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 Elle Draper

Flying Teeth!

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Flying teeth – we have mentioned them a number of times recently. These little biters pack a real punch and, for their size, are the worst critters we have experienced since moving to Spain. A number of you have asked when we were going to write about them… so, to keep the crowds happy, here you go.

Flying Teeth

Some dead flying teeth on a plant pot outside.

These little flying gnashers are known by a number of names: flying teeth, no see-ums, sandflies to mention just a few. They are approximately a millimetre in length, and their wings are double that. Their little bodies are dark, especially when they have gorged on your blood, and the wings are white/grey.

They are apparently “midges”, and any visitors to marshlands around the world will know what a pain they are! Scientifically they are from the ceratopogonidae family, although that seems to be a fairly broad title that extends to any type of small biting critter.

We never came across them in Lanzarote, but since moving to Mainland Spain, we’ve been up close and personal! We have mosquito screens on all of our windows – which is great as it keeps the flies and bees out of the house. But despite the fine mesh, these nasties can still get in.

Flying Teeth - No See Ums

Our bug screen mesh is only 1.2mm in diameter, so you can see from this enlargement how teeny these are

They are especially prevalent just after dusk, and certainly seem attracted to our indoor lamps and computer monitors. They definitely bite – but unlike mosquitos, you don’t always feel them until afterwards. We have been lucky, as despite being eaten alive… they don’t seem to leave a mark. However, some people are violently allergic to them and so it is best not to take any risks. Update: May 2014 – I have been feasted upon by these beggars for the last week or so, and this time am coming up in welts. I don’t know what is different this year to previously but my legs look a mess and the itching is horrendous!

Just like their very distant cousins, these culprits lay their eggs in standing water. We made the mistake of growing a chilli plant on the windowsill… and suffered with high numbers in the house.  However, the worst time we experienced was about a week ago. We had some friends to stay overnight, and whilst outside watching the sun set, a swarm arrived. I swear they send messages out to their mates. Within minutes they had settled on our clothes, our hair, our faces… and any bare patches of skin they could cling on to. Unfortunately they managed to get into the house too – and eating dinner was an experience! You know that Spanish custom of using a piece of bread as a “tapa” over your drink? It works! We all ended up with bread crumbs in our glasses of Vino Collapso, but better that than the pesky flies.

The origin of tapas

The tapas worked well at SpainBuddy Heights last week!
© Albertina Torres

So – how to get rid of them? Well, prevention is better than cure. If you can, avoid having any standing water around that they can lay their eggs in. A chlorinated pool should be ok – they’ll not survive long if they jump in there. But plant pots are lethal (as we discovered) – so try not to have those too close to the house. Bug screens are great – so make sure that you buy one with a very small mesh. Our mesh holes are 1.2mm in diameter, and the flying teeth can still get through. Try perhaps something smaller than 1mm.

Bug spray kills them – but if  you suffer with asthma, then the fumes aren’t going to be great for your lungs. Apparently they don’t like naked flames, although we wouldn’t recommend setting your house alight. Perhaps a couple of citronella candles dotted about may be useful. We haven’t tested with candles ourselves, so would be interested to hear from anyone who has had success with them.

Oh, and don’t be tempted to swipe a group of them from your nice clean wall – they will leave a bundle of blood stripes behind. That’s YOUR blood by the way!

Certainly wear long sleeves and cover your legs as much as you can – even if it is only a light covering – they can’t get through fabric.

If you have pets, we would highly recommend that you get them some form of anti-bug products. We use Scaribor collars for our boys from March to October. These can be purchased in a variety of places online, or in pet shops.

Good luck!

Whilst researching these blighters – we also came across this article by Ric Polansky. Sounds like he has suffered too ;)

30 Responses to Flying Teeth!

  1. chris webb October 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Glad we don’t get them up here, doesn’t sound like fun at all !

    We are however going through a phase of flying ants and daddy long leg’s but at least they don’t bite !

  2. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 8, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    You’re even further inland than we are… so you’re lucky.

    Flying ants are horrible things! Boiling water – that sorts ’em! As for Daddy Long Legs – I vomit at the thought of spiders (nausea not fear) but I have no problems with those. Used to get swarms of them when I was a child.

    Elle x

  3. Phil Ballard October 8, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    Very much relate to this! When we have on an outside light – on the terrace, for example – we’ll often see the white-painted wall behind the light covered in thousands of such things. There are normally 2 or 3 ‘duty lizards’ treating it as a buffet. Wish they’d eat more.
    Various neighbours have, rather than the usual wall lights, bright spotlights up on high poles that illuminate their terraces from a distance – the idea, I guess, being to keep the little buggers away as they circle the light.
    Anyway, just a the moment we seem to be entering ‘moth season’ instead ….

  4. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 8, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    Ah yes… the lizards. Sadly, we don’t see them these days as the eldest dog enjoys eating them too much. Manhandled one from him the othr day but I was too late to save the little fella.

    Interesting about the tall lights. Our neighbours have streetlights in their gardens (someone got a backhander for that somewhere I think).

  5. Sue Sharpe (@suesharpe1) October 8, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    six cloves soaked in 200ml (surgical) alcohol for five days – remove cloves – add 200ml baby oil shake and apply via spray – have hardly been bitten at all this summer – and I smell like Christmas! :-)

  6. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Ah – natural ingredients! Might give that a try. I have to be careful with perfumed lotions and potions. x

  7. Val Dawson October 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Oh, wow, those seem absolutely awful!! I guess I shouldn’t complain so much about the mosquitoes that have been biting me in Mexico!

  8. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 8, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    I have to say that I’d rather have these than mozzies… but I couldn’t get over the swarms we’ve had!!
    Slap on your antihistamines Val – and thanks for stopping by! x

  9. Matt May October 8, 2013 at 11:14 pm

    Not come across these varmints yet, I’m guessing that they are dormant in the winter months which tends to be when we’re in Spain. Actually there were mosquitoes around in December around Valencia, but they seemed to be somewhat lethargic.

  10. wanderingeducators October 9, 2013 at 1:35 am

    UGH. do they itch, the bites?

  11. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas October 9, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Ugh, I can’t with bugs!!! I was eaten alive by mosquitoes last night, and I’m now remember the cockroach I saw in the shower of my gym and the bedbugs we got a few years ago. Plus the geckos and the feral cats….yuck!

  12. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Yes, we don’t see them in the winter here. We only really had them at our place in Autumn, although other people had them throughtout the spring and summer too. Damn that chilli plant!

  13. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 9, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I have to say that they’ve not bothered me… but I know plenty of people who have a “reaction” to them.

  14. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 9, 2013 at 10:14 am

    Ah… if you can’t live around cockroaches, then don’t move to Lanzarote – they’re pretty much part of the landscape there. In one complex we lived in, the complex managers used to spray the drains to keep them at bay.
    Bedbugs? Vile!!!!

  15. Terry at Overnight New York October 10, 2013 at 2:43 am

    What nasty little critters — and blood-suckers to boot. Thanks for the explainer — they really do look like teeth.

  16. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

    Nasty little critters indeed!!! x

  17. Mary @Green Global travel October 15, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Ugh, we call them no-see-ums and they are nasty little bugs. I like the name Flying Teeth better- much more accurate!

  18. Larissa October 15, 2013 at 7:32 am


  19. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 15, 2013 at 9:40 am

    We have still been getting swarms of these things – between 8pm and 10:30pm every night. There must be some standing water somewhere in our little hamlet – but we just can’t find it! Urgh!

  20. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 15, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Shudder indeed!!!

  21. Lenox October 13, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    The middle picture is of another pest, the fly that is decimating the chumbo cactus: the cochineal fly. It doesn’t do anything much, beyond flying, in clouds, into one’s mouth and eyes.
    The midge, the no-see-um of your article, spreads leishmaniasis which is very dangerous for dogs.

  22. Jon Paxton October 14, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    When you say the chumbo cactus, is that the broad leafed variety that produces the prickly pear? We have had that particular blighter since the early warmth of spring. Lot of cactus around here not in a very healthy condition, so I’m guessing that is what is responsible for our plague of creatures, cochineal fly, thanks for the name! Can it be eradicated, and with what?

  23. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper October 14, 2015 at 3:50 pm

    That’s the one, yes. Apparently soapy water will get rid of it. Unfortunately… unless your neighbours are all doing the same, you’re fighting a losing battle. E x

  24. MollyB July 10, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    Hello, the very very very tiny black bug that are biting me don’t have wings like in your photos. They seem to be 1/2mm in length and half that in width. Boy do their bite hurt!! I don’t seem to get them indoors thank God.

  25. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper July 11, 2016 at 9:21 am

    They sounds like midges too.
    I’m currently plagued with the ones in my photos indoors at night. I didn’t realise that living in a town we’d still suffer with them, but my bare arms seem to attract them like a drug! If I close the windows it’s too hot… but if I open them we get bitten. Grrr!
    E x

  26. Mandy August 28, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I use smoking citronella cones (bought off Amazon) they are great. Very strong smell. I have breathing problems but these do not affect me in any way. Worth a go!

  27. Roger August 28, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    We’ve found that electric zappers (obtainable from Chinese bazaars) are very effective. As soon as dusk approaches my wife looks as though she’s practicing for Wimbledon but very comforting to hear the zap zap zap!

  28. Elle Draper
    Elle Draper August 28, 2016 at 5:47 pm

    We have one of those too. x

  29. Tracy June 11, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    I was bitten 9 times the other night. Now im covered in big red puffy marks with puss coming out. Really itchy. I might have to try spraying apple cider vinegar and water around the house. And keep arms and legs covered.

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