Scots warned to prepare for plague of midges

Scotland is bracing itself for a plague of midges. Picture: Graeme Robertson
Scotland is bracing itself for a plague of midges. Picture: Graeme Robertson
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SCOTS are being warned to prepare for a plague of voracious bloodsuckers as rain follows the recent heatwave.

Western parts of the country have seen sweltering temperatures in the past week, but meteorologists are predicting heavy rain in the days ahead.

Scottish midge expert Dr Alison Blackwell says the warm, wet weather is “perfect” for the insects to surface after spending winter as larvae in the ground.

“The key thing now is we need some warm, damp weather and they can get cracking,” she said. “It has been quite quiet for midge sightings so far but the forecast is for it to warm up. Between now and the end of the month we expect to see things beginning to happen. The warm temperatures help the whole midge emergence process but we need a bit of rain to maximise their survival when they come out.

“It’s hopefully going to be a good midge season.”

Forecasters have said the weather is turning more unsettled from today, with rain coming in from the west.

The day will start with light showers in northern Scotland but heavier rain will spread eastwards in the afternoon, according to the Met Office’s Alex Birkhill.

He added: “The weather will be increasingly changeable as the week goes on, with outbreaks of mostly light, showery rain affecting most parts.”

Up to 15mm of rainfall is expected, though some areas will see more like 20mm.

There are 1,000 midge species in the world, 48 of them in Scotland, but it is the 3mm-long Highland midge – Culicoides impunctatus – that wreaks greatest havoc on unsuspecting humans.

Only the females bite, but an attack from an average swarm of around 3,000 sets of miniature scissor-like jaws can send even the toughest outdoors types running for a safe haven.

Dr Blackwell operates the national Midge Forecast, which predicts densities of the insects. She says this month is a crucial time for midge populations, with weather conditions dictating survival rates.

Last year’s midge season was delayed considerably – by a fortnight – due to cool, wet and windy weather in May.

There are always two emergences of midges during a Scottish summer. Although numbers never fully recovered from the poor start to the 2015 season, a mild autumn prompted the appearance of a small third generation.