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Insect Highlight: Chironomidae - Midges

Ready for another Insect Highlight?! Read the blog below to learn more about the family Chironomidae! Also known as the non-biting midges, these insects may be tiny but their importance to aquatic ecosystems is significant.

Written by: Hope Chappuis

Midges, in the family Chironomidae, are small, winged flies that have much in common with mosquitos, with one important difference: midges do not have a proboscis, or elongated mouthpart. This makes them the mosquitos’ “kind twin,” as they do not bite or feed on human blood. 

How do I identify a Midge?

Midge larvae are long and worm-like. The easiest way to identify them is by their two sets of prolegs. Prolegs are small, fleshy limbs that are on the underside of an insect’s abdomen. Midge larvae have one set near their head and another near their rear. The wings on adult stages can look like tiny panes of glass, and adult male midges typically have fluffy antennae that look like two little feathers sticking out of their heads. 

Where can I find Midges?

Chironomidae can be found in a vast array of aquatic habitats around the world. You can spot them on rocks, around vegetation, and in temporary water pools. In the winter, they are commonly found on snowy riverbanks.

Quick-fire Fun Facts

  • Chironomids are an important food source for birds and fish. They are like a mini-protein bar for trout and salmon, especially during winter months when few other insects are active.

  • Midge larvae can be bright red in color due to a form of hemoglobin in their hemolymph or insect blood! This allows their blood to bind oxygen in low oxygen conditions. 

  • Midges can be an important indicator of water quality. If certain species are absent, it might be a sign of poor quality or polluted water. 

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