Scottish midges: what are they, where do you get them and how to avoid their bites

Midges are common in Scotland and can be an irritation if you are not prepared for them
Midges are common in Scotland and can be an irritation if you are not prepared for them
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With summer upon us, you’re more likely to be spending time outdoors in the coming months.

Scotland’s world-renowned countryside draws visitors from all over, but there is one creature whose irritating presence strikes fear in the hearts of would-be-adventurers.

Avon's Skin So Soft is used by the marines as insect repellant

Avon's Skin So Soft is used by the marines as insect repellant

The midge is synonymous with Scotland, and not without reason - there is an estimated population of 180,750 trillion in the country.

If you are out in the Highlands, you are likely to come across the tiny airborne creatures while in the lowlands, you’re unlikely to have much trouble with midges.

And even in the Highlands, where the midge is most common, you should be fine if the wind speed is greater than 5mph.

But if you’re out and about on a still summer evening in the Highland wilds, then midges may cause you problems if you’re not prepared.

The Scottish Highlands are known for having a large midge population

The Scottish Highlands are known for having a large midge population

What are midges?

Not to be confused with mosquitoes, midges do not carry disease - however they’re just as annoying.

Midges are much smaller than mosquitoes, weighing only about 1/8000 of a gram. They have the fastest wing-beat speed of any animal in the world at around 1000 times a second.

They’re most prevalent in spring to late summer, and the Highland Midge can be found in Scotland as well as other parts of the UK.

The most annoying thing about midges is that they travel in gangs, and tend to bombard their victims. Even if you don’t get bitten, they can get in your eyes and up your nose.

Female midges are the ones that travel in swarms and bite people, because they need protein, found in blood, in order to produce eggs. They also bite cattle and deer.

The bites are felt as a sharp prick and are followed by an itchy red lump.

Surprisingly, their male counterparts don’t bite humans and instead feed on flowers.

How to avoid midges

There are countless methods for trying to avoid the bites of midges - some more effective than others.

Midges are known to be attracted to dark clothing, so lighter colours are better to wear if you are out and about in the countryside.

They’re unable to bite through fabric, as their jaws are not big enough, so if you keep yourself covered as much as possible, you are less likely to be bothered.

Midges are attracted to higher than normal levels of carbon dioxide in the air and know that this means there are humans around - so holding your breath when they’re nearby could help!

They’re also most active in low light, so try switching on a torch.

There are also vast numbers of sprays and repellents on the market, as well as candles and wrist bands that claim to ward off pests.

Widely regarded as the most effective remedy, is a store-bought product which isn’t even advertised as a midge repellent.

Avon Skin So Soft body oil is given to the marines and outdoor workers in Scotland and some travellers have cottoned on to the product’s effectiveness.

Midge hoods are also available, and you can attach these to hats to protect your face.