Midge bites — how to recognise midges, treat bites and avoid both altogether

Source: treesforlife.org.uk

Source: treesforlife.org.uk

Depending on where you are in the world, if you’ve been bothered by biting insects this summer you may be breathing a sigh of relief as the cooler autumn months arrive. Because as we stow away the sun hats and deckchairs for another year, we can also say goodbye to some less enjoyable mainstays of summer like mosquitoes and other bothersome biters.

Image source: Daily Mail

Image source: Daily Mail

 

If you want to protect yourself from annoying midges and nasty midge bites then studies show Mosi-guard Natural® is an effective midge repellent.

Mosi-guard Natural® Spray
7.99
Quantity:
Buy now

Not so, for the tiny biting midge however. Midge bites from these minute fliers, also known as “no-see-ums” due to their miniscule size, often thrive from September onwards. So, think twice before packing away that repellent along with the paddling pool…

The bane of BBQ cooks, hikers, fishermen, farmers, golfers, cyclists, tourists and equestrians alike, midges and midge bites can cause havoc for anyone who loves being outside or who works outdoors.

So how do you know if it’s midges that are plaguing you, and more importantly, how can you keep these annoying critters at bay and avoid midge bites?

Quick links


About midges

What are midges and what do they look like?

Image source: cheaptents.com

Image source: cheaptents.com

Believe it or not there are actually more than 4,000 species of biting midges! Staggering eh?

The smallest of the flies which bite humans, midges can range in size from 1-3mm. Despite their tiny size, midge bites can be annoying and may even cause a reaction.

The adults are gray but may take on more of a red appearance if they have recently bitten a human or other warm-blooded animal and had a feed. Only the female midge bites, whilst male midges tend to feed off pollen and other plant materials.  

Midges have two wings which are often very hairy and pigmented. When the midge is at rest, these wings will lie flat with one crossed over the other.

Which species of midge is more common in the UK?

The Ceratopogonidae midge. Image source. phorid.net

The Ceratopogonidae midge. Image source. phorid.net

Midges are part of the Ceratopogonidae family and around 152 species exist in Britain.

The type of midge that will bite humans belong to the genus Culicoides which is prevalent the world over. It is thought around 50 species are found in the UK with 37 of them in Scotland — unfortunately, that’s a lot of potential midge bites.

Do midges fly alone?

Image source: woodlands.co.uk

Image source: woodlands.co.uk

Midges travel in packs or large swarms. Although small and near on impossible to spot on their own (a single midge is the size of a pin head) they can be easy to spot when they are flying in a swarm with their pals.

Where are you most likely to find midges?

Or more accurately, where can pesky midges find you? Generally, worldwide, beware of midge bites and midges in habitats that are marshy and wet. They also show up in mountainous areas, and areas with dense undergrowth and woodland are their other favourite habitat so beware here too.

Where exactly are midges found in the UK?

Image source: Metro.co.uk

Image source: Metro.co.uk

Image source: ionalister.co.uk

Image source: ionalister.co.uk

The bane of the summer evening, midges feature throughout the UK. Midges are particularly fond of wet ground so take extra care to avoid midge bites near areas of standing water, such as lakes, reservoirs, marshes, tidal flats and estuaries.

To be able to reproduce, female midges need moist, wet areas for their eggs and larvae to develop properly so they actively seek out these conditions. They also need a blood meal to enable their eggs to develop properly in the first place. This is why only the female midge bites.

 

Known as the scourge of Scotland, the midge favours the climate there. Beware of midge bites in Scotland’s hilly, often damp conditions. Its dense woodland and natural areas of water lend themselves very well to the midge’s preferred habitat.

What is the lifecycle of the biting midge?

Image source: EDU

Image source: EDU

Biting midges evolve through a larval stage (depending on what food supply is available, this can last around 2 weeks a year), to a non-feeding pupal stage (which takes place over 2-3 days) before transforming into a winged adult. Adult midges usually live between 2-7 weeks.  

What weather conditions do midges favour?

Image source: mirror.co.uk

Image source: mirror.co.uk

Like their equally annoying pal the mosquito, the midge adores dawn and dusk conditions. Beware of  bites when midges tend to be most active, in the still early morning and evening conditions. However also bear in mind that midges can remain active throughout the day even when it’s overcast and with a little wind.

Damp, cloudy summer days are like catnip to a midge so in midge hotspots, expect to see them in their throngs on days like this.

Are midges more active at certain times of the year?

Like many biting insects, midges tend to be much less active in the winter. They have also been known to appear from early spring and through late autumn, so midge bites can happen actually throughout a large chunk of the year in the UK.

What attracts midges to humans and causes midge bites?

Image source: must-see-scotland.com

Image source: must-see-scotland.com

Believe it or not midges can detect carbon dioxide in our breath from 200 metres away. This is why anyone undertaking physical activity such as outdoor pursuits, hillwalking or working outdoors are at risk of midge bites and fair game for midges if they are not protected.

As well as the boggy, wet ground and undergrowth they so love, midges are also smitten by dark clothing. 


About midge bites

How to identify midge bites

Midges are so small that you often won’t see one biting you. You are more likely to feel the bite or a sharp, burning or stinging sensation.

Image source: jamesdelingpole.com

Image source: jamesdelingpole.com

If you’ve been unlucky enough to have been a meal for a midge, you’ll find midge bites will often form as small lumps, which will be very itchy indeed.

If you look closely you may also see a small hole within the lump where the bite has punctured the skin. If you normally experience sensitivity to bites, or are prone to reactions, you may develop fluid-filled blisters or weals surrounding midge bites.

Do midges bite other warm-blooded animals too?

Image source: cotswoldlife.co.uk

Image source: cotswoldlife.co.uk

Yes, the genus Culicoides feeds on the blood of warm-blooded animals so cattle, dogs and horses can also be affected by midge bites.

Can diseases be transmitted through midge bites?

There are species of the Culicoides species of midge which specifically inhabit tropical climates that are capable of spreading both human and animal parasites and diseases.

While biting midges are extremely annoying, the good news is that none are known to transmit diseases to humans in the UK or US.

They are capable however of carrying a variety of animal diseases. One of the most common of these in the UK is sweet itch in horses. This can prove to be a painful nuisance for horses to experience and is equally frustrating for their owners to treat.

Biting midges are also known to transmit Blue Tongue virus in livestock in the US but this does not infect humans.

How to avoid midge bites

Source: campsites.co.uk

Source: campsites.co.uk

Midge bites can be painful, itch intensely and in some instances swell up alarmingly. If you’re travelling to a midge hotspot, use a proven insect repellent, like Mosi-guard Natural and cover up at dawn and dusk. Protective gear, such as mesh covers for your face, can be very effective too, especially if you know you are heading into a midge magnet area such as the Scottish wetlands during midge season.

If you are doing any physically exerting activity outdoors such as hill walking, always wear repellent (applied according to the instructions) and re-apply if you are perspiring.

As midges love dark clothing, opt for lighter hues and long sleeves if you can.


A trusted midge repellent

Which insect repellents work best to deter midges and midge bites?

The Mosi-guard Natural® range which uses Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or ‘Citriodiol®’ as its active ingredient has been tested against various biting midges in both lab and field studies throughout the world.

Studies show Mosi-guard Natural® is an effective midge repellent with a range of complete protection times of up to 7 hours based upon application rates and species.

So with just a few simple steps, you can wave goodbye to midge madness and enjoy our great outdoors.

 
Mosi-guard Natural® Spray
7.99
Quantity:
Buy now