Minute pirate bugs (aka no-see-ums) on attack after harvest

"Vector Control" signs. (Photo Provided/WANE)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Minute pirate bugs are normally a beneficial insect; they eat smaller insects in the fields that are hurting crops of farmers.

Now that the weather is turning colder and they have been displaced by the harvest, these tiny bugs are searching for a new home.

David Fiess, director of vector control in Allen County, explained in the video with this story why bites from these bugs hurt more than others.

“Usually with mosquito bites you don’t know you’ve been bitten or you might know like maybe a few seconds later or you get that itchy welt. But with these ‘no-see-ums,’ the mosquito has what’s called a proboscis, it’s like a needle. So it’s kind of smoothly going into your skin. These ‘no-see-ums’ or sand flies, they have more of a beak. So when they’re kind of biting into your skin, they’re grabbing part of your skin and kind of (a) little bit of tearing it away and then they’re sucking the blood out. Because similar again to mosquitoes, the females need the blood to help form her eggs.”

A mild, moist summer likely led to a thriving bug population, which is there are more pirate bugs this year than in the past. Insect repellents don’t work well on these bugs, so experts suggest long sleeves and dark colors to avoid the “bite” (pirate bugs are attracted to white and light colors).

Oils, like baby oil or essential oils, will work better to repel pirate bugs and keep them off your skin. If you do want to use a repellent, look for one that specifically mentions working on biting insects. The back label should say it protects against sand flies.

These pests are small enough to crawl through the mesh screens covering windows. If you leave a window open, watch for the bugs to crawl through. Since these bugs are so small, they can’t handle much wind. If you want to sit outside, try turning on a fan nearby. The bugs likely can’t tolerate the breeze from the fan and should leave you alone.

Fiess explained this type of fly does not carry diseases, so it’s not dangerous to your family. However, that does not protect you from bites, red marks and itching. A standard anti-itch cream at a nearby drugstore or pharmacy should help alleviate symptoms.