How to Survive the Midges in Scotland

Midges are small, two-winged flying insects. They love Scotland and walkers on the West Highland Way. They can smell your sweat! Midges are a subgroup of gnats and comprise several families of Diptera, especially the Chironomidae, non-biting midges, and the Ceratopogonidae or biting midges.

Biting midges fly in swarms (big huge swarms, that follow you around) and usually don’t stray too far from their breeding (biting grounds) grounds. Females feed on blood for protein to produce eggs. Males only feed on nectar. So every time you have been bitten you know it is a female that has done it, and you have just helped the female on its way to having another little midge!

The Highland midge is found in large numbers in the Scottish Highlands and the tree-lined parts of the West Highland Way along Loch Lomond. They are famously vicious and have become a cultural icon in Scotland. They were also a favourite subject of author Vladimir Nabokov. Irish midges have a similarly fearsome reputation.

Midges are at their worst on still, damp, cloudy days. They dislike direct sunlight or high winds because their flight speed is less than human walking pace. This is why midges cannot immediately follow a person when running, (however they seem to manage to keep up with my walking) although they can quickly gather again if a person stops moving.

I admit I have lost the war with Midges. They win, and I surrender; now, that would be fine if they now just left me alone, but no.

How to stay sane.

This is the only time in my life that I see smokers having any advantage over normal folk. They blow their clouds of noxious fumes all over themselves and it does seem to give some protection from Midges. Crap habit, though.

Me however, I cover myself with Deet, bought from any outdoor store. Probably not good for me, but I like the sanity that I currently cling to. This does help somewhat, but nothing keeps the little beggars away while walking. A good campfire at night, more smoke… and frowned on somewhat along the West Highland Way.

I leave you alone to your solitary fight and hope you hold on to your sanity and don’t take it all too seriously.

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