Midge survival guide: How to effectively battle Scotland’s impending plague of 21 BILLION bugs

Scots are bracing themselves for a bumper year for the least popular insect in the country.

An estimated 21 billion biting midges are expected this year following a particularly mild winter, with the first hatches just around the corner.

The Scottish Midge Forecast has estimated 139 billion midges will plague the country this year. Of this figure, the number looking for dinner will be 21 billion. Only the female midges bite.

However Alison Blackwell, who runs the forecast and is director at Dundee’s APS Biocontrol, said this figure for hungry midges “could double” if weather was particularly warm. Likewise, she said it could be a lot less if the mercury dropped.

Scot attracts the midges on a 3 day bikepacking trip.
Scot attracts the midges on a 3 day bikepacking trip.

She said the figures were based upon “what we know about the reproductive routes of midges”. There is usually two generations of the insects every year, half of it male and the other half female.

Milder weather, such as that experienced in the 2016-17 winter, can also lead to higher populations.

Ms Blackwell added: “In the ground there is a huge big population of midges waiting to emerge. Warm weather encourages them to start turning into adults.”

So how can you fight off the dastardly midge when out and about in the Scottish countryside?

Though doing so may seem like a losing battle this year, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to staying bite-free in 2017 with advice from Ms Blackwell.

Don’t move a muscle

Apparently, getting worked up and swotting midges away will only keep them coming back for more – as they are attracted to movement.

“Keep still” said Ms Blackwell, “things that attract midges are heat, movement and dark clothes. Midges are also attracted to CO2.”

Keep cool

She said if “you are hot and sweaty and jumping around” – then you’re doomed.

Dress in light colours

Light clothing can deter midges.© Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Light clothing can deter midges.

“Midges don’t see well but pick out contacts between light and shade, and dark objects against the sky.”

Be wary of midge “peak times”

“You have got to really be prepared for them at kind of peak times of the day when midges are active: dawn and dusk”, said Ms Blackwell.

Sunrise over Braeriach in the Cairngorms.© Alan Rowan
Sunrise over Braeriach in the Cairngorms.

Wear trousers and long-sleeved shirts

Doing this will make you “less attractive” to any of the hungry insects.

Keep doors and windows closed

Pretty basic stuff, but this will help you fight off any would-be swarm in your living room. “Keep windows closed in the evenings or you will have a room full of midges,” warned Ms Blackwell.


A camp fire.© DC Thomson
A camp fire.

“Bonfires and camp fires can help”, she added. However, anyone doing so should be cautious due to the potential for wild fires in dry weather. Open fires are not allowed in many scenic parts of Scotland, whilst the Scottish Outdoor Access Code recommends: “If you must have an open fire keep it small and under control and remove all traces before leaving.” For more information click here.

Check the midge forecast

Ms Blackwell recommends checking out her own midge forecast before heading out, to figure out which areas will be worst affected by the beasties. It is due to launch on May 19 and can be found here.

The midge forecast will launch soon.
The midge forecast will launch soon.

Midge hats and nets

Scot tries to get some respite from the midges' onslaught.
A Scot tries to get some respite from a midge onslaught.

“They are not particularly pleasant to wear but they can do a good job”, said Ms Blackwell.

“Midge-munching machines”

These contraptions are used by many Highland businesses. “Midge-munching machines pump out carbon dioxide, it attracts them and kills them”, explained Ms Blackwell.

Good repellants

Insect repellents, such as Ms Blackwell’s very own Smidge, are designed to deter midges from biting.

Avon Skin So Soft: Does it work?

Hillwalkers have sworn by it for years as the ultimate midge repellent, though many believe the ingredients have changed and it is less effective than it once was.

Ms Blackwell said: “It is just oily so insects can’t physically bite through. Midges will still land on you.”

And finally, “being prepared is the most important thing”.

Good luck…