The Highland Midge: What Are They and How to Avoid Them

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Ahh, the Highlands….

Legendary landscapes, moody mountains, misty meadows, fantastical folklore, and… er, midges?!

Yup, unfortunately nothing is perfect, and the Highlands are notoriously rife with the little winged nuisance otherwise known as the Highland midge. And while they’re annoying (and do indeed bite), they’re completely harmless.

However, they can still put an itchy damper on your Highland galavanting, so we’ve put together a little guide on how to keep your Scottish trek midge-free.

What is a Highland Midge?

Their scientific name is Culicoides impunctatus, which is quite a mouthful, so most folks know them as the Highland midge (or just ‘Midgies’, to the locals) and they are one of the many species of the Biting Midge. And as you’ve probably already guessed, they’re native to the Highlands in Scotland. 

They are most prevalent during the late spring and late summer months and often cluster together in a swarm (making them easily identifiable), and similar to mosquitos, they feed on mammals’ blood. 

Like many other biting insects, you can feel when you’ve been nipped by a Highland midge and you will notice that your skin will have a little lump, which can be itchy for a day or two afterwards. As we mentioned earlier, Highland midges are harmless and DO NOT carry harmful diseases. So relax, you won’t need to book your malaria shot just to head to the Highlands for a romantic weekend!

While midges are most active at dawn and just before dusk, and will often swarm near bodies of water, they will swoop in for a taste of the good stuff at any time of the day – and in any location. However, they’re not fanatical of extreme heat or cold, or galeforce winds.

Generally, their absolute favourite weather condition is humidity, but they tend not to be fussy when needing a bite to eat… literally.

How To Prevent Highland Midge Attacks: Midge Repellent 

Highland midges can be pesky and sneaky and can worm their way into buildings, and even tents, to feast on your blood (don’t worry – they don’t take much!), so it’s wise to be prepared with preventative measures when visiting the area in the height of midge season.

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure, so here are our top solutions to keep the little blighters at bay.

There are multiple options for repelling midges, some of which include:

Repellent Spray

Investing in a pocket-sized repellent spray can be ideal for keeping midges (and any other winged pests) at bay, and can be particularly useful for those out camping in the Highlands, as the spray can help keep your tent a midge-freezone – as well as acting as a topical solution for your skin when you’re out and about.

The best spray options are plant-based and toxin-free, as they rely on traditional natural scents that bugs are notoriously not fond of (such as citronella)! They can often be the better solution for those with sensitive skin too.

Repellent Bracelets

Those not keen on sprays can invest in an even more practical, sustainable, and long-lasting option: repellent bracelets. These are ideal for Highland midges, but can be used when travelling farther afield and venturing into mosquito territory.

Most repellent bracelets smell better than sprays and lotions and can protect you for up to 240 hours (roughly ten days). They are waterproof, reusable, ideal for children of all ages (as well as adults, of course), and they even look quite funky!

These are often the favoured option as they are cost-effective, eco-friendly, and super practical – you just pop one on your wrist/ankle and forget all about it.

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Insect Repellent Patches

Another favourable option is deet-free 100% natural patches that keep midges, mosquitos and other bugs away.

This is a great solution for those who want to be free of insects, but in a harmless, chemical-free way. These patches are discreet, easy to use, and last up to 24 hours per patch. 

They’re ideal for both indoor and outdoor activities and offer a less obvious bug repellent solution than heavily scented sprays or brightly coloured bracelets, meaning they can be the best shout for fancy dinner out, Highland weddings, and other events that require formal attire.

Midge & Mosquito Repelling Candle

Those who love camping or any other Great Outdoors activities that might land them in the middle of midge season in the Highlands (where they can still be at risk of midge bites during the night) often favour midge-repellent candles, as they also double as a light source during camping trips, hiking, or alfresco dining.

They will typically come in scents such as lavender, lemon, or citronella, which can be pleasantly fragrant, and will ensure insects are kept away in a harm-free manner.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are the gift that keeps on giving. Many of us love to use them in the bath, in oil burners, or on our pillows for relaxation and aromatherapy purposes, but did you know many bugs absolutely LOATHE them?!

Pests including mosquitos, spiders, horseflies, and yes – our good pal, the Highland midge – will not venture anywhere near certain fragrances, such as peppermint, tea tree, lavender, lemon/citrus, and eucalyptus (to name but a few).

Enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep with zero bloodsucking interruption? What’s not to like about that?!

Repellent Wipes

Repellent wipes can be a refreshing way to keep your skin off of the midge-menu. Many wipe brands come deet/heavy-chemical-free, and we recommend only investing in biodegradable options only.

Repellent Coils

If the strong aromas that often come with most anti-bug products aren’t your thing (because, trust us – there’s nothing better than inhaling the fresh, earthy scent of the Highlands – without a side-order of citronella) then unscented repellent coils may be just the ticket for you.

The average coil offers circa 6.5 hours of protection from midges, mozzies, and other mini-vampires, and can stretch up to 20 metres – which is ideal for campsites, cabins, and so on. 

Portable Electric Midge Repellents

We live in the digital era, so of course there’s a nifty gadget to ward off winged intruders. This may be the priciest of the options, but they are reusable, rechargeable, extremely lightweight, and ultra portable. 

This bit of tech requires pads (sometimes sold separately, depending on the supplier), which emits a fragrant waft and electric frequency in the air when activated that insects are not fanatical about. 

They often come with two modes: ‘outdoor’ mode and ‘camp’ mode, meaning you can use the item according to your environment.

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Head Nets

Admittedly these aren’t the most stylish and sexy of solutions, but many avid hikers and campers swear by head nets to keep bugs at bay. 

Typically, most nets are made of yarn, so they are sustainable, reusable, machine-washable, and super lightweight. 

Head nets aren’t designed to be slept in (we mean, you can, but it won’t be overly comfy), and so many net fans will also opt for mosquito nets to cover their tents/beds – especially if they love to sleep under the stars!  

Highland Midge: FAQs

Is a Scottish midge a mosquito?

Nope, they are not related to the mozzie (praise the lord), but they do look remarkably similar in their bodies and wings; however, the Scottish/Highland midge is smaller than the mosquito, making it easy to identify.
They also do not have a proboscis, which is the bite part of the mozzie that transmits disease – so although the bites can be irritating and unsightly, they won’t cause you any long-term harm.

What do Scottish midges do?

Midges typically swarm in groups and will bite any mammal they can get their chops on. You’re most likely to find them hovering near bodies of water in the early hours of the morning or evening, so investing in a waterproof repellent is wise.

Are midges only in Scotland?

No, midges can be found almost anywhere around the globe, with the exception of areas of extreme temperatures (e.g.: deserts and the poles).

How long do Highland midges live?

Like many winged insects, a midge’s lifespan is usually between 20-30 days. However, because of their breeding habits, midges are dense reproducers. A single female midge can lay around 110 eggs a pop, meaning despite their short lifespan, they are a prominent nuisance all throughout the warmer months.

What does a Scottish midge look like?

Midges are similar in appearance to mosquitos, although they are smaller and are rarely solo (making them easy to discern from the common mozzie). They have two transparent wings, and can often be misconstrued as flies because of their appearance.

How big are Scottish midges?

They’re little but mighty! Much like mosquitos, they can leave an itchy (albeit, poison-free) welt on the skin, which can be quite disconcerting, considering that the average Scottish midge is only 2 mm in length. Although there are multiple types of midge, they rarely exceed 3 mm in size.

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