Most of us will have experienced the discomfort of being swarmed and bitten by a cloud of midges. It’s enough to ruin any holiday, especially if you’re camping or out walking.
The important thing to remember is that these little nibbling insects don’t need to spoil your summer outdoors. Here’s our fact file along with a few top tips on how to keep the midges at bay.
Midges are most active at dawn and dusk ©Getty
Facts about midges
1. Midges cover a wide group of insects, which include many species of small fly – Their wing span is just 1-2mm.
2. Midges like warm, damp conditions, such as bogs and grasslands in the summer months
3. Populations of midges can reach very high numbers between late spring and late summer, and they are particularly common in the Scottish Highlands.
4. It’s estimated that the Scottish tourist industry loses £268million a year because holidaymakers stay away during midge season.
5. Midges are attracted to the carbon dioxide we breathe out, along with other odours. Once they’ve found a victim they inject an anticoagulant into the blood, so they can then feed off of it. This is what causes the irritation and itching.
6. Unfortunately individuals aren’t often bitten just once, as once they’ve found a food source, midges release pheromones to alert others to join them.
7. Midges can cause severe irritation to human skin and can result in itchy red lumps. However for other animals, such as livestock, midges are responsible for spreading diseases such as blue tongue and African horse sickness, and so the midges can be considered deadly.
Midges may be an irritation to us humans, but they are an important food source for many animals ©Getty
9. Climate change means that the midges are attacking us for longer and in more locations! Their season is extended and they are being found in larger numbers in places such as North Wales, Lake District, Cornwall and Pembrokeshire.
10. The most bloodthirsty species, which is responsible for the most bites in people, is the Highland midge, Culicoides impunctatus.
11. It’s not impossible to eradicate midges all together, and we wouldn’t want to as many species play important roles as prey for animals such as frogs and swallows.
12. Instead we have to just try to avoid them and protect ourselves against them as much as possible – and there are some top tips for doing this.
How to combat midges
Midge head net ©Getty
1. Try to avoid being outside during early mornings and late evenings, as this is when midges are at their worst.
2. If you’re sitting outside try to sit somewhere in the sun and with a breeze, as midges don’t like these conditions.
3. Midges prefer dark clothes, so try dressing as brightly as possible.
4. Midges will only seriously attack you when you’re standing still, so don’t worry too much if you’re out walking – they can’t keep up with you as well.
5. Avoid leaving windows and doors open and the lights on, as this will attract the midges into your house.
The Scottish Highlands are hit particularly badly by midges ©Getty
6. It’s important to always have midge repellent with you. Jungle formula and Smidge are popular, along with an Avon product called Skin So Soft Dry Body Oil, which is accidentally extremely effective against midges.
7. During serious midge infestations, repellent probably won’t be enough and it’s a good idea to invest in a midge net to wear over your face.
8. The Scottish midge forecast can help those planning to head out in Scotland during midge season. The map of Scotland ranks areas of Scotland from 1 (negligible levels) to 5 (nuisance levels).