Know Your EnemyIf we're going to defend ourselves against midges and their bits we need to know a bit about them. So let's start with the basics: what are we up against?
What Are Midges?The name "midge" is applied very widely and is used to describe any very small fly. As such there are many thousands of species of creature that are known as midges. However the ones we're interested in here are the Scottish biters. These are members of the genus Culicoides in the Ceratopogonidae family.
Even with this more restrictive definition there are still many, many different species of biting midge. The worst biter here in Scotland is Culicoides impunctatus, the infamous Highland Biting Midge.
For those of us who don't speak in Latin classifications, midges are known colloquially by a number of names including "noseeums", "vicious wee beasties" and "little f***ers".
Midges prefer warm, damp conditions without too much direct sun. For this reason they're often found near rivers and ponds or on marshy land and are most common in the morning or evening. They congregate in clouds of thousands; a single midge is difficult to see, but a swarm is quite noticeable.
As with many haematophagic insects it is only the female midge that actually bites. A blood meal is part of her breeding cycle to help the eggs develop. Humans make a perfect target and are identified by the carbon dioxide they breathe out.