Surviving a Midge Attack
If you're planning a camping trip this summer, then you should be aware of the dangers. Though we may not have the wild animals in the UK that other parts of the world have, we do have one viscous wee beastie that can do some serious damage with its teeth, causing pain and suffering...the highland midge, otherwise known as Culicoides Impunctatus.
You may giggle at this but if you've never camped in June in Scotland, you will never truly understand the misery of trying to eat your dinner and instead finding yourself swallowing 100 midges, whilst its brethren chew on your forehead...
Midges thrive in the warm, damp conditions of high summer, with their population peaking between mid-July and September. We all check the weather forecast before heading into the great outdoors, now you can also check the midge forecast! https://www.smidgeup.com/midge-forecast/
Midges are primarily prevalent in the Scottish Highlands and west coast, but they are also found in areas of mid and north Wales. They are particularly keen on bogs and wet grassland. Whilst they may be only the size of a full stop, the bite of a midge is pretty annoying and can lead to swelling and itchiness. The males and females are actually vegetarian, until the female becomes pregnant and then requires blood shortly after fertilisation to sustain her offspring.
There are a few ways to combat the little blighters; by employing a few of these methods you will still be able to enjoy camping!
1) Midge repellent – there are numerous repellents on the market, some more 'chemical' than others. However, what works for one person may not be as effective on someone else. You may need to try a couple of brands to find what works for you. Some essential oils can also help, such as citronella, eucalyptus and lemon.
2) Use a tent with mesh screens – Keep them out! If you’ve got a tent with a large living space, or even a social hub or event tent, use the mesh screens to let the fresh air in, and keep the beasties out!
3) Battery powered units – these emit an odourless scent which can be effective against midges and mosquitoes. You wouldn't want to use one in a small tent with limited ventilation, and conversely they won't be as effective in the open air.
4) Midge nets – these are seriously uncool but the most effective method of keeping midges from gorging themselves on your face. If you have them tucked tightly into your collar, they're around 100% effective. The only downside – it makes enjoying a beer or hot chocolate in the evening rather difficult!
5) Take to the sea – you only need to travel a short distance from shore before the midges won't bother you. Obviously, you'll need some form of vessel (I'm not suggesting spending the entire evening swimming!) and always ensure you wear the appropriate buoyancy aid/life vest when on the water.
6) Light a fire – the smoke can help keep the midges at bay but consider the area you're camping in, and whether a fire is appropriate and safe. Always remember the Leave No Trace principles when having a campfire.
7) Pick your spot - Avoid camping in areas near bogs and wet grassland. Look for somewhere that will benefit from a breeze. The wind speed only needs to be around 6mph before the midges will leave you in peace so contrary to normal campsite planning, consider somewhere a little more exposed when camping during still muggy weather. Midges also dislike direct sunlight so keep your fingers crossed for a sunny spell!
Whilst midges are annoying, there are enough ways to combat them and enjoy your trip. Just plan ahead, and consider all options. Happy camping!