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The Midge, Scourge of the Highlands

The dreaded midge If you’ve ever encountered a swarm of midges in Scotland, you know what a pest these little biting insects can be. Now you can find out how prevalent they are in an area before you plan your outdoor picnic or hike. Just go to Midge Forecast for a daily midge update.

Midge sucking blood Mostly found in Scotland’s highlands, in northern Wales, and in Cumbria, these pesky creatures love to feed on your blood. As they suck it from your skin, they cause swelling and itching that lasts from one to several days. The insects cause a lot of agony for tiny size—their wingspan is just 1-2mm.

Almost 40 species reside in the UK, but fortunately only five (according to scientists) cozy up to people’s skin. The species that is the most akin to Dracula is the one found in the highlands of Scotland. It’s called Culicoides impunctatus (or ‘Meanbh-chuileag’ in Gaelic, meaning ‘tiny fly’).

Midge If you could go without breathing, they wouldn’t bother you as it’s your carbon dioxide when you exhale that they hone in on. This clues them in on a meal in the offing the same as the “Golden Arches” signal a hamburger to you. As they come closer, your other body odours act like radar leading them in. Body heat helps them further zero in on you. You may be lucky and your skin not appeal to them, in which case they will search out some other innocent bystander.

Midge head closeup These little menaces are quite invasive: in some parts of Scotland 50 million biting ones inhabit only one hectare of land. July and August are prime tourist times in Scotland, and the midges seem well aware of that as their prime time coincides with tourist season. Even animals aren’t immune to midges. Midges cause sweet-itch, an incurable condition affecting up to one in twenty of the UK's horses and ponies.

There are various midge inhibitors for the skin, and the shelves of Scotland’s shops are well stocked with them, so if you plan a visit during prime midge time, make your first purchase in Scotland a midge deterrent.

All photos courtesy Advanced Pest Solutions Ltd

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