Why Scotland's midge population has surged and why a 'mega second-generation' could be on the way

Some species of midge bite humans. Credit: Pixabay

Scotland’s midge population is set to be unusually high later this summer as a result of recent weather patterns.

The insects, considered to be a nuisance by many, are known for travelling in swarms, while some species of midge bite humans.

ITV News looks at midges' characteristics, the reasons behind the forecasted surge and what you can do to avoid the insects.

Why are midges thought to be a nuisance?

There are many species of midge, and in some species, the females suck blood from birds and mammals.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Professor James Logan from told ITV's This Morning: "It can be really horrendous, they go down your clothes, you can be breathing them in.

"When they bite, they nip. When they land on you, they've got these scissor like mouth parts that cut into the skin, pull the blood out, then they drink from that pool."

Midges are not known to transmit diseases to humans and usually only cause irritation after they draw blood. Dr Alison Blackwell from the Scottish Midge Forecast told STV News that people shouldn't be scared of midges and that they are an integral part of Scotland's ecosystem.

Midge bites Credit: NHS

Why are midges prevalent in Scotland?

Midges are found in abundance in the Scottish Highlands, because they like to lay their eggs in wet soil.

Rainfall is more than 125cm a year in the Highlands and the area is home to rushes and damp mosses.

Why do experts predict an increased number of midges this summer?

A cold spring followed by a warm spell meant the insects hatched within a shorter timeframe, The Scottish Midge Forecast has said.

“Their emergence has been delayed this year. Normally, we would expect the first peak of adults in early to mid May but we had quite a cold start to the summer season," Dr Alison Blackwell said.

“Then suddenly it got warm and it has been humid as well, which has helped produce a bumper batch. The heavy rain seen in many areas over the last 24 hours or so has only encouraged their survival."

The Scottish Midge Forecast said a "mega second-generation" of midges can be expected if wet and warm weather conditions persist.

“The first generation are replaced within about six weeks, so the second generation is expected around mid-July and we should then see a third generation in September,” Dr Blackwell explained.

How can I stay clear of midges?

Professor Logan gave the following tips:

  • Avoid going outside in the early mornings and late evenings;

  • If choose to go outside, try to go somewhere in the sun with a breeze, as midges do not like these conditions;

  • Try to wear bright clothing - midges are often attracted to darker colours;

  • Midges will only bite you when you're standing still, so try to keep walking;

  • Make sure you leave your windows and door closed and the light off where possible so they can't get into your house;

  • Look into buying some protective wear such as a net to wear over your face;

  • Buy some midge repellent and citronella candles.

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