoons, estuaries, mangrove swamps, sandy shores and tidal flats

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Midges generally do not venture further than 400 to 500 m from their breeding grounds

Some Quick Midge Facts

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Midges are only 1-3 mm in size – as tiny as a head of a dressmaker’s metal head pin

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  There are more than 200 species of biting Midges found in Australia

→ thankfully only a few cause a serious nuisance to humans

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  It is only the females that seek blood meals

→ and they do so to source the protein to develop their eggs

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Unlike mosquitoes who neatly puncture the skin and inject anti-coagulants

→ Midges tend to ‘hack’ the skin open and ‘spit’ their histamine / anti-coagulant containing saliva into the wound, then feast upon the liquefied blood.  It is believed that this more ‘violent’ wound coupled with the histamine-like substance contained in their saliva causes the intense itching in sensitive people

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Midges have not been found to transmit any disease

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Male and female Midges feed on vegetable fluids and nectar

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  The adult Midges can live for several days to months depending on the species


Why are the Reactions to their Bite so Severe ??

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  It is known that large numbers of female Midges will descend upon, and bite, any exposed skin surface on humans

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Their bite itself is mostly painless → coupled with their tiny size, they often go unnoticed – therefore most do not realise they are being bitten and hence to do not take preventative action → it can take some hours before the bites become irritating

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Midge bites are well known for severe reactions on humans

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  It is the histamine-like substance contained in their saliva that causes these reactions

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  There are various degrees of reactions in humans

→ some will present with just a small red spot

→ whilst others will welt up with blisters & overwhelming itchiness → which leads to scratching and often secondary infections

→ the severe itchiness can last for many days

→ some will build up an immunity to their bite over time

→ others have the opposite reaction and their sensitivity increases

When are Biting Midges most Active ??

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Biting Midges are most active:

→ under calm conditions

→ after high & Spring Tides

→ during new & full Moon phases

→ in Temperatures between 27°C & 32°C

→ with increased humidity – though not whilst raining

→ at Dawn & Dusk – however they are known to bite throughout the night

→ on overcast days – they are also known to bite throughout the day


cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Avoid Midge habitat – especially at times of high activity

→ i.e. dawn, dusk, high humidity – at high & Spring tides – new & full Moon

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  When camping or travelling, choose locations set well away from Midge breeding sites

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Take Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) – 200 mg twice a day with meals – at least 2 weeks prior to entering Midge territory

→ many swear by the success of taking Vitamin B1

→ essentially speaking, Midge bites cause spikes in histamine levels → some people are able to metabolise these histamine ‘spikes’ better than others, hence the variance in reactions

it is believed that Vitamin B1 improves our ability to break down histamine, gradually increasing our immunity

→ as our immunity improves, the dose of Vitamin B1 can be reduced

→ for most, the development of immunity generally advances with a regular exposure to low numbers of midge bites – not the occasional heavy exposure

→ note that those who experience a more acute reactions to Midge bites may require anti-histamine drugs, and remember, to always consult your doctor before testing any ‘remedy’ . . . 

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Cover up with long, loose-fitting and preferably light-coloured clothing

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Spray clothing with insect repellents

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Use Insect Repellents

→ those containing either Diethyl Toluamide (DEET) or Picaridin are found to be most effective

→ as a general rule:  the greater the % of DEET or Picaridin → the longer the product remains effective

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  If commercial insect repellents are not suitable, a home-made repellent can be easily made comprising of equal parts:  Baby Oil, Dettol and an Aromatic Essential Oil  (such as Citronella, Lavender or Lemon Scented Gum (Eucalyptus citriodora))

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Ensure fly screens are fine enough → as the tiny Midges fit through normal screens

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Spray fly screens with surface sprays containing synthetic Pyrethroids

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Use ceiling or pedestal fans to create turbulent air and air currents

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Use mosquito coils or plug-in insecticide tablet burners


cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  DO NOT Scratch (may cause secondary infections and blistering)

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Use cold methodologies to relieve symptoms

→ such as ice packs, or, the application of cold (preferably salted) water

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Avoid hot showers as they will irritate the bites

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  Source anti-histamines to reduce swelling & itching

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png Source anti-itch lotions from the Pharmacy e.g. Tee-Tree Oil to reduce itching

cropped-POI-Australia-Favicon-e1406709399487.png  For severe reactions see your local Doctor


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