With summer is fast approaching so are the dreaded midges, which have to be one of the most annoying creatures on this planet. While they’re hardly dangerous, they can be annoying and leave you with a few nasty bite marks.
The term Midge doesn’t refer to a specific insect it is a general term for very small (about 3mm) flies. There are about 40 midge species in the UK but very few which bite humans. The most common of these biting midges is the Culicoides Impunctatus otherwise known as the infamous highland midge.
In the case of the Culicoides Impunctatus both the female and the male are vegetarians, until the female becomes pregnant and then like many human females she develops cravings, in this case for blood. The female must get a blood meal two to five days after being fertilised to give the offspring a good chance of survival.
Repellents protect you in two ways. They repel midges from a distance by masking the smell of your body so that they can’t find you so easily. The second way they protect is by changing taste of the skin to make you seem like a much less tasty snack. A good repellent should provide both these types of protection.
Chemical Midge Repellents
DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide) is one of the most popular and effective chemicals used in midge repellent however some people experience irritation or an allergic reaction to the chemical. If swallowed DEET is toxic you should careful when applying to the hands or face.
DEET enters your bloodstream through the skin. In some rare cases people will suffer side effects from the chemical ranging from rashes to severe muscle twitching. As a precaution manufacturers recommend that DEET should not be applied to areas of broken skin or around the eyes.
DEET is an effective solvent and may dissolve some plastics, rayon, spandex, other synthetic fabrics and leather so make sure to take care when applying the repellent to your new waterproof jacket.
Natural Midge Repellents
Natural midge repellents use various essential oils like Eucalyptus, lavender and lemon to achieve the same aim. Peoples results with these generally vary although the main benefit is that they are much less likely to cause a reaction or any long term damage. The final plus point is that they make you smell nice, which is always a plus after a few days hiking.
Other ways to avoid midge bites
Aside from commercial insect repellents, there are 100′s of ways that people claim will prevent the midge from attacking. I’ve listed some of my favourite below, although some may be more effective than others.
- Cover up bare skin. Long sleeved shirts and trousers will help. Insects can bite through tight fitting clothing so wear loose garments. It has been shown that dark colours attract biting insects much more than light colours.
- Avoid being out around dawn and dusk as this is when midges are at their most active.
- Many people claim that Avon’s Skin So Soft Body Oil is a very effective repellant and there have been stories in the past citing its use by large numbers of the British army.
- Eating Marmite before and during your time near midges is also meant to repel them although I’d personally rather take my chances with the midges than have to eat Marmite.
- Make friends with bats! A single bat can eat over 3000 midges and other insects in one night!
How does everyone else keep midges at bay, leave a comment and let us know!