Biting Midges and Mosquitoes

Biting midges such as sandflies and mosquitoes can be a bit of a nuisance.

Find out what you can do to tackle the problem of midges and mosquitoes and protect yourself and family. 

Tackling Mosquitoes Together

There are over 60 different species of mosquito in the Byron Shire but only a small number cause nuisance-biting problems or spread disease. 

Mosquitoes are a natural part of the local environment and provide food for a range of fish, frogs, birds, bats and other insects. 

Mosquito problems are generally greater close to the coast. As well as breeding in natural environments, some pest mosquitoes breed in backyards.  

Tackling Mosquitoes Together is a pilot behaviour change program to reduce the disease risks and nuisance of mosquitoes in homes and communities in the Northern Rivers.

To make it easy for you to reduce the risks, we have developed the Tackling Mosquitoes Together SMS program.

The SMS program includes:

  • helpful tips and reminders to reduce mozzies in your backyard
  • handy hints about how to protect yourself, your family and community from mozzies
  • fun videos, images and links to more information.
  • SMS will also be sent based on seasonal and weather factors, including tides and rain fall.

You also get an education pack of resources and mozzie repellent.

Join the program and start taking action in your backyard today. Sign up at the Tackling Mosquitoes Together website

Tips to protect yourself from mosquitoes

  • Avoid outdoor activity around dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use an effect repellent. (The best mosquito repellents contain Diethyl Toluamide (DEET less than 20%) or Picaridin, so check the label).
  • Cover up as much as possible. Wear light coloured, loose fitting clothing and sensible footwear.

Around the home

  • Install fly screens on all windows and self-closing wire screens on doors. Check them regularly and mend any holes.
  • Dispose of all containers and other items collecting water in which mosquitoes can breed.
  • Empty and wipe out all containers such as bird baths at least once a week.
  • Remove pot plant bases or fill bases with sand.
  • Screen all openings to tanks with 1mm mesh of stainless steel or other durable material.
  • Remove leaves and debris from roof guttering regularly so water cannot accumulate.
  • Keep fishponds stocked with fish.
  • Keep vegetation in yard well maintained and mow lawns regularly.

How to reduce biting midge problems

Biting midges are insects that breed in wet soils in the tidal zones such as mangrove mud and sandy shores.

They play an important role in our valuable estuary tidal marsh and mangrove ecosystems.

Biting midges are attracted to human habitation and rest on screens, fences and vegetation while waiting to take a blood meal.

Unlike mosquitoes, biting midges leave a large raised mark on the skin that is filled with damaged tissue and saliva (containing anticoagulants). These biting insects are annoying but are not likely to transmit disease.

Biting midges become a public health issue when residential property developments occur close to midge-breeding sites resulting in increased human – midge interaction. The biting midge problem within the Byron Shire community has not been quantified.

If you live in or visit active midge areas:

Use personal insect repellents applied to the skin and clothing

  • Try baby oil to reduce bites instead of commercial repellent.
  • An effective home repellent can be made up with equal parts of baby oil, Dettol and an aromatic oil such as citronella or lavender.
  • Local research has shown that oil extracted from the lemon scented gum Eucalyptus citriodora is also a good midge repellent.

Try vitamin B1 (thiamine)

  • This vitamin has an anti-histamine type action.
  • This will prevent acute allergic reaction and allow the body to develop its own immunity to midge bites.
  • Biting midge expert, Dr Eric Reye, suggests an adult dose of 200mg twice a day with meals, preferably starting two weeks before exposure to midge. As immunity is developed this dose can be reduced. The development of personal immunity generally comes with a regular exposure to low numbers of midge bites, not occasional heavy exposure. Persons who have a more acute reaction to midge bites may require anti-histamine drugs at times. You should consult your family doctor before trialling these drug therapies.

Tips for outside

  • Wear light long sleeve clothing during midge activity periods.
  • Keep vegetation surrounding the house to a minimum.
  • Keep lawns well mown.
  • Landscaping with tallish vegetation with an upper tree canopy is preferable as it allows a much better airflow near ground level.
  • Install ceiling fans or other air circulation devices that increase air flow inside the dwelling as midges do not like to seek blood meals when a moderate breeze is blowing.
  • Use mosquito coils or plug in insecticide tablet burners during periods of severe midge nuisance.
  • Avoid outdoor activities like car washing and gardening during the early morning and late afternoon. 
  • Reference the lunar cycle before planning an evening barbecue as biting midges are most active in the few days following the full and new moon, especially in the warmer months.
  • Use synthetic pyrethroid barrier sprays applied around vegetation and exterior walls to reduce midge adult numbers around treated premises for many weeks.

Midges activity in Byron Shire

There are four species that have been identified as the main cause of midge problems on the North Coast of NSW.

Council has no data on the particular species in Byron Shire, the extent of breeding sites or the size of this problem in general.

The use of any pesticides in such sensitive ecological environments is not supported as it is highly likely to cause serious environmental harm.