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No-see-ums storm back on Sanibel with a vengeance after Ian

 Close-up of a no-see-um.
Close-up of a no-see-um.

People working and living on the island say they are worse than before last September’s storm.

Hurricane Ian might have slowed Sanibel’s tourism industry, but it hasn’t blunted the blood-sucking bite of nasty no-see-ums.

People working and living on the island say they are worse than before last September’s storm.

“The no-see-ums they’re unbearable right now,” said Derek Bornhorst. He and his family moved back into their home on the island about six weeks ago.

“If you’re outside, especially mornings, dusks or evenings they’re all over you, but even walking around just during the day it’s hard to escape from them.”

Holy Milbrandt, director of Natural Resources for Sanibel gets reports from her staff out in the field daily. The stories are similar to Bornhorst’s.

“Every time they meet with property owners everybody’s doing the no-see-um dance,” she said.

Hurricane Ian left more than a path of destruction. It created the perfect environment for Sanibel’s best-known pests, after the saltwater receded.

No-see-ums, whose scientific name (Ceratopogonidae) is longer than the stealth bug, is a member of the midge family.

The females do the biting, they need blood meals to lay their eggs, said Joyce Fassbender, a professor of etymology at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Midges don’t do well in saltwater, so Ian’s storm surge gave the island a short reprieve.

Once the waters receded the island became an all-you-can eat buffet.

Ian gave the micro midges a smorgasbord of dead plants, decaying leaves and algae to eat and moist soil to live in.

Unlike mosquitoes, no-see-ums live in the soil and not on the surface making spraying, usually aimed at areas of standing water, ineffective, Fassbender said.

They also replenish rapidly and many of the predators who like to make no-see-ums their meal might have been slow to return, Fassbender said.

Milbrandt didn’t think no-see-ums missed many meals after the storm.

“My experience was that even right after the storm they were bad,” Milbrandt said. “I can recall being out on the island doing structural inspections immediately post storm and they were bad even then.”

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