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Midges in Scotland: How to Prevent Midge Bites

Summer is a glorious time to see what Scotland has to offer. However, there is a good chance you’ll encounter a midge or two, particularly in the Highlands. Scotland is not unique with its biting beasties, but the word seems to have spread far and wide, of the dreaded Scottish midge. Midges are not dangerous, although they can cause annoying itchy bites. Keep reading to find out when midges are most active, why they bite, and much more.

Scottish Midge facts: FAQ’S

What are midges?

Midges are insects with a wingspan of just 1-2mm. They need blood to survive (ew!) and enjoy feeding on animals and humans.  Midges are present in almost every environment on earth, except in freezing arctic conditions and hot deserts.

Why do midges bite?

Only the female midges bite. Female midges feed on the blood of animals and mammals to help provide nutrients to grow their eggs.  Both the male and female midges rely on sugar for energy, but the females need more than this to mature their eggs.  

Are midges the same as mosquitos?

No, although they look very similar, they are different. Midges are much smaller than mosquitoes with shorter wings. They do not contain a proboscis – the biting mouthparts that mosquitoes have, which means they cannot transmit diseases.

Fact: Mosquitoes have the fastest wing-beat speed of any animal in the world!

Is a midge bite sore?

A midge bite is annoying and often uncomfortable, not painful – they usually cause small, red lumps that can be very itchy. Once bitten, the best thing to relieve midge bites is an anti-histamine cream. Although super tempting – try not to scratch. 

When is midge season in Scotland?

Typically May until September. However, you can still enjoy a Scottish summer with some careful planning. Midges are most active early in the morning, just before dawn, and in the evening at sunset.  They love warm, damp days,  so you are far less likely to encounter severe midge problems on a cloudless, dry day.

Preventing Midge Bites

Locals will often say that it is best to avoid the midges rather than trying to keep them away from you. Prevention is better than treatment! You can avoid damp areas, head for higher ground, wear a midge repellent, cover bare skin and wear a midge head net. Alternatively, relax indoors until they’re at bay. 

Midge bites treatment: how to stop midge bites itching

Most of the time, treatment is not needed. But, if you’re itching, there are plenty of sting relief products on the market – which also work for mosquito bites. Another option is herbal remedies such as Aloe Vera gel. The vitamins and minerals found in aloe vera will help to reduce the pain, swelling, and itching. On top of that, it will also help the bite heal faster.

Tips to prevent midge bites

  • Use insect repellent spray and/or a repellent wrist band. There are four active ingredients you should look for: DEET (diethyltoluamide), IR3535 (Ethyl butyl-acetylamino propionate), saltidin, and citriodiol.
  • Cover bare skin and wear Insect Repellent clothing.
  • Be aware that on calm, dull days, midges are likely to be around. Midges stop flying at wind speeds greater than about 7mph. So, windy days are good days!
  • Note that midges are most likely to be around first thing in the morning and as the sunsets. If you’re camping you might want to consider a mosquito bed net.
  • Buy a midge head net as a backup plan. Midge hoods are cheap and easy to carry around in your backpack – then you can take them out and wear them if and when you need to. Ideal if you’re hiking first thing in the morning.
  • Midges are most active in low light. Build a campfire or switch on a camping torch to fend them off.

Lastly, our advice would be don’t let midges ruin a trip to bonnie Scotland. If you’re hiking or exploring, the chances are you won’t notice them.  Most of the time, it is too windy for them.   If they are a nuisance, carry some insect repellent, wear a midge hood, and make memories!

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