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The Real Story of this Fearsome Beastie – Your Guide to Midges in Scotland

Posted on Sep 24, 2015 by Meike van Krimpen

A blood-sucking pest that can completely ruin a good day outside? Or are Midges in Scotland a vital part of the eco-system?

How much do people really know about midges? The Real Story of this Fearsome Beastie – Your Guide to the Highland Midge.

Scientific Name: Culicoides impunctatus

How long is the midge life cycle?

You may have noticed that midges are a definitely a Scottish feature that belongs to the spring and summer seasons. So where are they for the rest of the year? The life cycle of the Scottish midge consist of 4 key stages.

  1. Midges mate and lay eggs in the summer months.
  2. The eggs hatch into larvae and will develop whilst living in the boggy soil.
  3. Before winter they will reach the final instar stage of their larvae development and become a pupa.
  4. The adult midge will emerge from the pupa in spring time.

To find out more about the midge life cycle click here for a useful guide made by the Scottish Natural Heritage.

Why do midges bite us?

Midges don’t bite us just for the hell of it. Out of hundreds of species of midge, only 35 midges actually bite you and they do that because they need to survive. Male midges primarily feed on rotting vegetation and plant nectar. Females will bite you because they need the protein from a blood meal to create their eggs. Interesting fact: male midges aren’t even capable of biting you, as their mouthparts are not strong enough to pierce skin!

Don’t despair the midges really are not as bad as you think. Read this blog about boosting your happiness.

Do midges carry diseases?

Whilst mosquitos are known for being vectors for disease, midges are definitely not. Rest assured, midges do not carry any infectious diseases, so you won’t get anything from being bitten aside from a very itchy bump.

Midges in Scotland

Image courtesy of APS Biocontrol


How can I avoid midges?

There are some easy ways to avoid getting bitten by midges when you are out and about.

  • Midges don’t like bright sunlight, so are likely to be more active at dawn, dusk and on a cloudy day.
  • Midges are actually too small to fly in winds more than 3mph, so a windy day is a good opportunity for a midge-free day.
  • Get up high. Gaining altitude is also a good way to avoid these beasties as it becomes more windy higher up. Nothing like being chased by a swarm of midges to get you up that hill!
  • They also don’t like open water, so sea kayaking is a great option for a midge free times.

Tips to get the upper hand in the battle against the midges.

How can I stop midges from biting me?

We can’t always go out in perfect midge-free conditions so here are some ways you can protect yourself from being bitten.

1. Repellents

The two most commonly known midge repellents are Smidge and Avon Skin so Soft. Smidge is a skin-safe insect repellent that protects you from midges, mosquitoes, horse flies, sand flies, fleas and ticks. The fragrance is surprisingly inoffensive and comes in a handy travel sized bottle which you can easily keep handy in pockets.

Avon Skin So Soft never set out to be a midge repellent but somehow found itself being most famous for that particular characteristic. The theory is that the dry oil forms a barrier on your skin which makes it more difficult for those pesky lady midges to get hold and bite you. Side benefits include moisturising effect and smelling nice. Although Avon Skin so Soft is proven to significantly reduce biting, the midges will still land on you. If you want to really keep them off you and repel them, Smidge would be a safer bet.

2. Cover up!

Covering up is a good way to deter midges as their mouthparts are a. not strong enough and b. not long enough to bite through clothing. The go to protective gear is a head net made out of a very fine mesh that midges can’t fly through. Do not use mosquito nets! Midges are so small they will easily fly through a mosquito net.

Midge Free Blog Articles

    1. How to Take on Midges and Win
    2. Travel in Spring and Avoid the Midges
    3. Read About Another Scottish Icon – The Highland Cow
    4. Autumn – Scotland’s Finest Show
    5. How to Swear in Scots if a Midge Bites You

Read our last blog on midges in Scotland for more creative ways to escape midge bites: Midges in Scotland – How to Combat the Mighty Midge

Why don’t we do some form of pest control for midges?

Concerns have been raised time and time again about the negative impact that midges may have on our tourism and economy. Due to this government funded investigations have been led into looking into a means of controlling midges.

However despite the harm they may do to Scotland’s image, they are actually a fundamental part of the ecosystem in the highlands. Midges feature prominently in the food chain. Being part of the diets of other insects and even bats! There are also some carnivorous plants in Scotland that can’t resist a side of midge.

Learn more about the medicinal properties of Scottish plants.

Midges in Scotland

Image courtesy of APS Biocontrol

Words of Wisdom

Knowing why midges bite you doesn’t make it any less annoying, but hopefully this has helped you realise that midges are not as omnipresent in the Highlands as people claim they are and that there are some easy ways to avoid them and their bites!

Now for some midge-free inspiration. Lose Yourself in the Wilderness Episodes.

  1. Episode 1 – Knoydart
  2. Episode 2 – Photography with Colin Prior
  3. Episode 3 – Assynt – An Immersion in Wilderness
  4. Episode 4 – Mountain Biking in the Hebrides

About the author

Meike van Krimpen

With my parents' work taking my family away to exotic countries meant that I grew up between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands and have had the opportunity to visit some amazing countries along the way. This has left me with an unhealthy addiction to curry and all things spice, and also to travelling! When it was time to go to university I wandered off to Scotland for a new adventure and have somehow not managed to leave yet!

Read more articles by Meike

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