Midges can be the bane of a hillwalker’s summer. They swarm, they bite, you itch. Here’s how to minimise their impact and keep your peak-bagging scratch-free.
HOW TO... AVOID
Intel Midges like moist, sheltered conditions, such as tarns or bogs that are out of the wind.
Action Keep to high, dry areas where the lack of moisture and increased breeze keeps them away. Ridges, summits and exposed, well-drained plateaux are best for walking and camping.
Intel Midges dislike strong sunlight and are about in greatest numbers at dawn and dusk.
Action Plan your route to avoid midge-prone areas at either end of the day, and shun shaded locations like forests and woods where they can
be found throughout daylight hours.
Intel Overall weather conditions across the country can influence midge densities in
Action Visiting www.midgeforecast.co.uk will give you detailed predictions for midge activity across Scotland, while Met Office predictions of breezes will reduce their numbers anywhere.
Intel Midges need access to skin to feed and are attracted to dark-coloured clothing.
Action Cover up as much as possible with long-sleeved tops and by wearing trousers rather than shorts. Avoid black or dark blues and greens and stick to lighter, brighter-coloured apparel.
DEET: This chemical repellent is arguably the most effective type. It is available in different strengths, and repellents with 25-40 per cent DEET are fine for midges, but side effects including an ability to soften and damage plastics, plus its questionable suitability for use on children or people with sensitive skin or asthma, puts lots of would-be users off.
Smidge: Developed specifically to combat the Scottish midge (hence the name), Smidge is DEET-free and has been tried, tested and proven in the midge-swamped Scottish Highlands. It’s water- and sweat-resistant, repels mosquitoes and ticks as well as midges, is safe for use on children and is recommended by the World Health Organization.
Avon Skin So Soft: When Royal Marines take to covering themselves in the Dry Oil Body Spray from Avon’s Skin So Soft range, it’s probably not for its nourishing, hydrating and softening properties. It turns out that it’s also pretty effective at keeping biting bugs away, although who are we to say that an RM Commando doesn’t want beautifully moisturised skin?
Marmite: Let’s be clear: you’re not supposed to smear it on your skin. Anecdotally, eating Marmite is said to help repel midges, although there’s no science to back this up. But whether it’s something to do with the vitamin B in it, or because it changes how your skin smells, the biggest factor will be this: do you love it or hate it?
HOW TO...TREAT BITES
Clean: As well as preventing infection, cleaning the bite ASAP can help reduce itching. An alcohol or antiseptic wipe is best, but soap and water will do if available. Applying antiseptic cream is a good idea, too.
Zap: These little devices (above) can be used to administer a small electrical shock to the bite (don’t worry, it’s very, very small), which will relieve itching and reduce swelling. It may sound bizarre, but they really, really work – see our Used and Abused review on page 100.
Relieve: Antihistamine bite relief creams can help reduce swelling and itching when it
does start to become a nuisance. Some people are prone to extreme allergic reactions to bites, and it’s worth carrying antihistamine tablets for use in such cases.
THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE SEPTEMBER 2014 EDITION OF TRAIL MAGAZINE