- Along Barnegat Bay, there is an insect most commonly mistaken as a mosquito called the
midge. The midge belongs to the family of flying insects called CHIRONOMIDAE. They are small
(some are very small), delicate, and somewhat mosquito-like in appearance (See figure 1). The
larvae of midges are aquatic, living in the soft organic bottoms of bays, lakes, ponds, even lagoons.
The adults often occur in swarms in areas near to their larval aquatic habitat. Although harmless
and non-biting, chironomid midges are readily attracted to lights and some can easily penetrate
ordinary window screens. Bay-front homes, sporting facilities, recreational areas and businesses
can be blanketed with the insects after times of peak emergence. Since they have a short life span
the accumulation of dead midges around a home can cause some distress. Because of these reasons,
midges become a matter of public concern.
- While the Chironomid midge family has about 670 North American species, they all have
the same general life cycle.
- The life cycle consists of the egg, 4 larval instars (growth stages), the pupa, and the free-
- The eggs are dropped in masses (up to 2,000 - 3,000 eggs) onto the surface of the water.
Here they absorb water, swell and eventually sink to the bottom. Young larvae hatch and are
usually mobile. Eventually they build silken tubes to live in and dwell within the first 2-3” of
fine muck bottom. Algae, plankton and detritus serve as a food source for larval nudge. This
larbal stage constitutes the longest part of the life cycle, lasting from several days to over a
month long in some cases.
- Larvae cease feeding at the end of the larval stage and pupate within their tubes. (The
pupa stage is similar to the cocoon stage of a butterfly). The pupa rise from the tubes and actively
swim about before rising to the surface for emergence into the adult stage. Adults fly with the
wind to the nearby shores where males form swarms. Females fly up into the swarms, where they
are clasped by the male to mate and upon release, return toward the water. The females die shortly
after egg deposition living only a few days. Although there are generally synchronous emergences
of adults resulting in peak nuisance numbers, first generation emerges with the warmer
temperatures of spring, followed by two or more generations during the summer months.
- The intensity of the midge populations seem to fluctuate from year to year probably due
to the difference in weather or environmental conditions.
- In Ocean County, there seems to be 2 main areas of midge occurrence:
- 1. Tuckerton Lake and other area lakes - Around area lakes, at the end of March we see an
emergence of midges. They are a fresh water species occurring only within the lake and stream
ecosystem. Fortunately, there is only one brood a season and the adults are generally short-
lived and thereby present themselves as a nuisance for only a short time.
- 2. North Barnegat Bay - This is the section of Ocean County most greatly effected by
midges. This area encompasses the mainland from the south bank of the Toms River to the
Metedeconk River and the barrier Island from Mantoloking to Island Beach State Park.
- Within these areas, the bayfront properties (or within a few blocks) are the most affected
by adult midges. Since the adults are so greatly influenced by the wind, depending on the wind
direction, they will be more predominant on one side of the bay or the other. The adult problems
arise here due to the expance of breeding habitat. These midges are breeding in the bottom of
Barnegat Bay and possibly the Toms River and some lagoons.
- Control of midges has been very ineffective. There has been attempts at control of both
the larval stage and the adult stage throughout the country and here in Ocean County. Nearly all
attempts at control have yielded poor results at the best because of the types of habitat that they
breed in and their habits once they are adults.
- The problems with larval control are that in general the larvicides available are relatively
ineffective against midges. This is probably because they are protected within their tubes in the
soft mud and the pesticide is diluted by the large amounts of water in the breeding habitat. In
Ocean County this problem is compounded by the fact that the larvae are actually in Barnegat
Bay and no pesticide could be sprayed into the bay waters for the obvious environmental reasons.
- Likewise, adult control is also nearly as impossible. The adult midges tend to congregate
on the lee-side of any obstruction (ie., Homes, bushes, cars, etc.). Therefore any types of areawide
spray, even aerial spraying, does not reach the adults where they are swarming, and thus has no
effect. An additional problem is that since the adults are continuously emerging and replacing any
that would be killed, any reduction would be short lived. Area type spraying has been tried in
many areas around the country and here in Ocean County with virtually no success.
- All things considered, the most effective measures against midges, are ones that the
homeowners can do themselves. Most of these do not require the use of pesticides.
- 1. Avoid outdoor and bright lighting near open windows. Midges are attracted to light
and would be more likely to come in a window by a light.
- 2. Close windows on the lee-ward side of house. Remember - they are trying to get out
of the wind. So make it less accessible for them in these areas.
- 3. Spray resting & swarming midges with water from a garden hose & nozzle. Water
pressure out of such a nozzle can kill resting midges. This will give some temporary relief
from the adults that are swarming on structures and wash away the dead ones.
- 4. Temporary spraying of swarming midges. Spray swarming midges and yard area with
“Yard Guard” or other area type spray. (Use as directed on the label.) This will kill the existing
adult midges just as #3 above, however, this becomes more expensive than using a hose and water.
- 5. Residual spray of resting areas using insecticides. Spray resting areas such as bushes,
grass. etc. where adult midges would rest, with a more residual pesticide such as Malathion. This
can be purchased at a hardware or home & garden center over the counter for homeowners use.
Follow the directions for treating adult flies. This should control the midges that are there and
provide some residual to kill incoming midges for awhile.
- 6. Use repellents on screens. Applying repellents to screens may keep midges from
trying to rest in these areas, and penetrating the screens.
Pupa - Larvae - and Adult of the Midge