Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Midges and clegs: biting and avoiding

This is the time of the year when midges are apparently at their worst in the west of Scotland. It is true that if you are very unlucky, then you can receive a number of irritating bites; this picture from Flickr illustrates a worst-case scenario (I presume the leg owner was wearing shorts and no socks):


And here's a worst-case swarm picture, shown with someone wearing a protective net:


However, midges are rarely this bad. After a decade of living in, and travelling around, the west of Scotland here's my notes:

  • Most repellants don't work. The ones which contain some goo from the eucalyptus(sp?) do appear to have some effect; the rest are of questionable value. Some people swear by various products; others report no difference or protection with the same products.

  • There are many kinds of midge; other 30 types in the Outer Hebrides. Some will bite a particular individual, some won't. It is possible that you get immune to them; I've hardly been bitten by midges in the last two years.

  • Protective gear can help. The headnet is good, but cumbersome. The main thing is to keep bare skin covered. The damned things can also crawl inside and up trousers (possibly what happened in the first picture). Tight jeans are thus more effective than flappy flares!

  • Any kind of wind and the midges disappear. Bearing in mind that the Outer Hebrides is generally windy, this is a good thing.

  • The worst kind of conditions are near to water (especially still water), on an overcast humid day, with no wind, in the evening. Avoiding still water helps.

  • Top tip. If there are midges around, don't stand still; keep walking. This is the most effective technique for me. Midges apparently can't fly as fast as a human can walk, so you literally leave them behind.

  • Midges apparently dislike smoke of any kind.

  • There is a midge alert or midge forecast system. Ignore it; very local conditions dictate how bad the midges are.

  • Midge bites are not painful, just slightly irritating. Look at that leg; it probably itched a bit for a day or two, then that was it. Imagine if each one of those bites had been a bee sting...

...or cleg bites.

I hate clegs, known also as horseflies. And they hate me. Thankfully, they are much bigger than midges, and thus easier to spot. However, by the time you have spotted them, they have often got their teeth in as you don't usually notice them landing on your skin. They usually leave much bigger marks than midges; if left unattended to feast, they can create an impressive bruise.

Here's a closeup of one feeding on human skin (I'm not putting the actual picture here as some people will faint). Oh, it's to scale by the way, not actual size.

1 comment:

  1. I,ve noticed that clegs approach you against the wind so if you keep your back to the wind you often see them comming. Easy when cutting peat but impossible when I'm sheering!