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Interpreting spatial patterns in the abundance of species over time is a fundamental cornerstone of ecological research. For many species, this type of analysis is hampered by datasets that contain a large proportion of zeros, and data that are overdispersed and spatially autocorrelated. This is particularly true for insects, for which abundance data can fluctuate from zero to many thousands in the space of weeks. Increasingly, an understanding of the ways in which environmental variation drives spatial and temporal patterns in the distribution, abundance and phenology of insects is required for management of pests and vector-borne diseases. In this study, we combine the use of smoothing techniques and generalised linear mixed models to relate environmental drivers to key phenological patterns of two species of biting midges, Culicoides pulicaris and C. impunctatus, of which C. pulicaris has been implicated in transmission of bluetongue in Europe. In so doing, we demonstrate analytical tools for linking the phenology of species with key environmental drivers, despite using a relatively small dataset containing overdispersed and zero-inflated data. We demonstrate the importance of landcover and climatic variables in determining the seasonal abundance of these two vector species, and highlight the need for more empirical data on the effects of temperature and precipitation on the life history traits of palearctic Culicoides spp. in Europe.