The Rentokil Blog UK

Winter Gnats and Other Biting Insects

Window Gnat by Brian Valentine ( friend recently commented that she had been bitten on the ankles by a mosquito. She thought she spotted a couple of mosquitoes dancing on her wheelie bin. Bearing in mind the frosty temperatures we’re currently experiencing I was a little dubious. A few minutes later I tuned into a radio programme discussing the different biting insects which may have bitten the presenter. Fleas, flies and winter gnats were scrutinised. Curious about what form a winter gnat takes I looked it up and discovered this stunning image by Brian Valentine. With their six spindly legs they can easily be mistaken for a mosquito.

Winter gnats are usually about six to eight millimetres in length with long transparent wings. A winter gnat has only one visible pair of wings, rather than the two pairs of a wasp. The second pair of wings, technically known as halteres, are tiny and beat rapidly during flight, providing stability.

I can’t find any reference to them biting, or having biting mouthparts. However, there’s a lot of folk on the internet claim to have been bitten by them. Could it be that a winter gnat is unfairly mistaken for something more sinister like a painfully biting horse fly or deer fly?

Winter gnats are very common in England. The adults emerge from larvae that live in rotting vegetation such decaying leaves. Fungus gnats can live in the soggy leaves of a houseplant. The larvae can injure the roots of bedding plants and damage stored food such as potatoes.

Winter gnats are abundant throughout the year but are more prevalent in the autumn and winter. They are fond of woodlands and open water and are an important food source for birds, plus fish are not impartial to a snack either. In the winter the male winter gnats gather in large swarms and dance up and down to attract females. The females lay their eggs in decaying wood or other rotten matter and emerge in the spring.

If you have been bitten by a winter gnat, please let us know – we’re curious!

Thanks to Brian Valentine (Lord V) for the amazing photograph posted on Flickr.

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  1. Brigitta
    Posted January 18, 2012 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Very interesting! i too have heard lots of talk on the radio about people talking about seeing wasps and bees and mosquitoes, which were probably winter gnats, having read your post!

  2. Carole
    Posted February 25, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Hi Yes I have been bitten badly by these things, I have been bitten on my legs feet upper legs back shoulders face and arms.

    They make my blood feel like it is boiling, I felt so tired, I have been taken some anti histamine tablets which has helped and stopped the blood feeling so hot, But I am not right and still being bitten. I have stripped my whole house sprayed everywhere and used jungle juice to stop them biting me, however this does not seem to be working. I have made an appointment to see a doctor any thoughts on prevention and has anyone else suffered . C

    I am now getting a reaction where the bites are really swelling up?? has anyone any idea what do do??

  3. Liz
    Posted March 8, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    I to have just been biten by one of these!! I caught the gnat on my leg trying to bite me! After biting me three times already on my foot and ankle! When i first seen it my first thought that it was a small mosquito but im sure it was not and defently a gnat by looking at pictures of theses and comparing it to the gnat i had caught! Their bites are so itchy hot and swollen very like a bite from a mosquito! Cold compress and bite cream has worked to stop the itching and redness!

    • Sally
      Posted April 10, 2013 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      There is something driving us crazy …haven’t seen anything but my son, husband and myself have been bitten to death!!! We are covered in bites legs feet back front shoulders….almost everywhere. I have cleaned, carpets mattresses everything but still they bite. We have no pets either. Wish I could find an answer as they are driving us mad. We do live close to a river so perhaps it is something from there but we cannot see anything but they certainly leave their mark!

  4. Posted April 10, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Sally,

    This is a very tricky one for us and it is extremely difficult for us to get in to insect ID “online”. Have you seen any of the insects? Perhaps we could ID them that way or, alternatively, I would recommend you get a professional survey done.

  5. Eileen Donovan
    Posted September 17, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Every few weeks I get “bitten” on the face during the night. The creature nibbles away the outer pale layer of skin, exposing the flesh underneath. The area affected is about 2 mm – 3mm in diameter. I find blood on my face when I wake in the morning but I feel nothing during the night. I have tried spraying the room with various residual insecticides, but to no avail. Have you any idea what this thing could be, please? I’ve had plenty of bites during my lifetime – here and overseas – but never anything like this.

    • Posted September 18, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Hi Eileen, it’s difficult to speculate what might be causing this issue without a qualified pest control surveyor checking your property. There is a link here to a page on the signs of bed bugs which may help or call us on 0800 218 2210 and we can arrange for a local surveyor to contact you and check your property.

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