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Flying teeth: No-see-ums take a bite out of Lowcountry life



photo courtesy Karen Hartley

By Ty Snowden | Did you ever feel an ever so irritating itch or pinch, then look down to see nothing? No spider, no mosquito, no ant?


Here in our part of the south that’d be a no-see-um that just lit you up. These tiny little monsters are just waiting to put a damper on your Lowcountry day. A tiny,nearly invisible critter, that packs a huge punch.

They’re on the prowl during early morning and evenings, and even during the daytime on still, cloudy days.When it’s real hot, they’re not around. The many blessings of warm weather in South Carolina are concurrently cursed by the tiniest of insects.

Know it or not, these little fellas have many names aside from a no-see-um. Also known as sand fleas, just ask anyone who’s ever gone through boot camp at Parris Island and we’re sure you’ll hear many other names. They’re also referred to as midges or biting midges, while other places in North America, they can be called punkies. The scientific name for them is Leptoconops torrens, and they are part of the Ceratopogonidae family.

But yeah, none of that really matters. What matters is that they’re most annoying and you sill not escape them. It’s impossible. You get bit no matter where you are. In your yard. At the waterfront. At the ballpark. At the playground. Heck…they even get into your car window to get you. 

These little guys are only about 1/16 of an inch long. This mixed with their colors of red, oranges, and browns usually blend in well with skin tones, which makes them hard to see, hence the name of no-see-ums.

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Interestingly enough, only the females bite. Breeding takes place once the weather gets warm, typically between May and June. In order to complete the reproductive cycle, they need blood from mammals.

photo courtesy

This is when the female finds her meal and injects a saliva that brings the blood to the surface. This is the little red dot we are left with; it typically results in some pretty excruciating itching.

Beware, it may be wise to fight the urge to itch, as scratching makes the bite remain for longer. It even can intensify the itchy sensation. Bites can lead to severely itchy bumps or hives, which are the most common lesions observed with bites. Although the skin bite reactions are temporary, bites sometimes require several weeks to heal.

Some repellents say they work for these tiny terrors, but the best way to avoid their bite is to move quickly through areas that they’re present. They like hanging out in grassy areas and mulch beds, around fresh soil or dirt and they’re quickly attracted to our scent once we make our debut.

Beware y’all, the no-see-ums are out with a fury this year.  Just ask Will Smith.

Flying teeth: No-see-ums take a bite out of Lowcountry life


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