Other Common Names
Blind Mosquitoes, Common Midges
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Explanation of Names
Chironomidae Newman 1834
is from Old English mycg[e]
'small fly' (traced to the Indo-European *mu-
, 'small fly' from which the Greek and Latin words for 'fly' also evolved
>1050 spp. in our area(1)
; almost 7300 spp. in ~540 genera worldwide(2)
mostly 1-10 mm; males of Chironomus plumosus to 13 mm
Small, delicate flies, resemble mosquitoes but do not bite. Often "dance" in the air in large swarms over water or lawns. At rest, characteristically hold their front legs above head-height and extended forward, giving the illusion of elongate antennae to the untrained eye.
Other family characters(3)(4)
wings long and narrow, without scales (wings of mosquitoes have scales)
males have long, feathery (plumose
often very long
wing tip without a straight vein reaching margin between two branched veins
Comprehensive keys to genera (both adults & larvae) in(5)
; other keys to larvae: Canada(6)
To improve your chances for an ID beyond Tribe, see closeup picture requests
Worldwide, from Antarctica to the high Arctic islands, but perhaps absent from some hot deserts.
Usually damp areas, or near bodies of water. Larvae mostly aquatic; a few occur in decaying matter, under bark or in moist ground. Larvae of some species tolerate seasonal desiccation.
Early spring through fall in temperate areas; Diamesinae and a few members of Orthocladiinae fly in winter.
Larvae mostly scavengers. Most Tanypodinae prey on small invertebrates, including other Chironomidae. Larvae of a few species are parasites of invertebrates (a South American genus parasitizes fish).
Adults are short-lived and do not need to feed. Many will take sugar water (or honeydew) given the opportunity.
Larvae are mostly aquatic filter feeders, often living in tubes in soft mud; some are leaf-miners of aquatic plants.
Eggs - Larva - Pupa
The haemolymph of the red Chironomus larvae, called "bloodworms," contains hemoglobin, unusual for insects. Larvae are often very abundant and are an important food item for many freshwater fish and other aquatic animals.