Defences Against Midges

There's currently no way of avoiding midges and their bites, especially if you visit rural Scotland during the high season. The wee beasties outnumber us billions to one. However there are some things you can do to improve the odds in your favour and protect yourself.

How Do You Stop Midges Biting?

Most of the traditional methods of midge defence consist of repulsion in some form. Either you attempt to drive midges away from a whole area or you try to persuade them to ignore your juicy blood and look elsewhere for their next meal.

Area Protection

Trying to get rid of midges from a whole area is difficult. However it might be worth a try if you live or go camping near a midge habitat.

One of the oldest traditional ways of driving away midges is with smoke. A smokey fire was used to repel them in earliest times, then later the smoking of a pipe was recommended. It seems that the smoke interferes with the midges' sensory apparatus and confuses them. Because of this they try to avoid the smoke and, even if they come near humans, often don't locate us. The reason for this is uncertain but might be connected with their use of carbon dioxide emissions to locate a host. Of course the carbon dioxide emitted by the smoke is likely to attract more of them - but hopefully to the fire and not to you.

If you're considering lighting a fire then obviously be extremely careful about safety.

Another approach to repelling midges is to use ultrasonics. These devices drive away various pests including, it is claimed, midges. You can buy ultrasonic units designed to cover an entire area or smaller ones that can be worn on the wrist.

Personal Protection

At a more personal level, many things have been tried to dissuade midges from biting. These include everything from ancient herbal remedies through skin creams to modern chemicals. Citronella, a type of lemongrass, has been especially popular over the years as has Bog Myrtle. Garlic also has a reputation for driving away various pests including midges - though obviously it can drive away people too! More recently Avon So-Soft moisturising lotion has gained such a reputation for deterring insect bites that the company now produces a "Bug Guard" formulation.

Today there are a wide range of chemical midge repellents on the market. Most of those you can buy are based around di-methyl phthalate (DMP) and/or di-ethyl toluamide (DEET). For those who prefer something natural, Neem based oils and creams are available. Other ideas that have been tried include garlic and even Marmite.

If all else fails you could always try wearing light colours and netting.


The "attract" strategy of midge control is relatively new. It seems a bit weird to try and encourage more of the blasted things, but the idea is to get as many midges as possible to a specific spot where they can be killed en masse. High tech devices such as the Midge Magnet and MidgeEater emit carbon dioxide - often with other added bait - to mimic human breath. This attracts the female midges in the area which are then sucked in and destroyed. In an area that suffers badly from midges, one of these devices can destroy many bagfuls of the pesky biters on a regular basis.

All of the above have their uses, but as yet there is no guaranteed defence against the biting midge. Whatever else you do, if you are venturing into midge country then you might want to consider taking some after bite ointment with you.