Do Gnats Bite?

Image source: Wikipedia

Do gnats bite? Yes, they sure do, they can bite, although they have smaller mouths with cutters that limit them to cutting only your skin. However, their bite can still draw blood.

Gnats are tiny flying insects that can be incredibly annoying. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about gnats and their bites.

What Are Gnats?

But let starts at the very beginning. What are gnats?

The word “gnat” makes reference to the dipterid suborder of insects known as Nematocera, mostly those in the families Sciaridae, Mycetophilidae, and Anisopodidae.

Gnat is really a very loose term and not a technical denomination for these insects.

Girls blush, sometimes, because they are alive, half wishing they were dead to save the shame. The sudden blush devours them, neck and brow; they have drawn too near the fire of life, like gnats, and flare up bodily, wings and all. What then? Who’s sorry for a gnat or girl? – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

There are gnats that bite and others that do not. For some scientists, only the flying insects that do not bite can be considered gnats. There is no scientific consensus over this and, indeed, the popular definition of gnats includes both flying insects that bite and those that do not.

Image source: Wikipedia

So, the answer to whether gnats bit or do not will depend on your own definition of gnats. For most people, gnats are those that bite and those that do not.

Gnats are often assembled in big swarms (often known as ghosts), particularly as it is getting dark.

Swarming gnats can get in the way of fun outdoor activities such as picnics or swimming pool parties. But they can also be found indoors, usually in relatively dark and damp places such as kitchens or bathroom. But single gnats can also buzz around your face as you are trying to fall asleep or even as you are sitting or laying reading a book or watching Netflix.

It is hard to be patient with gnats around. They are indeed a nuisance and when they bite they can be even worse than that!

Which Gnats Do Bite?

Because the term gnat is not scientific but colloquial, many different tiny flying insects are often grouped as gnats. Most of the insects that people would call gnats are actually considered to be just flies. And we have seen, some do bite while others do not.

Image source: Wikipedia

The kinds of gnats that do not bite human beings just feed on decaying plant life (so they will not bite on your healthy houseplants or your garden greenery) or on other insects. Those gnats will just be slightly annoying but nothing to worry about. Others, however, feed on the blood of mammals, including human beings, but also dogs and cats, for instance. Usually, it is the female in the species that bite but, of course, it is impossible for us to distinguish being male and female gnats.

The reason why it is female gnats that feed on the blood of mammals is that they need a substantial meal before they can lay their eggs.

Biting gnats can be divided into the following kinds:

Can We Recognize Gnat Bites?

There are differences between the bites of gnats and those of mosquitoes. The bites of gnats are far worse than those by mosquitoes. The differences between both can be easily seen (and felt).

Biting gnats are able to slice the skin of mammals open with their mouths, so they can easily suck up blood. And while they are sucking up blood they inject an anti-clotting agent into the cut. Making four simultaneous cuts into the skin and injecting an agent that prevents blood from clotting allows them to draw large quantities of blood from mammals, including human beings.

How can this be felt? Because of everything that we have been saying, gnat bites (or fly bites) hurt a lot more than mosquito bites. When it comes to human beings, gnats tend to bite in exposed, uncovered skin areas. Usually, those bits happen on the neck, forearms, head, legs, and hands.

Image source: Wikipedia

What are the symptoms of being bit by a gnat? The symptoms vary depending of the kind of gnat or flying gnat doing the biting. But, generally, the symptoms are just a brief pinprick resulting in a small red spot in the bitten area followed by itchiness. The itchiness may get worse with time and some swelling may even take place.

Infection is also likely, particularly, if you scratch the area. This can usually be avoided by not scratching the bitten area. But, if the swelling gets worse and pus appears, then the bite has either become infected or the person who has been bitten is experiencing an allergic reaction. Often, these symptoms will subside in a few days but if they do not or if they get worse, then the person who was bitten should go to the doctor.

Do They Carry Disease?

Some people worry about potential diseases carried by gnat bites. But this worry is mostly unfounded.

Gnats who bite mammals, including human beings, do not usually carry disease. Having said that, the gnat known as eye gnat has been known to spread pinkeye (conjunctivitis). They do this to both human beings and livestock.

But that is the only infection that could happen to humans. Other gnats can spread disease in livestock. For instance, biting midges can transmit the so-called Blue Tongue virus to livestock, while deer flies can transmit tularemia. But these viruses, more prevalent in the Western region of the United States, do only affect livestock and never human beings.

Gnats can become a serious problem but they can be easily tackled with professional extermination techniques.

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