Midge biting season
Midge season is in full swing in Scotland and you may have noticed a viral video showing a hillwalker engulfed in a massive swarm in the Cairngorms. Every summer the Highland midge is the scourge of outdoor activities as camping holidays and countryside adventures often result in a rash of nasty bites. As the female insects near the end of their life cycle, they desperately seek blood meals to lay eggs, which is bad news for tasty humans. Luckily, there are no midge borne diseases associated with humans in Scotland but the best way to avoid scratching for weeks is to arm yourself with knowledge. Our Highland midge fact sheet and infographic outline the key ways in which you can protect yourself.
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Although there are around 14,000 species of midge around the world, the Highland biting midge found in the north and west of Scotland is the most likely to attack. The wingspan of the Highland midge is tiny compared to mosquitoes, just 1.4m, but if you can get close enough, you can identify them by their distinctive dark wing markings.
If you have wondered why midges seem drawn to humans, it is because they find the carbon dioxide in our breath irresistible. Midges can detect their favourite gas from 200 metres away and their ideal meal times are between 5am and 9am in the morning and 6pm and 11pm in the evening. To avoid their company, stay inside at dawn and dusk.
When a Highland midge targets you for its dinner, they eat in a different way to mosquitoes, cutting the skin in a scissor-like biting action and sucking up the blood through a feeding tube – just like a straw. Although the technique is gruesome, it would take a swarm of around 20 million midges to drain the blood from the body of a person.
The Highland midge hates sunbathing and instead it thrives in shaded, damp places such as woodlands and marshes. Their activity is highest in temperatures between 8-18°C but they don’t like direct sunlight so if you want to avoid them, get out and catch some rays.
Breezy does it
You know that annoying buzzing sound? That’s the sound of tiny wings beating at 1,000 beats per second! Midges have the fastest beating wings in the animal kingdom but despite their speed, tiny wings mean that even a slight breeze can throw a midge off track. Where wind speed is higher than 2.5 metres per second, midges are blown off course so calm camping spots should be avoided.
Lights mean bites
Like most insects, the Scottish midge is drawn to light. If you leave doors and windows open at night with lights on, you can guarantee that plenty of night-time visitors will fly in to join you. Avoid a nocturnal attack by keeping lights off at night and closing windows.
Safety under cover
Exposed skin is the ideal landing spot for hungry midges, so the less skin that is exposed, the better. Wearing long sleeves and trousers will reduce nasty elbow and ankle bites and a full head net and jacket will give you peace of mind that no beastie can feast on your blood. If you do get bitten, it will have been by a female midge that will use the blood meal to form her eggs.
Back off, beasties
You may have noticed that some lucky people are naturally repellent to midges (lucky them!) and in fact, 1 in 7 people are less prone to being bitten than others. The best way to protect against the Scottish midge is to use a Saltidin based insect repellent which works by producing a vapour that prevents insects from homing in on human skin. The unpleasant smell and taste does not kill midges but instead discourages them from coming near you.
Now, armed with this handy information you can head outdoors knowing how to protect yourself this summer and every summer in the future. Some people are already clued up,as Pyramid Travel Products have reported a 45% increase in demand for their midge protection products this year.
Nicola Cameron, Head of Marketing, says: “Demand has soared for midge protection products such as repellents, protective hats and jackets as people seek out ways to protect themselves against their annoying bites. Outdoor enthusiasts should refuse to let the Highland midge ruin their summer adventures and equip themselves with effective and advanced formulas and garments. As we are in peak midge season, it’s good to be clued up on the very simple but effective ways to keep midges at bay and enjoy what’s left of the summer – bite free.”