Good Question: What Are Those Biting Bugs?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — They are miniature, silent, sneaky little bugs, still snacking on us even in mid-October.

“What exactly are those little black almost gnat-like bugs and where do they come from?” asked Randi Duchene from Faribault.

“I do not recall having gnats like this in the fall here in Minnesota. Why do we have them this year?” asked Vicki Holst from Woodbury.

The strange explosion of fall biting bugs elicited 130 comments on my Facebook page. Mary Alice Kimball wrote, “I work at Oxbow Creek Elementary, the gnats are awful on the playground!”

Melissa Barnes said: “I am being attacked by them!”

“I was outside with my family and they were everywhere,” said WCCO Chief Meteorologist Chris Shaffer. “It felt like mosquitos biting but every time you look there was nothing there. The one time I caught one it looked like that, tiny, little,” he said.

So what are these bugs?

“This is a pretty unique year,” said Mike McLean, spokesman for the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. They treat rivers and streams for the culprit: Black flies, more commonly known as biting gnats or biting midges.

“We’ve got 14 different species of gnats in the Twin Cities and about four of them bite us,” said McLean.

“I’ve been bugged by gnats, these were like ninja gnats,” said Shaffer.

Only the females bite. They need the blood to have the energy to lay eggs. That happens in moving water, like streams and lakes.

“When they get nice and big, they emerge on an air bubble, and launch themselves out of the water,” said McLean. “They’re blood feeders just like mosquitos except not nearly as subtle. What they do is take a chunk out of the skin and feed off of the blood in the little hole they’ve made.”

According to McLean, the counts of biting gnats were fairly low all summer, because MMCD treated the rivers and streams. But the last treatment was in September and no one expected this kind of a warm spell in October.

“There’s a few bugs we didn’t get and it’s really taken off now. But it’s nothing a few really cold nights won’t take care of,” said McLean.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Bp

    If they are all over your screens(like the photo shows) and you have hackberry trees in your yard, then they are most likely “jumping plant lice”. Nasty, but don’t bite, thankfully. We can’t open our windows or they get EVERYWHERE! The hackberry trees are going away this winter!!

    • Brent Johnson

      I live in St. Cloud at the college in the dorms. If they indeed are “jumping plant lice” they sure can get high, because I’m on the 7th floor of my building!

  • What Are Those Black Biting Bugs? « CBS Minnesota

    […] what are they? See the answer to that Good Question here. Share this No comments […]

  • Sue

    Actually they are pirate bugs. We had never seen them before and did our own research. They are definatly NOT gnats. Here is the link:

    • brent

      Wrong Sue; They are obviously centromeos, they emmigrate in with the upper level jet stream and land in the green areas they see. Normally we don’t get them in MN because the jet stream is from the NE spectrum. Please do your research before spouting off.

      • Sue

        Well then we are talking about two different kinds of bugs. The bugs on the website I provided are EXACTLY the same exact bug that is in our back yard that has been biting us.

      • Sue

        Also ,I googled centromeos and nothing pops up, maybe you should do YOUR research.

  • SAM


    They bite me and leave holes. I am allergic to the bite and it has an intense itch.
    They love to be in my hair and the scabs take months to go away. What repels them? What heals the scabs, that itch so bad ? I live in the Western Suburbs and they are really awful. I bought entire net outfit, which helps but it is hot to wear over your head. Idea ?

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