Did You Know?
- Midges!

In the summer time, visitors and residents in the country areas in the west of Scotland are often pestered by the clouds of midges which fly around in their thousands, attacking humans and animals alike and leaving behind an itchy bite.

More than one tourist has remarked that you can "kill one of the blighters and several hundred turn up for the funeral." It is unfortunate that the ten weeks of their breeding season coincides with the main tourist season!

"Culicodes impucantus" to give the midge insect its proper title, prefers areas where there is a good annual rainfall - so the West of Scotland is its favourite haunt as many places there have over 50 inches of rain a year (Lochaber had 220 inches in 1990!).

It is only the female midge which bites, having first detected its prey from the carbon dioxide which they produce.

The insect scrapes the skin, then inserts a hollow hypodermic-style needle under the skin to draw blood - a nourishing meal for the midge prior to laying its eggs.

Over the centuries, many remedies have been formulated to deter the little blighters and the consumer magazine "Which" has even run tests on brands of insect repellents. But the US army has found that a cosmetic product "O So Soft" works wonders!

And smoke is also a good deterrent - Queen Victoria is reputed to have smoked cigarettes on her Highland jaunts for that reason!

A system has now been developed by Advanced Pest Solutions, based at Edinburgh University, which collects known densities of midge populations in various locations and combines that with weather forecasts to predict the worst affected places - similar to the pollen index of hay-fever sufferers. The forecast is refined by midge catch data provided by a network of traps at weather stations located from Shetland to the Borders. The forecast is being reported each day in the Aberdeen-based Press and Journal newspaper and is available online at www.midgeforecast.co.uk.

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