Biting midges (often referred to as sandflies) are very small insects that pierce and suck on the skin or blood of humans, pets, wildlife and livestock, causing irritation. Unlike mosquitoes, biting midges are not known to transmit disease to humans, but they are a nuisance in southeast Queensland.
Types of biting midge
Common species of biting midge in southeast Queensland include:
- Culicoides ornatus - breeds in coastal habitats such as mangrove swamps.
- Culicoides marmoratus - breeds in coastal habitats such as mangrove swamps.
- Culicoides molestus - breeds in clean sandy beaches, particularly along constructed canals.
- Forcipomyia townsvillensis - is a bushland midge that breeds in mulch or leaf litter found in parks or gardens.
Protect yourself from bites
To protect yourself and your family from biting midges:
- Avoid being outdoors around dawn and dusk - biting midges are most active during these times of day.
- Avoid being outdoors during spring tides (new and full moons), and neap tides (first and last quarter moon) - biting activity peaks for different species at these times during the lunar cycle.
- Use repellents and sprays - products that repel mosquitoes or that contain DEET or picaridin will also work on midges.
- Spray doors and window screens with insecticide - although midges can pass through most mesh screens, they usually crawl on the screen to fly through, and will come into contact with the insecticide.
- Wear protective clothing - wearing long sleeves and long trousers is an effective non-chemical way to avoid midge bites.
- Use fans indoors - increasing airflow will also reduce bites.
How we control Biting midges
Local councils monitor biting midges in local areas and are working closely with researchers and scientists to reduce midge populations.
Controlling biting midges is more challenging than controlling mosquitoes, particularly in coastal habitats for two reasons:
- The selective insecticides we spray to kill mosquito larvae do not work on midges.
- Broader-spectrum insecticides that do work on midges also kill many other beneficial organisms (such as other insects and butterflies).
In city areas, councils may use insecticide mists to curb emerging midge populations. These insecticides are effective and provide some short term relief, but midges can quickly repopulate the area.
How authorities are learning more
In the video below, staff from Redland City Council explain how they manage and treat for biting midges in their region. The council is working with researchers at QIMR Berghofer, including medical entomologist Dr Jon Darbro (pictured) to learn more about managing biting midges and the risks of disease.