The Ceratopogonidae, commonly known as biting midges, no-see-ums or punkies, have a bad reputation as being nasty biters that pester humans and domestic animals and, in some instances, transmit harmful diseases. Because of their small size, some species can pass through screen and mesh that keeps other biting pests outside and these can make life insufferable. The biting females can occur in such huge numbers that in some areas people are driven indoors (or complain loudly and then suffer numerous itchy bites!).
However, few people realize that this group of flies provides some important services in ecological systems. Some species are important pollinators of such plants as cacao (without them we wouldn’t enjoy chocolate!) and rubber trees, and the larvae of many are important predators of other organisms in aquatic habitats. The adults of most biting midges actually suck blood from other insects and may even be important vectors (transporters) of viruses that help kill caterpillars.
The biting midges are a diverse group in their habits and there are some intriguing stories associated with the way they obtain their food, mate and the kinds of different habitats they occupy. In the following pages, I provide an outline of why these flies are a fascinating source of information and are worthy of further investigation.