UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail:  indianco@ufl.edu 

Quick Links:   Tiddlewink  life cycle   management ideas   References    

August 17, 2005

Feature Article - for release the week of August 21, 2005

Dan Culbert  - Extension Horticulture Agent

Chizzywinks are Blind Mosquitos

A recent caller asked us a question that really challenged our staff, and it could only come from a person living in Okeechobee:  “How do you get rid of tiddlywinks?”  I had to consult some of more experienced Extension agents, and surprise – and we were able to come close to a response.  Dennis The Menace plays Tiddly Winks

At first I asked the caller if he really meant “tiddley winks”.  For those English teachers out there, tiddley winks could be either a children’s board game played with poker chips or Tiddleywink, an obscure hamlet in England. 

  I did find a reference to a “chizzywink” - a fictitious creature in a children’s story a Tony Johnson.  None of these seemed a suitable response from a county agent. 

Veteran Okeechobee Extension Agent Pat Miller suggested, “Maybe he does mean chizzywinks?”   “Yes - that’s what I mean” the caller replied.  And that continued to confuse me - until Pat explained that the caller was probably referring to an insect common to interior Florida – the aquatic midge, which is know locally as a chizzywink – a good subject for this weeks featured article.

A review of the information found in UF Entomologist’s Phil Koehler’s bulletin on aquatic midges can provide some background on these water born nuisances. And if locals want a more lively approach, consider reserving a seat in Thursday’s upcoming workshop, Pond Appeal: St. Lucie Agent Ken Gioeli will be discussing Blind Mosquito management as part of the program.

Blind mosquitoes do not bite, suck blood, or carry disease. Because they can live in aquatic habitats that have less than pristine ponds and canals, they can be an indicator of poor water quality. Around here, when they emerge in large clouds of flying “chizzywinks”, these flies are a nuisance, except to fishermen seeking Blue Gills which consume these bugs as food.

Chizzywinks begin life as masses of eggs laid on the surface of ponds lakes and canals.   The lava hatch and burrow into the muck at the bottom of the water, and feed on decaying organic matter. They are pink to deep red in color, and are consequently called blood-worms.  In two to seven weeks they emerge in swarms at night. These flies do not feed during their adult existence, and will mate and die in 3 to 5 days.

Adult Chizzywinks, collected north of Vero Beach. Photo by Dan Culbert

Blind Mosquito Life Cycle (Clockwise from mid right: egg mass, larva, pupa, adults-male, left, female, right). Drawing from UF/IFAS Bulletin ENY-231

White masses of Aquatic midge eggs float on pond surfaces.  Photo courtesy Ken Gioeli

There are actually two types of aquatic midges:  blind mosquitoes and predatory phantom midges.  They both look alike.  The blind mosquito larva live in tubes at the bottoms of ponds.  Larva of the predatory phantom midges - the ones that have been the biggest headache - float over the bottom of the pond preying.  As adults, they both behave the same.

As more homes are built near water, and as water takes on nutrients from fertilizers, more concerns with chizzywinks appear.  Here in Florida , blind mosquitoes may emerge in phenomenal numbers between April and November.  Often outdoor activity is cut off since the adult midges can be inhaled or fly into the mouth, eyes, or ears.  Near buildings, chizzywinks can the stick to screens, car and truck finishes, and get inside through open doors and windows.  They can stain some paint surfaces and as they decompose they will smell like rotten fish.

Ken Gioeli has had several calls from the Port St.Lucie area asking for relief.  He’s come up several management suggestions  with assistance from UF Midge Specialist Dr. Arshad Ali that can help deal with Chizzywinks which can also be used in our area:

·        By following UF fertilizer recommendations for Florida Yards, homeowners and landscape managers can reduce the amount of nutrient runoff into ponds and canals.  These nutrients encourage aquatic midge breeding in ponds and canals.

·        StrikeTM pellets are being used in stormwater ponds to provide a 30-day release of the active ingredient methoprene.  This insect growth regulator (IGR) mimics natural insect biochemicals and prevents the development of larvae into adults.  By stopping the reproductive cycle, mature insects die within 10 to 14 days.  This product may be too expensive for use by individual homeowners.

·        Light traps have been used to reduce the numbers of blind mosquitoes.  They should be placed away from buildings where you don’t want these insects to visit.  Likewise, reduce the use of night lighting where you don’t want blind mosquitoes.Bluegill

·        Some reduction of blind mosquitos may result from stocking ponds with bug-eating fish. Research on other forms of biological control methods may come up with some other critters that will eat these flies or their larva.

·        Individual homeowners can get temporary relief by using approved foggers, aerosols or residual surface sprays.

Finally - be patient: most of these management suggestions will take time to work.  Remember that they are fish food.  Chizzywinks will go away a few days after the height of the swarm, and will not be an issue in cooler weather.  So if they really start to get to you, take that trip to Tiddlewink , England , play Tiddlywinks with your kids, or stay indoors and read a good book.

To find more about blind mosquitos, readers can review Ken’s website, which I’ve added as a link on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu. If you need additional information on blind mosquitos, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee, and visit our Okeechobee County Master Gardeners from 1 to 5 PM on Tuesday afternoons.  


Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Millie Ferrer, Interim Dean Last update: 04/12/2010 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert  Hit Counter



Eversole, Chris.  "UF Researcher Tricking Pesky  Insects into Self-destructing".  Gainesville: UF/IFAS News,  Jan. 30, 1998      http://www.napa.ufl.edu/98news/midges.htm.  

Gioeli, Ken.  Aquatic Midge Management website. Fort Pierce: St. Lucie County Extension Service, August 2005. http://kgioeli.ifas.ufl.edu/aquaticmidges.htm 

Kantner, Steve.  "Panster Panache: Tricks to take big bream on fly."   Palm Coast: Florida Sportsman Magazine, 2005.  [How fish react to chizzywinks]. http://www.floridasportsman.com/flyfishing/F_0405_panster/

Koehler, P. G. Blind Mosquitoes (Aquatic Midges) ENY-231. Gainesville: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, April 2003 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IG092


Johnson, Tony.  The Chizzywink and the Alamagoozlum New York: Holiday House, 1998.    Boook Cover: The Chizzywink & the Alamagoozlum