Singaporeans have, of late, become somewhat acquainted with Chironomidae, a family of nematoceran flies whose aquatic larvae trigger the appetites of captive fish as well as the immune systems of individuals with an acute sensitisation to oxygen-rich pigments. Adult bloodworms may also affect individuals who muck about in freshwater marshes, but otherwise pose little threat to humanity, save when they erupt en masse from eutrophic waterbodies to sow terror in suburbia and fuel the paranoia of a population already at odds with the natural and native elements of life beyond a living.
The systematic distinctions between midges and mosquitoes probably matter little to park visitors who double as unwilling donors to blood-sucking dipterans. There is also small comfort in the fact that their minute tormentors are, in turn, bugged by pests who pick on creatures several times their size. Female mosquitoes, whose thirst for animal protein adds unwanted buzz to urban wetlands and coastal swamps, engorge themselves on tetrapod corpuscles and suffer for their efforts the stabs of ceratopogonid midges that plunge dainty mouthparts into culicid vessels.
Also known as biting midges, ceratopogonids are tiny insects that inhabit damp areas, including tropical beaches, and usually escape notice until they land on the hides of vertebrate hosts. The bites of genera such as Culicoides and Leptoconops are noted to be highly unpleasant, resulting in prolonged itchiness, and it is likely that many attribute the results of their attacks to sandflies in sensu stricto, namely psychodids in the genera Phlebotomus and Sergentomyia, which may not be actually present in the country, or garden-variety mosquitoes, which they somewhat resemble. Neither blame nor blessing, therefore, accrue to these flies, which are happy to ignore man for the most part, sipping nectar when not consumed by gravidity and serving as unwitting vectors of pleasure, being pollinators of fruit divine as well as the trees that secrete the raw materials for safe thrusts.
Entomophagy, or more correctly, ectoparasitism, is the hallmark of one ceratopogonid subfamily, Forcipomyiinae, many of whose members feed off lacewings, caterpillars, orthopterans, stick insects, blister beetles, moths, butterflies and odonates. One species has become the dipteran equivalent of ticks, while another, undescribed, Forcypomyia is said to dine only on freshly dispatched termites that are thought to be the sole prey of a tiny Ecuadorian spider. How female forcipomyiines sidestep the appetites of fast and formidable victims is unclear; palpable numbers plagued a female Orthetrum and male Libellago daviesi by a brook near Duloduo in North Sulawesi, which bristled with endemic chlorocyphids, metallic blue demoiselles, gaudy coenagrionids, and green-eyed libellulids. Do the midges, to run this aerial gauntlet, emit some signal of discouragement that renders their prey docile while their veins are pierced and haemolymph possessed? Or do they home in only after dark, when there is a lower chance of having the tables turned on them and little room, perhaps, for the nursing of fancies that remain captive to shadow and shroud?