…one of the downsides to travelling in Scotland in the summer months, especially on the west coast and islands, is the high probability of getting pestered or bitten by midges.

The highland midge will feed from a wide range of mammals. Recent work has found blood in the guts of the midges from cattle, deer, sheep, humans, cats, dogs, rabbits and mice. Tests were also run for bird blood, but it was not found. The great majority of the blood meals came from cattle, sheep and deer; humans were not actively preferred over these animals.

The adult female Highland midge, as with several other species in the genus, can lay her first batch of eggs using reserves built up as a larva. However, she carries many more eggs than she can mature using these reserves. To provide the yolk for the additional eggs she requires protein from a blood meat. Trapping studies have shown that perhaps less than 10% of females obtain a blood meal during their short lives. The ability to lay a first batch of eggs without a blood meal is part of the reason for the abundance of this species in the highlands.

Midges have mandibles which are relatively short and blade-like, these can only make a shallow wound. The midge then feeds from the capillary blood oozing into it, the blood flow is increased by histamines in the saliva of the midge. It takes about five minutes for the midge to become engorged and stop feeding. The histamines cause the swelling around the wound after the bite. In most people the reaction is relatively minor but in a few people allergic reactions can produce very distressing effects.

Because of the short mouthparts, biting on man is generally confined to exposed skin: midges cannot bite through cloth, although they will climb under clothes to bite. Because of the short mouthparts, biting on man is generally confined to exposed skin: midges cannot bite through cloth, although they will climb under clothes to bite.

That may sound alarmist, but don’t let it put you off visiting Scotland. There are 3 ways to stop these pests spoiling your holiday. The best method is to use the Smidge spray. It is generally regarded as being the most effective deterrent for keeping midges at bay, but some people do swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft. If you don’t want to use any lotions or potions there is always the option of a simple, but effective head net.

The active ingredient in Smidge has been molecularly designed to effectively block the antennal receptors of biting insects. Basically, it throws them off your scent. As you Smidge up, you’ll notice a pleasant fragrance and appealing moisturising qualities, however to landing midges or mosquitoes you’ll taste like planet putrid.

This is a two in one product here and is worth a try. The oil is totally dry and does not leave any marks or smudges on your clothes. It helps soften your skin and is best applied after a bath or shower whilst the skin is slightly damp as this locks in the moisture. There is a very pleasant woody smell and the oil is clear. It contains citronella which is a lemon smell and which helps to repel insects. The spray comes in 150ml and has a pump dispenser. It is an effective insect repellent and it smells nice.

As you can see from the picture opposite, the net fully covers your head to keep the midges away from your face. It is best used over a hat or peaked cap to keep the netting away from your face. It comes with its own little carry bag, so it is nicely protected against rips when being carried in a bag or backpack.




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