No one likes a fly in their ear—much less the literal kind that comes with a nasty bite! Enter a class of minuscule flies under the family Ceratopogonidae, better known in America as “no-see-ums” and in Australia as biting midges. The biting midge grows approximately between 0.5 millimetres and 4 millimetres long, or about size of a pinhead. Small though a biting midge may be, make no mistake; when in a swarm with its peers, the it is a formidable nuisance for the average Australian.
Below is Australia Wide First Aid’s special guide on the biting midge, its risk to humans, and the everyday precautions you can take when dealing with this tiny terror.
More than 200 varieties of the biting midge can be found in Australia. The insect follows a holometabolous life cycle which comprises four life stages: the first as an as egg, the second as a larva, the third as a pupa, and the last as a mature adult. The average lifespan of an adult midge, depending on the individual species, is between a few days and several months.
Biting midges thrive in coastal habitats such as in the lagoons, estuaries, and mangrove swamps of Australia. They are particularly fond of making their homes in damp soil, damp beds of decaying leaf material, muddy and vegetated substrates, or tidal flats (hence the erroneous ascription of the alternative name “sandfly”). The moisture afforded by these environments makes a perfect hatching ground for their eggs. Temperature is an equally important condition to the biting midge; they are most active in humid weather that’s between 27 °C and 32 °C, and they avoid the windy weather.
The midges rarely disperse very far from their breeding sites, and as such, most midge bites to humans happen near these conspicuous areas. Between the male and the female midge, only the latter actually bites; this it does by breaking its human or bovine victim’s skin and injecting saliva to prevent blood from clotting. The female then consumes enough protein from the blood to help develop a batch of eggs.
Some varieties of biting midge serve as vectors of deadly diseases to cattle, among them the blue tongue disease, African horse sickness, and epizootic haemorrhagic disease. There is no documented case of a biting midge acting as a vector for disease-causing pathogens to humans.
All the same, humans must beware; the midge can inflict a bite that swells, blisters, or weeps with clear discharge. A bite my cause acute discomfort and irritation, and if scratched excessively and exposed to bacteria, it may become infected. In cases that are few in number but severe nonetheless, bites may trigger an allergic reaction and necessitate performing treatment for anaphylactic shock.
Over time and repeated exposure, local residents will cease to be bothered by biting midges. Still, they may prove a nuisance to tourists or new inhabitants of a coastal area. Sound first aid practices and enough foresight on everyone’s part will keep your community free of midge bites.
If you incur a bite from a biting midge, you should attend to it immediately in order to avoid complications. Basic first aid for midge bites can be completed in the following steps:
As with many other phenomena, the prevention of midge bites is better than having to cure them. Actively avoiding midge-infested sites serves practical, as well as ecological purposes: as of this time, there is no chemical registered in Australia that can keep entire midge populations at bay, and excessive usage of pesticide may prove harmful for other species in the environment.
Australia Wide First Aid recommends taking the following precautions:
Bites and stings from midges and other Australian insects or arachnids may prove an unpleasant and even dangerous experience. However, many such bites and stings are both treatable and easily preventable. If you develop a first-aider’s sensibility with Australia Wide First Aid, you’ll be equipped to shield yourself and your loved ones from the pain, discomfort, and vulnerability that these species may cause.
Enrol at one of Australia Wide First Aid’s training centres, and earn your own certificate of first aid completion. With us, you can learn from the experts and gain considerable mastery over insect bites, anaphylaxis management, and other related first aid techniques. Click on any of the location pages below to commence your training!
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