Nothing ruins a walk in the hills of Scotland like a furious swarm of bloodthirsty midges.
Ill-prepared walkers will more often than not find themselves swiping at the ’wee beasties’ and scratching furiously itchy bites, rather than enjoying the extraordinary views that surround them.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to vanquish midges, however.
Alison Blackwell of smidgeup.com talked us through the most effective methods.
What conditions do midges thrive in?
First of all it’s important to know the conditions that midges flourish in.
“Anywhere west of the Great Glen” is where your most fearsome battles with midges will be pitched, according to Blackwell.
“These are rich with habitats dominated by boggy, acidic ground,” she explains.
“Midges dehydrate quickly, due to their 2 mm wingspan, so thrive in damp, overcast conditions.”
Hikers should relish blustery conditions, explains Blackwell.
“They rarely fly in winds higher than seven miles per hour, so they prefer still to windy conditions.”
Effective methods to combat midges
An effective repellent is your first line of defence.
While this often comes down to personal choice, one of four active ingredients should be present in a midge repellent, according to Blackwell.
These are DEET (diethyltoluamide), IR3535 (Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate), saltidin and citriodiol.
Next, it is important to “know your enemy”, says Blackwell. “Midges are most active in low light conditions: dawn, dusk and overcast days.”
Blackwell recommends taking evasive measures: “Either avoid being out and about at these times or use a repellent.”
What you wear can make a difference
Fashion choices can also serve as an effective repellent: “Avoid shorts and short sleeves during low light conditions. If conditions are very bad, use a head net.”
Something as simple as changing the colour of your clothing could keep midges at bay too.
“Midges prefer dark colours as they detect contrasts in colours – dark objects on a light background. Light-coloured clothing can make you less obvious.”
When stopping for a breather or a bite to eat, make sure you are well clear of long vegetation in shaded areas.
Once bitten by midges it is important not to aggravate your bite by scratching, no matter how tempting this might be.
Blackwell instead recommends using an after-bite product.
Desperate measures: bog myrtle, bonfires and Marmite
If the above methods are proving ineffective and you’re at your wit’s end, there are a few unconventional methods that may provide relief, according to Blackwell.
One natural weapon against midges is bog myrtle. The plant releases essential oils which are known to deter midges - try tying the plant to your hat.
If camping, build a bonfire and force midges into a hasty retreat.
Love it or hate it, Marmite may be the solution to your midge misery. Apparently when eaten the yeast extract makes your blood less appetising, as do Vitamin B tablets.
Another edible option is chewing garlic, although this may scare off fellow walkers, as well as midges.
Midge defence essentials:
- Insect repellent (Containing DEET, IR3535, saltidin or citriodiol
- Avoid short sleeve tops and shorts
- Avoid low light conditions
- Wear light-coloured clothing
- Wear head net in particularly bad conditions
- Avoid resting in areas with long vegetation
- Use after bite product once bitten
- Build a bonfire if camping
- Consider eating marmite, vitamin B tablets or garlic
- Tie bog myrtle to hat
Visit smidgeup.com for more information on combatting midges