If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, there’s no doubt you’ve encountered biting midges at some point.
Often called “no-see-ums” in North America, biting midges in the UK are commonly known as “biting gnats.” Scientifically speaking, these tiny flies belong to Ceratopogonidae, a diverse insect family of over 5,600 species.
While these pests can be found nearly anywhere in the world except the Polar Regions, there are more than 150 species of biting midges in the UK alone.
Scotland, in particular, is known for these bothersome creatures.
What Is the Scotland Midge?
Scotland is home to over 35 species of midges, both biting and non-biting. Among these, the most prevalent is the Culicoides impunctatus, which has come to be known as the Scotland midge.
Like most other species of biting midges (UK or otherwise), the Scotland midge is a minuscule biting fly. Though it belongs to the same family as the mosquito, it is much smaller at only 1-3mm in length, with an average wingspan of 1.4mm.
The Scotland midge goes by many names, including “highland midge,” “meanbh-chuileag” in Gaelic, and perhaps most common among locals, “midgie.”
Notably, although they are known as Scotland midges due to their extreme prevalence in the area, this species is also present in the British Isles, across other regions in Europe, and even Russia and Northern China.
Why Are Scotland Midges So Common?
While there are biting midges throughout the UK, scientific authorities estimate half a million eggs for every 2 square meters of Scottish terrain, making it one of the more densely populated areas. This places the number of Scotland midges at 181 trillion.
This is because Scotland’s climate provides the perfect breeding conditions for biting midges.
Biting midges generally thrive in climates that are neither too hot nor too cold, and definitely not dry in the slightest. Their breeding grounds and subsequent habitats are aquatic or semi-aquatic—even their terrestrial habitats must be moist, with enough available sustenance for larvae such as nematodes and algae.
Scotland’s climate is what is classified as oceanic or marine west coast climate. This means they experience very few extreme temperatures, with significant precipitation occurring throughout the year. In fact, Scotland is known to be one of the wettest parts of the UK.
The resulting abundance of moist peat soils and damp, boggy grounds make for the ideal environment for biting midges to proliferate.
Scotland’s landscape is also rich with plant life, from dense low-lying ground cover to sprawling woodlands. The detritus these provide, such as rotting wood and decaying leaves, serve as shelter and nutrient sources for biting midges as well.
Worst Place for Midges In Scotland
There is a reason why the Scotland midge is also known as the highland midge—these biting flies are most common in the West Highlands of Scotland.
The Scottish Highlands are a popular destination for camping and adventure enthusiasts due to the lush natural scenery it is famous for. Unfortunately, and perhaps ironically, it is also these very same lochs, glens, and sprawling greenery that make it an ideal habitat for biting midges.
In addition to providing the humidity and geological features ideal for breeding, the Scottish Highlands also provide sources of blood meals required by biting midge females to reproduce. Viable sources of this vertebrate blood include cattle, sheep, and deer, all of which roam freely in many places in the idyllic Scottish Highlands.
These highland midges can also be found along the north and south coast areas due to their preference for warm, humid climates. However, coastal winds tend to be stronger. This poses a challenge for these tiny lightweight flies, making them still less of an issue in these areas than in the Highlands.
Worst Time for Midges in Scotland
Because of their proclivity for warmth and humidity, summer months are the peak for biting midges in the UK. For Scotland, this falls between June and August, with warm weather extending to May through September.
In adulthood, biting midges typically produce 2 generations of offspring. They do not mature during frozen periods, instead overwintering, or slowing larval development. The first wave of Scotland midges, therefore, emerges sometime from mid or late May to early June, and the second between the end of July into August.
There have also been observations of a third wave in early autumn, with some theories pointing to global warming and climate change as the cause.
Why Scotland Midges Are a Problem
Like all biting midges in the UK and around the world, Scotland midges can cause bites that are mostly irritating but in some cases, dangerous. Most midge bites come with just temporary itching and burning. However, in some cases, there can be allergic reactions that need medical attention.
According to the Scottish Forestry Authority, each summer, as many as 20% of 65 working days are lost due to the impact midges have on workers. The economic losses due to Scotland midges also extend to tourism, with these biting pests deterring tourists from visiting during peak season. Due to this, the industry loses an estimated £268 million annually.
The Best Midge Repellent in Scotland
The good news is that you can still enjoy visiting Scotland and experience the natural attractions it has to offer.
One of the most common ways to prevent getting midge bites is to protect yourself with a dependable repellent.
Smidge Insect Repellent is the #1 brand of protection against biting midges in the UK and is recommended by WHO, Health Protection Scotland, and Public Health England.
With a patented blend of Saltidin, limonene, and linalool, Smidge is scientifically proven to protect against Scotland midges for up to 8 hours.
Smidge is DEET- and alcohol-free, with a non-sticky, moisturizing formula that makes it perfect for both adults and children. Unlike some chemical repellents, it also has a pleasant chamomile-orange-wood spice fragrance.
This water- and sweat-resistant repellent comes in a 75ml lightweight aluminum pump spray, making it perfect for outdoor activities when and where you need it the most.
Biting midges in the UK, Scotland, and around the world are definitely annoying pests. But armed with enough knowledge and a dash of the right repellent, you can continue to explore the outdoors worry-free.
Biting Midges UK, Conclusion
Regardless of where in the world you are situated, biting midges are a bother, especially when they exist in your immediate space at home.
When traveling around in the UK, the best protection to seek against the Scotland midge is to stack up on a personal repellent like Smidge.
If you are in the United States, Smidge might not be available to you. However, No No-See-Um Natural Insect Repellent is a popular option that works against biting midges.
Help Midge Education Reach a Wider Audience
Culicoides is the most prevalent and distributed genus of the Ceratopogonidae family. They are everywhere, with exception to the polar regions, and are a concern for animals and humans. Some people show a mild reaction to them, while others are more extreme and may need to visit the hospital.
We want to spread the word about midges, both biting and non-biting. With your help and support, we hope to reach a wider audience and educate people, by distributing information about the behavior, life cycle, habitat, and prevention interventions on how to get rid of biting midges.
To support our mission, we ask that you share our blog with those you think would benefit from this information. Like you, many people around the world struggle with biting midges. To date, over 40,000 searches are made using the term “biting midges” each month. That is a colossal number, although it in no way reflects the entire affected populace that needs help. Please take a moment to share this article: “Biting Midges UK: The Scoop on the Infamous Scotland Midge” to your favorite social platform of choice.
A. Blackwell, A. Ritchie, JR Hillman, B. Fenton: Meanbh-chuileag-the Highland biting midge PDF English, accessed May 16, 2021.