No-See-Um Screening

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2014 • all rights reserved

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.

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

    • 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.

  2. 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! 😀

  3. Richard Bell says:

    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.

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

      • Richard Bell says:

        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.

  4. Following this post…Thanks!

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

  6. Thank you!!

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

  8. I used netting from when I made my cockpit screens.

  9. Court Crosby says:

    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.

    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.

  10. Sailmaker’s Supply carries it, at 72 inch wide x linear yard:

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