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Summary: The tiny punkie or biting gnat, flies in your face, up your nose and is generally a bother, especially when it is biting.

You may not see a punkie even if it's right in front of your face, that's why punkies also answer to the name no-see-ums. These teeny-tiny, less than a quarter-inch long, biting midges love to visit you at night for some good old blood sucking fun; it's the petite, but thirsty, females who slip in through the window screens looking for blood by the way, not the males.

No, those sweet little guys are frolicking in the meadow looking for nectar while Vampira and her girlfriends chomp away on you and your pets until they burp. The females also feed on nectar but need high levels of protein in their blood to make their eggs mature. It's nothing personal.

Besides your house, punkies can be found in natural ground covers or shrubs and if you have a swarm of punkies nearby, you can be pretty sure the breeding area is no more than 350 feet away from you. Moist dead leaves - maybe the ones you raked but never bagged - are their favorite place to put down roots, raise kids and hang out and have fun. If you kick that old leaf pile you'll suffer the consequences: nasty gnawing gnats nibbling on your knuckles and other body parts. Ouch! Don't do it.

When punkies get the urge to mate, they fly up into a wild cloud of passion and bump into each other. Boink. Some very love-struck punkies will pursue a female right through the screen and into your bedroom. While Miss Punkie is biting you, Mr. Punkie is having his way with her. Luckily they are quiet so you don't hear a thing, you keep sleeping until you touch your neck and it's unbearably itchy. Then your arm starts to itch, your leg, and other places I won't go into but they will.

At breakfast, you ask your partner, "Did you see anything flying around in the bedroom last night, I'm bitten to death." They say, "No didn't see anything." You ask, "Are you sure?" They say: "Yes, No- see-um."

(Apparently a long time ago, another couple had a similar conversation, which is why these little buggers go by two cutesy names, as if one wasn't enough.)

A punkie bite can cause an allergic reaction in some people, burning, itching, swelling and bruising, but the worst part about punkies is they can carry bacteria and parasites. In some areas of Africa, South America and the Caribbean, punkies have been the cause of spreading filarial worms in humans. You do not want a filarial worm taking up residence under your skin. Other punkie victims have acquired infections, run high fevers and suffered from diseases like leishmaniasis. You won't want this disease either. Lucky for us in the US (so far, fingers crossed) only livestock seem to be sickened by the punkie's puny bite.

To keep punkies from claiming your home and your body: Clean up any part of your yard that has standing water and rotting vegetation; Fix all screens that have holes! (Not with duct tape either.); Replace screens if necessary as punkies can pass through 16-mesh insect screen; Keep a fan on at night to blow them away from your sleeping body; Spray screens with repellent; Wear footed pajamas; Smack them silly with your hand; (RIP), then pray to the bug gods that they will leave you and your blood alone.

When you've had it with these naughty gnats, when you've tried every reasonable way to eliminate them from your home your life and your bed, seek out a pest professional with experience in punkies or no-see-ums: Experts who can "see-um" and have access to safe but powerful sprays that will have the punkies DOA ASAP. OK?

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