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|A biting midge feeding on blood through an artificial membrane for insect rearing|
Midges are a group of insects that include many kinds of small flies. They are found (seasonally or otherwise) on practically every land area outside permanently arid deserts and the frigid zones. The term "midge" does not define any particular taxonomic group, but includes species in several families of Nematoceran Diptera. Some midges, such as many Phlebotominae (sand fly) and Simuliidae (black fly), are vectors of various diseases. Many others play useful roles as prey items for insectivores, such as various frogs and swallows. Others are important as detritivores, participating in various nutrient cycles. The habits of midges vary greatly from species to species, though within any particular family midges commonly have similar ecological roles.
One type of midge ceratopogonid midges (a type of fly in the family Dipteran) is a major pollinator of Theobroma cacao (cocoa tree) because of its unique morphological and behavioral characteristics. Having natural pollinators has beneficial effects in both agricultural and biological production because it increases Theobroma cacao crop yield and also density of predators of the midges (still beneficial to all parties).
Examples of families that include species of midges include:
- Blephariceridae, net-winged midges
- Cecidomyiidae, gall midges
- Ceratopogonidae, biting midges (also known as no-see-ums or punkies in North America, and sandflies in Australia)
- Chaoboridae, phantom midges
- Chironomidae, non-biting midges (also known as muffleheads in the Great Lakes region of North America)
- Deuterophlebiidae, mountain midges
- Dixidae, meniscus midges
- Scatopsidae, dung midges
- Theumaleidae, solitary midges
The Ceratopogonidae (biting midges) include serious blood-sucking pests, feeding both on humans and other mammals. Some of them spread the livestock diseases blue tongue and African horse sickness – other species though, are at least partly nectar feeders and some actually suck insect bodily fluids.
Most other midge families are not bloodsuckers, but it is not possible to generalise rigidly because of the vagueness of the term "midge". There is for example no objective basis for excluding the Psychodidae from the list, and some of them (or midge-like taxa commonly included in the family, such as Phlebotomus) are blood-sucking pests and disease vectors.
Most midges, apart from the gall midges (Cecidomyiidae), are aquatic during the larval stage. Some Cecidomyiidae (e.g., the sorghum midge) are significant plant pests. The larvae of some Chironomidae contain haemoglobin and are sometimes referred to as bloodworms.
Non-biting midge flies are a common nuisance around man-made bodies of water, and are frequently mistaken for mosquitos.
- Forbes, Samantha J.; Northfield, Tobin D. (2016-12-26). "Increased pollinator habitat enhances cacao fruit set and predator conservation". Ecological Applications: A Publication of the Ecological Society of America. doi:10.1002/eap.1491. ISSN 1051-0761. PMID 28019052.
- Merritt, R.W., and Cummins, K.W. (eds.), 1996. An Introduction to the Aquatic Insects of North America. Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.
- Alan Weaving; Mike Picker; Griffiths, Charles Llewellyn (2003). Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. New Holland Publishers, Ltd. ISBN 1-86872-713-0.
- Walker, I. R. 2001. Midges: Chironomidae and related Diptera. pp. 43-66, In: J. P. Smol, H. J. B. Birks, and W. M. Last (eds). Tracking Environmental Change Using Lake Sediments. Volume 4. Zoological Indicators. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.
- "BIOLOGY AND CONTROL OF NON-BITING AQUATIC MIDGES", by Charles Apperson, Michael Waldvogel and Stephen Bambara, Insect Note ENT/rsc-15, Department of Entomology, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, last updated July 2006
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