Midge Bites - How to Recognise Midges and Treat Bites
How To Treat and Avoid Midge Bites This Year
We all look forward to the spring months, it’s a real treat to step outside without multiple layers of clothing, but unfortunately with warmer weather comes biting and stinging pests.
Out of all these biting menaces midges are particularly bothersome - at least wasps tend to disappear as autumn months descend, not so for midges that thrive in moist and humid conditions.
These tiny vampires cause an uncomfortable bite that can lead to infection if you can’t stop scratching. If you’re heading outside this summer it’s worth preparing yourself against unwelcome midge bites.
What Are Midges?
Midges are tiny two-winged flying insects that gather in clouds and bite warm-blooded mammals.
Although they are food to frogs and swallows, they bite a wide range of mammals, which only makes it worse that there are over 4000 types of biting midge worldwide.
In the UK we have around 150 different species ranging from Scottish midges to Dorset ones and everywhere in between. Not all of these bite humans, but if you develop midge bites in the UK they’ll be from the genus Culicoides. There are approximately 50 Culicoides midge species in the UK all intent on a blood meal.
What Do Midges Look Like?
Midges are so small that many of us can’t even see them individually. The smallest species measure from 1mm, and if you can spot one you’ll notice its grey with two hairy crossed wings at rest. After a feed of blood, they tend to take on a reddish-brown hue.
What Are The Threats of Midges to Humans?
Midge bites are intensely itchy, but they can cause more than an irritation - midge bites can drive you to distraction, keep you awake at night, make you miserable, and look unsightly on bare skin.
The silver lining is that none of the UK species of midge transmits disease to humans; so far this type is confined to tropical climates. Our animals are not so lucky though, because biting midges can transmit disease such as sweet itch in horses.
It’s actually only the female midge that bites when she needs blood to develop her eggs, but this is little consolation if you’re unlucky enough to be her target.
Where Can Midges Be Found?
May is the traditional month for midges to make an appearance and they continue to breed until late September thriving in the humid wet autumn conditions. However this midge calendar depends entirely on the weather and if we have a warm spring, you’ll see biting insects sooner than you wanted to.
Clouds of our biting nemesis appear as soon as the sun warms up making them easy to spot, but they are less active in the cold, frosty winter months and struggle to breed in hot dry summers.
The type of location a midge fly loves to inhabit are wet marshy grounds, mountainous areas and wooded areas with thick, damp undergrowth. They need damp soil to lay eggs and support their larvae so rivers, lakes, ponds and even your birdbath will attract midges.
Midge bites are most likely to occur in the early morning and at dusk, particularly if there’s little breeze. However, a bit of wind doesn’t put them off entirely. If it’s a damp, warm morning or evening its peak midge conditions.
How To Get Rid Of Midges In The Garden
Garden midges are a real irritation. They cause endless problems for you, your children and your guests. It’s not possible to eradicate them completely but you can make your garden less attractive by removing any standing water or damp areas.
If you have a pond, install a pump to keep the water moving. Undergrowth and woody areas also harbour midges, so have a garden clear out and rake the lawn clear of dead grass they could use as a breeding site for larvae.
If you’re wondering how to get rid of midges in your house, then it’s a case of using a good midge repellent and keeping the windows and doors closed. If midges congregate around houseplants spray some lemon-infused water on the soil or re-pot them.
Midge Season in Scotland
Scotland is particularly attractive to biting insects. In Scottish midges season you’ll find 37 of our 50 species of human biting midges sucking away.
Scottish midge season is known for its biting insects because they just love the marshy and hilly damp conditions there. June is peak biting season all the way through to late autumn and early winter.
Midges in Scotland are found in large numbers and they're famous for their capacity to bite incessantly. In fact, midges are known as The Scourge of Scotland and travel agencies warn all travellers to be wary of the Scottish midges season.
If you’re heading to the highlands pack your best midge repellent and read the Scottish midge forecast each day before you head out - it could save you several itchy and sleepless nights.
Symptoms of Midge Bites
Itching and more itching!
Midges release a chemical into your bloodstream as they feed that numbs your skin so you don’t realise what’s happening.
The midge bite will often itch immediately after they’ve finished feeding and become worse after a day. Bites may weep clear fluid before healing into a scab and itching some more.
Midge bites can create small red bumps that swell up or cause a blister, but you’ll probably notice the itching before any redness and swelling arrives.
How Do You Repel Midges?
Midges are here to stay and although we may wish they would leave us alone there’s no way to avoid them completely.
Midges don’t feel the same way about us. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide in our breath and the scent of sweat from over 200 metres away, much like mosquitoes.
Because treatment for midge bites doesn’t always prevent itching, especially in children who have a very hard time leaving midge bites alone, you need to take the matter into your own hands and learn how to get rid of midges with these handy tips.
- Avoid damp and boggy areas, undergrowth, dense foliage, lakesides and river edges especially in midge season.
- Midges are most active at dawn and dusk so stay inside then.
- Wear long sleeves and trousers with fastened wrists and ankles. Scientists think midges prefer dark clothing so choose light colours.
- Stay in the wind because midges don’t like breezy conditions.
- If you walk into a cloud of midges keep moving because they are slow and you can out-run them.
- Repellents for midges applied to or near the skin are highly effective.
- Midge repellent such as citronella candles can help keep them away from BBQs and campsites.
How Do You Treat Midge Bites?
It’s very hard to avoid scratching if you’re bitten by a midge so you really need to avoid it in the first place.
Midges bites treatments are available in pharmacies, but because heat makes the itching sensation worse, the best way to treat them is to keep the bitten area cool.
If you are bitten you should bathe the spot with cool, salty water and apply some biting midges treatment such as a specific spray or ointment. Some people find calamine lotions and aloe vera extracts soothing too.
You could also take anti-histamines to calm that constant itching but check with your doctor if you haven’t taken them before or you’re treating a child.
How To Get Rid of Midge Bites
Once you’re bitten there’s no way to get rid of the bite no matter how much you wish there was!
After a few days of treatment the itching will stop and you’ll be left with a small scab - or if you’re unlucky lots of small scabs.
Some people are more appealing to midges and mosquitoes than others but scientists aren’t sure why. If you’re a particularly tasty human a midge repellent is essential.
Best Repellent For Midges
Midges are a fact of life and if you like being outdoors it’s inevitable you’ll encounter them.
It’s a good idea to wear long sleeves and trousers, preferably with drawstring endings so midges can’t fly inside, and avoid damp, boggy areas. However, the most effective way to avoid midge bites is by using a good quality midge repellent near your skin.
Our Travpack insect repellent patches are Deet-free, effective and great value. We also offer adjustable natural fabric and silicone insect repellent wristbands in a range of colours for all the family. These options don’t involve a spray or lotion which makes them quick and easy to use.
Whichever way you chose to spend time outdoors from camping, hiking, fishing and family BBQ’s those itching midge bites can ruin the fun for everyone.
Making midges repellent an essential part of your outdoor kit means you and the family can enjoy time outside this year without the hassle and misery of midges and their biting insect friends.