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Midges and Ticks in Scotland
Scottish Midges - how to avoid them
For those of you planning a visit to Scotland in the Autumn Winter or Spring you will be happy to know you almost certainly won't get to encounter Midges!
For those of you planning a summer holiday in Scotland, you will no doubt have heard about the dreaded Scottish Midge or Culicoides. Generally speaking, most tourist operators forget to mention minor things! like Midges, Mosquito's, Ticks etc. But, by coming clean, we hope that "forewarned is forearmed", and that by telling you a bit about midges habits and life cycle you will know how best to avoid midge attacks. Incidentally, I have never seen a mosquito here at Loch Ness.
The Midge's reputation is, in our honest opinion, worse than their bite! Just by taking a few simple precautions, your holiday or stay in Scotland will not be disrupted by them. The first time you encounter them you will probably just feel itchy as the bites are not painful, just irritating and they are so small you can hardly see them. Everyone has different reaction to Midge bites -some hardly notice they have been bitten with not even so much as a red spot, whilst others have a reaction rather like a rash.
It is only the female midge which bites and of the thirty odd species of midge in Scotland, one in particular is responsible for most of the attacks on humans, Culicoides impunctatus.
They are not usually a problem in this area of Loch Ness, as it tends to be drier here on the south side of the Loch. Yes, we do get some, but not as many as some other areas in Scotland and midge populations vary from year to year, mostly due to the weather conditions during the breeding season.
Normally we first start to notice midges in early June and they can be around right up to the end of October. There are exceptions to this but it is broadly true.
Midges Love ...
Tourists - especially unprepared ones!! They also like cool, shady, calm conditions and are most active early morning and evenings. Wet summers help their breeding cycle, with a resulting increase in numbers. Armed with a little knowledge, you should be able to minimize the inconvenience to your holidays in Scotland and enjoy the "Great Scottish outdoors" relatively free of them. Below is a few tips and precautions you can take to avoid them altogether, or at least to minimize their nuisance factor.
Midges Hate ...
If you want to spend time fishing, birdwatching, painting, etc or other sedate pastimes, and do not want to use chemical repellants, there is some excellent protective clothing on the market that we know from first hand experience are good and really do work.
There are now commercially available machines which are very effective in attracting midges, and hence reducing their numbers around patios and outdoor sitting places, such as open air restaurants etc. They run on Calor gas and the midges are attracted to the machine which gives out a Bovine scent, apparently highly desirable to a Midge. Some self catering cottage owners in high risk areas are now using these machines in a bid to help you enjoy the outdoor life even during the height of the midge season.
To update the above, we have this year seen how effective these midge machines are and we have sat in high midge population area completely free of midges. We have not invested in one because we are not in a problem area but it is a good idea when booking accommodation to ask if these calor gas driven midge machines are in use - it could make all the difference to your holiday.
If all these precautions fail to work, or you cannot avoid high risk situations, then it is time to get out the repellant. We have found Boots Midge repellant gel to be excellent and has a lasting effect though it is a bit greasy. There are other equally effective products on the market. For those of you that are reluctant to use chemical repellants you could try Herbal repellant http://www.stopbite.com made with Bog Myrtle, (a plant which grows readily in the Scottish Highlands) and is not tested on animals -we have personally tried this product but didnt find it very effective, certainly not as good as other non organc products.
Smidge is a new product on the market which claims to be effective at repelling midges and other beasties. It comes in the form of a lotion, is family friendly and has received good press. Chek out their website midgeforecast.co.uk
We have recently come across a product that some locals have been using for years - we tried it and it is an excellent midge repellant and it is actually nice to use on your skin. It must be the best kept secret in the fight against midges. The product is called, Skin So Soft - dry oil body spray. It is produced by Avon and its use against midges was, it seems, a complete accident! It is not marketed as a midge repellant but as a beauty product. Yes - it has a feminine aroma but that does not deter the male forestry workers nor the British Army from using it ! Have a look on their website www.avon.uk.com
So come on! No need to spend any time at all worrying about midges, you now know how to beat them, or should I say, live with them. Here's to midge free days in the Scottish hills!
This section applies mostly to dog owners, but also occasionally to humans. In areas where sheep and deer graze, and that applies to most of the hills and forests in the Highlands, you will find ticks. They find their host by climbing up a blade of grass or heather, and when a host brushes past, they jump aboard. More recently ticks have been responsible for transmitting Lyme's desease in humans. It is still uncommon in Scotland but one must always be aware if flu like symptoms are experienced after being bitten by ticks. If you have any symptoms or concerns, always consult a doctor. Always remove the tick at the earliest opportunity to minimise risk.
You may see one on your dog - it looks like a black speck of dirt (with legs!) in the early stages and when it finds a suitable place on the dog, it starts to feed, and as it feeds it can fill up almost to the size of a small beige coloured pea. If left, it will then drop off and neither you nor your dog will have known it was ever there - it is quite painless but can be itchy. If you do find one though, you should remove it at the earliest opportunity. To do this, you can use tweezers, grip the body and gently twist and pull the tick out, taking care not to leave the head in or it could turn septic. However, we have never known this to happen - normally it just forms scab and falls off. To ease the itchiness, treat with anti-histamine, such as Boots Sting relief.
In our capacity as dog owners and self catering property owners we are sometimes approached by distressed dog owners because Fido has picked up a tick or two after rolling about in the heather. This is more often during the summer when ticks sit on the tops of plants and grass waiting for Fido to come along. ( but more likely they would prefer venison ! ) There is a simple tool available from most vets and pet shops which makes romoving Ticks a breeze, they operate like tweezers in reverse in that you squeeze them and they open. There are also several tick removal tools tools available for removing ticks including the tick twister and the tick card. Both are available from www.TickRemoval.co.uk
We would advise you as dog owners coming to the Highlands with your dogs, to visit the vet before you leave home, to get them treated with Frontline tick repellant. We use it on our own dogs regularly and it is simple to apply - just place the drops of Frontline onto the skin at the back of the dogs neck to keep them totally free of ticks for one month and fleas for up to two months. You can then spend your holiday romping through forest and glen without any nasty surprises when you get home !
Pet friendly cottages at Loch Ness