Thursday, 17 May 2007

The Dreaded Scottish Midge Swarms, Attack!...

All day the mist has hung low over the loch, lifting now and then revealing tantalising glimpses
of the opposite shore. The last few days have given us slightly cool, slightly grey and non-windy weather. Perfect for gardening and perfect for the emergence of the famous, dreaded, scary Scottish midge; the tiny insect with the huge reputation! We began to hear the advanced publicity within a week or two of our arrival but didn’t pay too much attention…I mean summer was still a way off and we had more pressing problems to deal with.

May arrived and with the soft spring weather bringing less rain and wind we have headed into the garden to start our massive clean-up and clear-out program. One evening at supper after an afternoon outdoors, M began scratching some small bumps on the back and two fingers of his right hand; application of a antihistamine ointment stopped the itch and we thought nothing of it…just some ‘funny’ gogo (SA word for unknown insect) in the garden. The weather became windy for a few days and then rainy and we worked in between the showers. Three days ago, after another late afternoon in the garden making a new bit of lawn, M came it scratching some small bumps on his abdomen. Once again the ointment worked well but now we were suspicious…could it be? It most certainly could and it probably was…the terrible, bloodthirsty Scottish midge!

OK so the time has come, now we must find out how to get rid of these things. Hoping to find an entry or two on the Internet, I googled ‘Scottish midge’ and received 106,000 results! Oh my goodness, that’s a lot of results for such a small and insignificant insect. Big brave African adventurer that I am (think Tsetse Fly, African ticks, Anopheles Mosquito), I’m thinking, ‘how bad can a midge be?’ Well, very bad, as it turns out! The Scottish or Highland midge (Culicoides Impunctus) is expected to cost Scottish Tourism an estimated £286 million this year.

A large amount of research is going into the development of reliable midge forecasting (read all about it here, Latest on midges) which will enable tourists to plan their visit to Scotland and as midge populations can be quite localised, visitors should be able to plan trips to midge-free locations. Dr Alison Blackwell explains: "By the end of the summer we should have enough data to do forecasts with confidence. It would go quite nicely with the pollen data on the weather forecasts." And where does that leave us and all the other unfortunate residents of prime Midge country here on the west coast of Scotland? Well, I can only speak for us and we are going the repellent route for now. I’ve invested heavily in the stock at our local Health shop, purchasing two different organic options and as back up, I also bought an “all natural” option from the pharmacy. Hopefully one of these will work. If not, there are still a couple of dozen others to choose from, including one from an Internationally known cosmetic company. Ahhh I should order some...maybe midge-free beauty will work for me!

In the meantime, this is where I’d like to be, on the shore reading in the sun!


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