Bothered by no-see-ums? No-see-um screens will help (although they'll cut down on ventilation). Here's where to get the material.

No-See-Um Screening

If you cruise in an area with no-see-ums (sometimes called sand flies or sand fleas), you know that they are small enough to easily slip through standard screening on your boat.

But where do you find screening that’s fine enough to keep them out?

Actually, just about every fabric store carries no-see-um screen. They just call it by a different name: bridal veil material.

And the bonus is that you can find it almost anywhere in the world — even in fairly small towns in Mexico and Central America (although not the tiniest fishing villages). I’ve seen something similar in markets in East Africa and Mali. It seems women wear wedding veils almost everywhere!

You can get bridal veil material in almost any color you want, not just the traditional white, but black will be the least obvious as you look out your ports and hatches. I’m using white in the photos here as it showed up better.

It’s not the same thing as “netting,” as shown in the photo below – netting is on the left and bridal veil material is on the right. Netting has holes about the same size as standard screen material and won’t stop the no-see-ums.

Bothered by no-see-ums? No-see-um screens will help (although they'll cut down on ventilation). Here's where to get the material.

One thing to note about any screen this fine: it won’t let as much air pass through as regular screens, so you won’t get as good ventilation. Still, it’s much better than totally closing all the ports and hatches, not to mention the companionway.

There are several ways to make no-see-um screens – use whatever works best for various locations on  your boat:

  • Bind the edges and use Velcro to hold them over ports and hatches (make sure there are no gaps in the Velcro for the little devils to slip through)
  • For hatches and the companionway, make loosely fitting nets to go on the outside of the boat (covering the open hatch or companionway doors) and put a 1” hem on all free edges, then use small weights (fishing weights or BBs work well) in the hem to hold them down. The screens that came with Que Tal used this system and I was surprised at how much wind they’d withstand before starting to move. Of course, once the wind picked up, the bugs went away and I could remove the screens.
  • Get replacement screen frames for your hatches and ports (you can often find them used at swap meets) and build a second set of screens for your boat. Exactly how you attach the screen material will depend on the frames.
  • Simply cut sections a little larger than your current screens, remove your screen, wrap the no-see-um material over the screen that’s there and replace the screen. Maybe not the most elegant solution, but quick to implement and usually doesn’t have gaps for bugs to get through.

Got other ideas for making no-see-um screens? Please leave details in the comments.

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21 Comments
  • Mary E Dixon
    Posted at 15 September 2014 Reply

    It’s been on headliner 5 yrs & still good. Easy to open/close hatch.

    • Waterwoman
      Posted at 15 September 2014 Reply

      When we were cruising Mexico, it was used on many boats, most of them just “poofed” it over all the hatches (not sure how they kept it from blowing away). While at anchorages, it was a rather pretty site to see all the flowy, lovely, bridal veil wafting on the various boats. Of course, it didn’t stay bridal white for very long. I eventually sewed it in black onto Sunbrella and used fishing weights to anchor it. BTW, I made the mistake the first year by using beans as an anchor (in a casing)…they disintegrated (while stowed) and went a little buggy.

      Fabric was so very inexpensive at that time and since I was used to buying “yards” it was a bonus to get it in “meters” (39″ instead of 36″).

      Thanks Carolyn for the reminder.

  • Page
    Posted at 15 September 2014 Reply

    I am in the process of making screens and will definitely add the bridal veil in black over top as the screening is stronger. I am edging it in upholstery fabric that I have to give it a more solid edge for the velcro. To weigh it down, I am borrowing an idea I saw on another boat and that was to sew a 2″ hem on the bottom and fill with sand. It kept it evenly weighted and wasn’t bothered by moisture. Wish me luck! 😀

  • Richard Bell
    Posted at 15 September 2014 Reply

    If you don’t mind olive drab, you can get military surplus “skeeta” tents. I recently bought one to make into a companion way cover. Best approximation is about $1.50 per yard of fabric.
    http://www.unclesamsretailoutlet.com/US-Army-Skeeta-Tent-7210015207136-p/414.htm

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 15 September 2014 Reply

      Double check that it’s really fine enough to keep out the no-see-ums. They’re a lot smaller than mosquitoes!

      • Richard Bell
        Posted at 16 September 2014 Reply

        Mosquito netting is often found with 125 holes per square inch. If the holes were square, they would be about 3/32″ square. No-see-um netting often runs about 400 holes per square inch. That gives a hole size of closer to 3/64″, or one fourth of the size of mosquito netting. This military surplus tent has approx. 625 holes per square inch. That’s a little over 1/32″ square or about half the size of run of the mill No-see-um.

        • Carolyn Shearlock
          Posted at 16 September 2014 Reply

          Thanks for that! I didn’t know how big it might be . . . I have a “mosquito net tent” — not military surplus — that isn’t nearly that fine, so I wondered.

  • Jeannie Richter
    Posted at 16 September 2014 Reply

    Following this post…Thanks!

  • boatygirl
    Posted at 16 September 2014 Reply

    Thank you, Carolyn, what a great idea! I will be working on this solution as the no-seeums just love me!

  • Rose Alderson
    Posted at 17 September 2014 Reply

    Thank you!!

  • Rose Alderson
    Posted at 17 September 2014 Reply

    Many thanks to you Mary E Dixon, too!!!

  • Court
    Posted at 04 November 2014 Reply

    I used netting from http://www.mosquitocurtains.com when I made my cockpit screens.

  • Court Crosby
    Posted at 07 March 2016 Reply

    Here is a really good source for netting, and it comes in black so you can see through it better. Not too much demand for black bridal veils.
    https://www.mosquitocurtains.com/

    They have a neat tip to use duct tape for binding. I used gorilla tape and ended up sewing it on, then sewing zippers to the tape. I’ve only used it for two seasons, so I’m not sure how well the tape will last.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 07 March 2016 Reply

      Watch out sewing on sticky tape — it can really gum up your sewing machine. You don’t want to know how I learned that. Or the “sailor words” I used.

  • tami
    Posted at 07 March 2016 Reply

    Sailmaker’s Supply carries it, at 72 inch wide x linear yard:
    http://www.sailmakerssupply.com/product/no-see-um-netting/open-weave-mesh-fabrics

  • Frances Liz Fernandez
    Posted at 21 September 2017 Reply

    Great article! This tip would have come in handy for a recent camping trip in Sebastian Inlet where we became no-seeum buffet.

  • Dolores M. Ik'Nal
    Posted at 21 September 2017 Reply

    We upcycled discarded camping tents’ mosquito nets (which have very small holes), and we created screen frames with plywood for the companion way, and use black Plexiglas as frame for the ports. To hold the net in place I use double sided tape. I tried to use Velcro but it proven to be a pain when storing it. Here is one of the port frames.

  • Dolores M. Ik'Nal
    Posted at 21 September 2017 Reply

    And here is a pic of the companion way boards with the same mosquito net from the discarded camping tents… So far they have work for us.

  • Sandra Renwick
    Posted at 22 September 2017 Reply

    This is my companionway screen made from reg screen material from Home Depot we don’t get no seeums up here but keeps the mosquitoes out for sure it rolls up and out of the way and zips down on both sides

    • Dolores M. Ik'Nal
      Posted at 22 September 2017 Reply

      The problem we encountered when we tried that method is that if the frame is flimsy, it does not always cooperate to close as fast as we want… 🙁

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