Tam's Tall Tales

- Mosquitoes and Midges in Scotland

For a variety of reasons, my interest was piqued by a small story in the Bearden and Milngavie Herald about a particularly large mosquito that had been spotted buzzing around the leafy environs of East Dunbartonshire, just north of Glasgow.

In fact it would appear that up to ten varieties of mosquitoes are currently braving the Scottish climate though most folk are more likely to get their blood sucked by the local midges (see graphic here of Culicodes impucantus from Wikimedia Commons). This has been a particularly good year for midges (if you're a midge that is) as the milder wetter weather earlier in the year in the breeding season has resulted in higher numbers this year. The Aberdeen Press and Journal newspaper had an article on the record numbers with the heading "Itch official".

Numbers of midges caught in three traps set up across Scotland, one in Argyll, another in the Galloway Hills and also in Wester Ross spell out the misery. The Wester Ross trap recorded 915,000 in just seven days.

But the north west has seen the biggest increase with a recorded 3,649,984 which was 334% more midges compared to 2013. The Argyll recordings increased by "only" 30% but to a total of 4,551,040.

There are commercial insect repellents and some folk swear by tying bog myrtle round their ankles while the US army has found that a cosmetic product "O So Soft" works wonders. When outside, the advice is to try to stay in locations where there are wind speeds of more than 6mph and avoid deep breathing - the midge is expert at detecting carbon dioxide in breath some 200 metres away. For more on this little pest (including a link to the official "Scottish Midge Forecast" see Did You Know? Midges! on Rampant Scotland.

Dr Heather Ferguson (nice Scottie name there) of the University of Glasgow explained that Culex Pipiens is one of the commoner species of mozzie found in these cool and wet parts of Scotland and may have been the one seen in the Bearsden and Milngavie Herald story. But it is not found in nearly the same numbers as "Culicodes impucantus" to give the midge insect its proper title. Fortunately mosquito borne disease is all but unknown in Scotland. And the midge only leaves an irritating itch on human skin.

Please give me whatever feedback comes to mind via tamfromrampant@gmail.com.

Tam O'Ranter
May 2014

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