This guide reveals five tiny flying bugs that bite and itch. It includes both black flies and white biting flies that are notorious for biting humans.
All these flies are primarily outdoor dwellers. But, as someone who has dealt with biting bugs and flies, I can confirm that they can make your life miserable and itchy even inside the house.
You’ll find out what these small biting flies look like, where they live, and how to protect yourself from their nasty bites.
Let’s dive in.
Tiny Black Flying Bugs That Bite And Itch
The most common tiny biting flies are black and they live outdoors in the damp areas. However, these flies can also enter homes through the windows.
Biting midges go by various names such as sand flies, punkies, and black gnats. However, the most common alternative name for biting midges is no-see-ums.
It’s because these black flies are so tiny that they are mostly invisible. And when they bite you, you wonder what has bitten you that you can’t see.
Biting midges are gray, with transparent wings that have dark patterns on them making them appear as tiny black flies.
These flies are 1-3 mm (1/16 – 1/8 inches) in size with round compact bodies. Their bodies have a clearly defined thorax and abdomen.
Biting midges live in areas with high moisture content such as swamps, marshy areas, farms, and coastal regions such as Florida.
Their preference for dense vegetation and moisture can also make them nest and breed on your property.
It’s common for biting midges to be present in your yard or garden with high moisture or dampness.
If there’s a swimming pool or pond on your property, with dense vegetation, then you’re bound to have biting midges.
Biting midges are terrible biters and nasty human pests that feed on human blood. It’s the female midges that bite and feed on blood because they need the blood meals to develop their eggs.
They have sharp scissor-like mouthparts that they use to slit the skin and draw the blood.
Bites occur in the summer months during the dawn and dusk hours.
The bite itself can be immediately painful or cause a burning sensation, a characteristic that is disproportionate to their tiny size.
The bite site often develops into red welts or bumps accompanied by considerable swelling, which is a reaction to the saliva they inject while biting.
After the initial pain, the bite site usually becomes very itchy, a condition that can persist for several days or even weeks in individuals who are more sensitive.
Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to the bites, exhibiting symptoms such as generalized itching, urticaria (a kind of skin rash), and in rare cases, more serious systemic reactions.
These midges can also enter homes through the gaps and cracks on the windows. They’re attracted to light.
The glowing light bulb, or the reflected light from the window screens can draw these flies inside.
Minute Pirate Bugs
Another tiny black fly that bites and causes itch is the minute pirate bug. These flies are indeed very small, measuring about 3 to 6 mm (1/8 to 1/4 inches) in size.
Their oval bodies are slightly elongated and flat. Their bodies have recognizable patterns on them, such as lighter markings or bands, on their wings.
Minute pirate bugs live in gardens, forests, and agricultural fields. Despite being nasty biters, minute pirate bugs are beneficial insects that prey on tiny garden pests such as aphids.
Minute pirate bugs are highly active in gardens with a good population of flowers as they feed on the nectar when prey is scarce.
They have a pair of fully developed wings that help them fly quickly from plant to plant and to avoid predators.
Minute pirate bugs bite mostly during the late summer to early fall when their natural prey, such as small insects, diminishes.
It’s important to note that these bites are not feeding mechanisms. These are either probing bites or defensive mechanisms.
So, bites mostly occur when you’re working in your garden or when you pass through their habitat.
Their bites are surprisingly painful given their small size.
Initially, there’s a sharp, stinging sensation at the bite site. Redness and swelling ensue, which mostly occurs because the skin reacts to their saliva.
The bites are intensely itchy and can last for a few hours to a couple of days.
Horse flies are bigger than both biting midges and minute pirate bugs. They measure between 20-30 mm (0.75 – 1.25 inches) in length.
They have a robust body with a prominent head that houses large, compound eyes. Their eyes are brightly green or purple.
Horse flies body color tends to be dark, ranging from dark brown to black. There is a slight hairiness on their bodies, especially in the thorax region, which gives them a fuzzy look.
Their fully developed wings are generally cloudy with veins.
But the worst feature of horse flies that makes them terrible biters is their well-developed mandibles on their mouth that they use to rip open the skin to draw blood.
Horse flies live in wetlands such as swamps, marshes, and near water bodies such as lake streams because their larvae need a moist environment to develop.
Their propensity to live and breed in damp areas makes them a common biting fly in places like farms and barns where they lay their eggs in decaying organic wastes and manure.
Wildlife, livestock, and humans are also abundant in these areas, providing them a ton of opportunities to get their blood meals.
Horse flies are most active during the daylight hours, especially on warm, sunny days.
The females are the ones responsible for the painful bites, as they require a blood meal for the development of their eggs.
Male horse flies, on the other hand, primarily feed on nectar and plant sap. The biting mechanism of horse flies is quite aggressive; they use their mandibles to effectively slice the skin and then lap up the blood that pools at the bite site.
Due to their slicing and lapping method of biting, the initial bite feels like a sharp scissor attack followed by a burning sensation.
The bite site quickly becomes red and swollen, sometimes developing into a raised welt.
Following the initial pain, the bite area often becomes very itchy, which can persist for several days.
The bites can sometimes lead to secondary bacterial infections if not kept clean, due to the open wound created by the bite.
In some individuals, especially those who are more sensitive or allergic to horse fly bites, the reactions can be more severe.
Sensitive individuals can get extensive swelling, blister formation, or even systemic reactions in rare cases after the bite.
Horse flies are also attracted to light. Homes near horse flies’ habitat regularly deal with persistent sudden horse fly invasion.
Similar looking flies, such as stable flies and deer flies, also dwell in the same habitats as horse flies and they bite too. But I’ve not included them in the list because they’re not typically black.
You cannot overlook the mosquito as the most common tiny black flying bugs that bite and itch. And they can cause diseases too.
Mosquitoes are common worldwide, from tropical regions to colder climates.
Standing water is their primary breeding site. And it’s not only that they breed in marshy areas or swamps, but also in the water lying stagnant in pots, birdbaths, old tires, puddles, and swimming pools.
Mosquito larvae, which are small tan-ish wiggling worms, need an aquatic environment to mature into adult mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes are small. Their size ranges from 3 mm to 19 mm (0.125 – 0.75 inches) in length depending on the species.
Mosquitoes have a distinctive slender and elongated body shape with a delicate appearance. They have a pair of wings, a pair of halteres (a kind of stabilizer), six long, thin legs, and a proboscis—a long, piercing mouthpart mosquitoes use for feeding.
Their colors vary too – from a muted blend of gray to black with brown or white undertones.
The Asian tiger mosquito, which is infamous for spreading diseases, and slowly raising its head in the in the US, is black and has white spots on them.
Mosquitoes can be active throughout the day. However, the most common biting hours are dawn and dusk.
Female mosquitoes are the ones that bite, as they require a blood meal to develop their eggs.
The males feed exclusively on nectar and plant juices. The females use their proboscis to pierce the skin and feed on blood.
The most common side effect is a persistent itch at the site of the bite, which is a reaction to the mosquito’s saliva that contains anticoagulant proteins.
The bite site usually develops a red, swollen bump shortly after the mosquito feeds.
Some individuals may have more intense reactions to mosquito bites, including larger areas of swelling and itching, sometimes accompanied by a mild fever.
Mosquitoes are vectors for various diseases including malaria, dengue fever, Zika virus, yellow fever, and West Nile virus among others.
This is not a direct side effect of the bite itself but is a potential and serious consequence of a bite from a mosquito infected with these viruses.
Fortunately, there are no mosquito-borne diseases in the US as of now.
White Flies – Tiny White Flies That Bite And Itch
White Flies are small flying bugs that look like dust on plants. These are primarily plant pests that feed on the plant’s sap.
White flies size varies between 1 and 2 mm (0.04 – 0.08 inches). This tiny size allows them to settle on plants without immediate notice.
And you notice when the white fly infestation turns severe.
These flies have a rounded and slightly elongated body shape. They’ve a pair of fully developed wings that makes them able fliers.
These flies, as the name suggests, are white because of the waxy powdery substance that covers their wings and bodies. It’s because of this substance, they’ve a dust-like appearance.
White flies are active during the warm days of the year. And they infest greenhouses and gardens.
They hide in the undersides of the leaves of a wide variety of plant species.
The tender leaves’ undersides allow them to easily feed on the plants’ sap with the help of their sharp mouthparts.
Their feeding behavior can cause extensive damage to plants, causing them to turn pale, wither, and even die.
White flies bite humans too. But those bites are interrogatory bites trying to figure out if the thing they landed on is a plant or not.
So, these flies don’t feed on human blood, and they don’t bite more than once.
Bites occur when you disturb a plant with white flies. And they take off in swarms and land on your face and arms.
White flies’ bites don’t have any side effects apart from a slight pinch or a bit of itching.
How To Protect Yourself From Tiny Flies That Bite?
Wear protective clothing, such as trousers and a full-sleeved shirt, while you’re in their habitat.
Wearing DEET-based skin friendly insect repellents also helps to keep these small biting flies away.
However, the most important thing that you can do to protect yourself from their bites, and to stop them from invading your house, is to remove their habitat.
Eliminate things like standing water, dense bushes, trash, organic wastes, and other potential breeding grounds of these flies.
And maintain cleanliness on the outdoor area of the house such as yard and garden.
Install window screens with fine mesh on the windows during the spring and summer months to prevent these flies from entering the house.
Using nematodes and insecticide sprays on their habitat also helps to kill these flies and their larvae.
If you’ve biting midges or mosquito problem on your property, then you should use mosquito dunks on standing water areas such as swimming pools and ponds.
Severe infestations always need the intervention of a pest controller whom you must hire if you’re facing a ton of biting flies on your property.
Biting midges, minute pirate bugs, horse flies, mosquitoes, and white flies are tiny flying bugs that bite and itch.
Protecting yourself from their bites depends on removing their breeding sites and covering your skin or using insect repellent while at their habitat.
It’s the only mosquitoes that is capable of transmitting diseases. The rest of the biting flies don’t spread any diseases to humans, but their bites are intensely itchy.