Should I be worried about Scotland's midges?
Smidge is a leading product in midge repellency.
Many people visiting Scotland will have heard about our midges. They are small flying insects that can be a pest. Midges will bite but they do not carry any diseases. Some people will be left with a tiny red dot where a midge has bitten them, while other people suffer with an itchy and swollen bite.
But before you become too worried about the midges, you should know there are plenty of ways to avoid or repel the wee beasts.
As well as our amazing landscapes and scenery, many areas of the country can be troubled by midges – and the insects most like warm and humid areas, such as forests, woodland and loch shorelines.
It is summer, from around May to September when the midges are usually most prevalent and especially in the early morning and evening as the sun is setting.
Midges don't like:
The dryer east coast of Scotland
Skin covered by clothes or midge nets
Midges do like:
Calm and warm days
Humidity and waterways
Forests and glens
Mornings and evenings.
Top tip: Anti-histamines are very good for removing the itch from bites.
What are Scottish midges?
Midges are tiny insects with a wingspan of only 1mm to 2mm. They require blood to survive and enjoy feasting on animals and humans.
Midges have been around for thousands of years, but because of climate change creating warmer and wetter conditions in some countries they are increasing their range and extending their season.
Midges are found in many countries and usually in areas where it is fairly warm and wet.
There are some 40 species of biting midge in Scotland but only five of these are thought to regularly feed on people. Of these, the Highland midge, Culicoides impunctatus, is thought to be the most blood-thirsty.
Midges sense people and animals through the carbon dioxide in exhaled breath, as well as other odours, such as those given off through hormones. It's still a mystery why some people are more attractive to midges and others are not.
Some products that people use to protect their skin from midges.
How to protect yourself from midges
To avoid the Scottish midge completely, you'll want to visit in winter. However, most travellers and outdoors fans are keen to be in Scotland when the weather is likely to be warmer and sunnier and this means spring, summer and autumn.
It's worth knowing that in autumn there are far fewer midges compared to summer. Spring is when the midges start to hatch and they are most prevalent between May and September. It depends on weather and temperatures but this is a general rule.
The best way to avoid being bitten by midges is to cover your skin at times when they are most likely to be around. When conditions are still and warm, such as around breakfast time and at sunset, simply make sure you have full-length tops and trousers.
Midge repellent creams and sprays can also help to protect your skin from being bitten.
The best anti-midge product is a midge net that covers the head and protects your face skin and neck from bites.
Left to right: Life Systems midge net, midge repellent candle, Smidge midge net.
The best midge repellents and protectors
There are plenty of midge repellents and protection products for sale. You'll find these in outdoor and sports shops, as well as in petrol garages, stores and supermarkets in villages and towns where midges are most prevalent.
Smidge: One of the leading products and a spray that many people swear by. It is sprayed directly on to the skin. The makers claim that DEET-free Smidge is scientifically proven to provide instant, sweat-proof protection for up to eight hours.
Avon’s Skin So Soft: Skin So Soft is a moisturiser that was not created as a midge repellent but for some reason midges don't seem to like it. Well, this is the theory... Some people find it works well for them, while others aren't so sure. It is worth a try though because it smells nicer than some repellents.
General insect repellent: There are plenty of other insect repellents that will claim to deter midges. It's worth checking the reviews to see if these do work. The best products are likely to be those that fight mosquitoes. (Note: Thankfully Scotland doesn't have an issue with mosquitoes.)
Keeping it natural: Look for repellents, including creams, sprays and shampoos, that include essential oils, such as eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, myrtle and citronella. These natural products are claimed to be a good midge deterrent.
Again, the results will be different for each person but they do smell nice. For example, The Wee Midgie: Myrtle Body Butter for Midges is a product that is worth checking out.
Incognito also sell hair and body wash infused with citronella and tee tree oil, claiming that these are a "natural anti-insect camouflage".
Insect repellent infused clothing: Some clothing brands make summer outdoors clothing infused with insect repellents. These are usually for mosquito-prone areas but it's thought that they may also work in midge areas, too.
Other repellents: You'll find candles, such as those made with citronella, as well as lamps that are said to deter midges. These can be useful if you are hoping to sit outdoors at midge-spine times of the day.
Midge nets: It's the face area that is difficult to cover with clothing, so many people use head midge nets. These are made of a fine netting that allows you to see through but prevents the midges penetrating. Some midge nets form a jackets and over-head hood so you can gain fuller protection.
Midge eaters: These are machines that attract midges and suck them inside to a container. They are large and expensive and most likely to be found at outside seating areas at pubs.
Come to Scotland for so many amazing landscapes.
Don't be put off by the Scottish midge
It's only on some days and at certain times the day that midges are a major pest. The Scottish weather means that the midges are not always around, for example they don't like the wet, wind and bright sunshine.
If you are moving or walking, midges are less likely to be troublesome because you will be creating your own breeze around you.
Generally, during the day, when you are more likely to be walking or cycling the West Highland Way, John Muir Way or North Coast 500, the midges will be out of sight and mind.
Scotland has so much more to offer and you'll be much more wowed by the landscape, views, accessibility, history, heritage, culture and people than being worried about a wee insect.