Biting midges can be a nuisance to campers, fishermen, hunters, hikers, gardeners, and others who spend time outdoors during early morning and evenings, and even during the daytime on cloudy days when winds are calm. They will readily bite humans; the bites are irritating, painful, and can cause long-lasting painful lesions for some people.
A common observation upon experiencing a bite from this insect is that something is biting, but the person suffering can not see what it is. Biting midges are sometimes incorrectly referred to as sand flies. Sand flies are insects that belong to a different biological group and should not be confused with the biting midges.
There are over 4,000 species of biting midges in the Ceratopogonidae family, and over 1,000 in just one genus, Culicoides. The distribution of midges in the genus Culicoides is world-wide; 47 species are known to occur in Florida. Species belonging to the genus Leptoconops occur in the tropics, sub-tropics, the Caribbean, and some coastal areas of southeast Florida.
The natural habitats of biting midges vary by species. Areas with substantial salt marsh habitat are major producers of many biting midge species. Additional sources for some species, like the bluetongue virus vector Culicoides sonorensis Wirth and Jones, include highly organic soil that is wet but not underwater such as those found with high manure loads in swine-, sheep- and cattle-farming operations. These insects do not establish inside homes, apartments, or inside humans or other animals.