The midge

Scottish midges are small flying and biting insects that are most prevalent in the north and west of Scotland during summer months (although they do occur in the south and east), and can be the scourge of the Highland wildlife-watcher.

These insects are only 2mm long and are attracted to all vertebrate species by the trail of carbon dioxide that is exhaled as they breathe. Humans serve as good large CO2 emitters. The first contact you may have will be with pregnant females that will land on bare skin, which they bite through to feed on your blood. The midges then leave to lay their eggs. After this you may have a reaction, with some itchiness and small pink spots caused by sub-cutaneous bleeding, due to a tiny amount of anti-coagulant left by each of the midges at their feeding sites.

Midges can be active from April through to October, but are only a significant problem between June and August. Midges are active in the morning and the evening and when it is overcast and drizzling, they favour damp windless conditions.

Midges can be seen throughout most of Scotland, but are more numerous (and notorious!) in the North and West. They prefer damp sheltered uncultivated areas, in valleys and in woodland. Open hillsides, windy seashores and cultivated areas are less attractive to them. They are also attracted to dark coloured clothing over light.

Midges are found in there millions and are themselves food to other insects and these in turn feed vast numbers of birds and bats. These minute invertebrates feed on humans and other mammals and they are part of the rich biodiversity of Scotland.