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A female biting midge, Culicoides sonorensis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Clade: Euarthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Suborder: Nematocera
Infraorder: Culicomorpha
Superfamily: Chironomoidea
Family: Ceratopogonidae

Ceratopogonidae, or biting midges, are a family of small flies (1–4 mm long) in the order Diptera. They are called midgies in Scotland, are also known as no-see-ums, sand flies, punkies, and others in North America, and sandflies[1] in Australia. (The name "sandfly" is ambiguous, as it is also applied informally to many other flies, such as the subfamily Phlebotominae.) They are closely related to the Chironomidae, Simuliidae (or black flies), and Thaumaleidae.[2][3]

Atrichopogon sp. on Oedemera virescens

They are found in almost any aquatic or semiaquatic habitat throughout the world, as well as in mountain areas. Females of most species are adapted to suck blood from some kind of host animal for the purpose of anautogenous reproduction. Culicoides, Forcipomyia (Lasiohelea), and Leptoconops suck vertebrate blood. Some Atrichopogon and Forcipomyia species are ectoparasites on larger insects. Dasyhelea species feed exclusively on nectar. Species in other genera are predatory on other small insects. Larvae are always found in some damp location, such as under bark, in rotten wood, compost, mud, stream margins, tree holes, or water-holding plants (i.e., phytotelmata).

Ceratopogonid male
Biting midge or "punky" on a flower
While this Sphodromantis eats a bee, a ceratopogonid midge, sitting on the joint between the femur and tibia of the right-hand foreleg, fills its abdomen with the green mantis blood.

Many of the hematophagic (blood-eating) species are pests in beach or mountain habitats. Some other species are important pollinators of tropical crops such as cacao. The blood-sucking species may be vectors of disease-causing viruses, protozoa, or filarial worms. The bite of midges in the genus Culicoides causes an allergic response in equines known as sweet itch. In humans, their bites can cause intensely itchy, red welts that can persist for more than a week. The discomfort arises from a localized allergic reaction to the proteins in their saliva, which can be somewhat alleviated by topical antihistamines.

The smaller members of the family are tiny enough to pass through the apertures in typical window screens. Camping tents are often equipped with extra-fine mesh netting, called no-see-um nets, to keep the pests out. One experienced researcher recommends: "A mesh size of 4900 (per square inch) will stop most biting midges, but to ensure that even the smallest cannot feast on you, a mesh size of 10,000 is necessary."[4]

Species in this family are known to be vectors for various arboviruses,[5] as well as for nonviral animal pathogens.[6] An example is the Tete virus, spread by Culicoides sp.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Whelan, Peter (September 2003). "Biting Midges or 'Sandflies' in the Northern Territory". The Northern Territory Disease Control Bulletin. 10 (3). 
  2. ^ Boorman, John (1993). "Biting midges (Ceratopogonidae)": 288–309. doi:10.1007/978-94-011-1554-4_7. 
  3. ^ Wirth, Willis W.; Grogan, William L. (1 January 1988). The Predaceous Midges of the World. E.J. Brill. p. 208. ISBN 0-916846-43-1. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  4. ^ Borkent, Art. "How to Protect Oneself from Biting Midges". The Ceratopogonidae of Costa Rica. National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  5. ^ Carpenter, Simon; Groschup, Martin H.; Garros, Claire; Felippe-Bauer, Maria Luiza; Purse, Bethan V. (2013). "Culicoides biting midges, arboviruses and public health in Europe". Antiviral Research. 100 (1): 102–113. doi:10.1016/j.antiviral.2013.07.020. ISSN 0166-3542. 
  6. ^ Linley, J. R. (1985). "Biting Midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) as Vectors of Nonviral Animal Pathogens". Journal of Medical Entomology. 22 (6): 589–599. doi:10.1093/jmedent/22.6.589. ISSN 0022-2585. 
  7. ^ "Bunyaviridae". ViPR. Virus Pathogen Database and Analysis Resource Center (ViPR). Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  • Blanton, F.S. and W.W. Wirth. 1979. The sand flies (Culicoides) of Florida (Ceratopogonidae). Arthropods of Florida and Neighboring Land Areas Volume 10. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
  • Borkent, A. and W.W. Wirth. 1997. World species of biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 233: 1–257.
  • Borkent, Art (2014). "World Species of Biting Midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae)" (PDF). Illinois Natural History Survey. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  • Clastrier, J. and W.W. Wirth. 1978. The Leptoconops kerteszi complex in North America (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae). United States Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin Number 1573.
  • Downes, J.A. and W.W. Wirth. 1981. Chapter 28: Ceratopogonidae. Pp. 393–421. In: McAlpine, J.F., B.V. Peterson, G.E. Shewell, H.J. Teskey, J.R. Vockeroth, and D.M. Wood. Manual of Nearctic Diptera, Volume 1. Agriculture Canada Monograph 27.
  • Hendry, George. Midges in Scotland 4th Edition, Mercat Press, Edinburgh, 2003 ISBN 1-84183-062-3
  • Mullen, G.R. and L.J. Hribar. 1988. Biology and feeding behavior of ceratopogonid larvae (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) in North America. Bulletin of the Society for Vector Ecology 13: 60–81.
  • Wirth, W.W. and F.S. Blanton. 1974. The West Indian sandflies of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae). United States Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin Number 1474.
  • Wirth, W.W. and W.L. Grogan, Jr. 1988. The Predaceous Midges of the World (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae; Tribe Ceratopogonini). Flora and Fauna Handbook Number 4. E.J. Brill Publishers, Leiden. xv + 160 pp.
  • Wirth, W.W., N.C. Ratanaworabhan, and D.H. Messersmith. 1977. Natural history of Plummers Island, Maryland. XXII. Biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae). 1. Introduction and key to genera. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 90(3): 615–647.

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