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How to manage Scotland

How to manage Scotland's midges

Ed 02 August 2019

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

Just like the mosquito and the sand fly, the Scottish midge is a famed living irritant. It bites, it’s hard to catch, yet there are effective repellents on the market and we should all buy them in order to save our self some unnecessary discomfort when on holiday in Scotland.

Fun fact: Not all Scottish midges bite you. It’s true, only pregnant midges bite. Without a food supply of nutritional blood, they only manage to lay a single set of eggs. By taking preventative steps to stop them from biting you, you’re potentially cutting off their ability to lay more eggs. That means a decrease in their population numbers for the months to come. Since none of us can tell which midges are the pregnant ones, it’s best to protect yourself against them all.

midge

Some more facts about Scotland's midges:

  • Midges are tiny flying insects with a wingspan of only 2-3mm
  • There are over 35 different species of biting midge in Scotland
  • Midges usually hatch around the end of May and stick around until September
  • The Highland midge is Scotland's most ferocious foe
  • Midges like warm, damp and still weather and are more prevalent towards the west coast

Choosing the right insecticide to repel midges

To deter midges from the ‘get-go’, it is a good idea to set yourself up with some midge repellent. Anything to discourage the attention of the midge is definitely worth a try. For hundreds of years, people have been trying to find ways to get rid of them and, whilst it is clear we can't do that, we have found ways to keep them at bay. Here are a couple of tips for you.

midge defence

Smidge 

This is an insect repellent that works wonders for keeping the little pests away. You can never have enough Smidge. Whilst the smell is not offensive to us humans, it seems to do a good job at keeping midges away. If you happen to be staying in an area where you are feeling them, cover your face, hands and any bare part of your body in Smidge. Read more about it on their website.

Avon's 'Skin So Soft' 

This was the go-to option for midge repellant before Smidge made its entrance and it is a great alternative which you can pick up easily in supermarkets across Scotland. Whilst it is quite oily, the fact it keeps the midges away makes this a tiny inconvenience. It lasts a good amount of time on the skin, but just keep topping it up if you feel you need more. Buy it here.

Citronella candles 

These are really effective and suit outdoor eating scenarios, picnics and BBQs, although BBQ smoke does a good job of keeping the midges away too. Midges dislike the smell of the candles, so burn a couple at a time to double your chances of keeping them away.

When is midge season in Scotland?

Midges tend to come out in Scotland around the end of May and will hang around annoying us until the middle of September. Midges love warm and damp conditions the best. This makes dawn and dusk particularly popular for them. If you have to go outside during their key weather conditions, make sure you’ve liberally applied the aforementioned insecticide, and wear long-sleeved/legged clothing to cover as much exposed skin as possible.

midges at sunset

If you’re going to be spending a lot of your visit exploring the great outdoors at peak midge time, wear long trousers tucked into your socks or boots to thwart them. Zip-off trouser/shorts are a great idea for days when the weather might change. You can also buy midge nets to wear over your head for even better protection. Tres chic, non?

Make sure you carry repellent with you and if you avoid wearing perfume and aftershave this can help too - it can also make you feel as wild as the countryside! Your midge-free months in Scotland range from October through to May, so if you really don't want to deal with them then these are the times to visit Scotland. In saying that, the closer you are to the sea, the less you are likely to experience them. Read about the best beaches in Scotland

How to treat a midge bite

Although midge bites are not dangerous and usually go away by themselves, some people are prone to getting more irritating reactions than others. Some won't notice the bite whilst others will end up with lumpy red bumps on the bitten area. 

Here are some remedies that can help relieve the irritation from a bite...

  • Bathe the affected area with cool salted water - this will clean and soothe the bite
  • Shower before bed - this cools the skin down; heat will exacerbate the itch
  • Apply SOOV cream to the affected area - the cool gel soothes and relieves the itch
  • Apply calamine lotion or tea tree oil - both cool and soothe the area

How to keep the midges away

The best defence is a strong offence, in this case, and we suggest you begin by keeping your windows closed, particularly at dawn and dusk. Although strong sunlight perturbs them, they find artificial lighting attractive. Leaving a living room light on with a window ajar is an open invitation to a midge, so keep everything closed tightly. If you’re planning on eating outside, smoke from the BBQ is a popular repellent to Scottish midges. Buy some citronella candles and coils to create a wider no-midge zone too.

midge proof

Top tip: Buy a household/industrial fan. For the cost of £30, you can pick up a good household fan from the likes of Tesco or Aldi and have this on whilst you socialise outside. Midges cannot survive a gust which is more that 5mph so will not like the air that is blown from the fan. This is a good holiday investment for the sake of being able to sit and relax outside.

So next time you’re jotting down a shopping list, include these items for a midge-free Scotland break. They’ll make you smell nicer too in the process.

It’s no big deal to avoid being their next meal

Whilst we cannot make the midges disappear, we hope this guide has given you some helpful advice on how to deal with the midges in Scotland.

Why let something so small ruin your holiday? There really is no need to make midge-control a central part of your trip. If you prepare well, it will seem like they don’t exist at all. Millions of travellers take holidays in Scotland every year, so all you have to do is remember our handy tips on how to keep the midges away. 

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