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The Scottish Midges

Don’t believe a word they tell you. The common Scottish midge, better known of course as ‘culicoides impunctatus’ (from the Latin – translates as ‘wee bastards’), is a pretty harmless creature. Well, the male of the species is. Quite simply the male culicoides impunctatus does not bite. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.

The female is however an entirely different proposition; the female does bite and the female is dangerous (sounds familiar, eh, guys). However, you will be comforted to know the female midge, like it’s distant (and slightly more dangerous) relative, the tiger, does not attack for fun. Whilst the tiger kills for food, and sometimes in it’s own defence (for example if you are frightening it), the female midge attacks only for your blood. She needs it for her eggs.

The whole process is remarkably efficient. Firstly her senses can detect carbon dioxide at 100 yards (so there’s no hiding unless you stop breathing). Secondly she will hone in to a nice soft and sensitive piece of your skin, puncture it until the blood oozes out, then inject an anti-coagulant (just to ensure a continued good blood flow). Up to this point you may not even have noticed this tiny creature, but after she has feasted well on your blood she will be a good bit bigger and more noticeable. She will also be on her way having collected the necessary blood food for her eggs, having left a small thank you deposit in your skin that will irritate the hell out of you for the next few days.

The good news is that midges are very fussy about weather conditions. They don’t like bright sunshine, cold weather or anything heavier than a light breeze. You can confidently venture into the outdoors in these conditions. For the rest of the time, and particulary just after dawn and just before dusk, they can be ravenous. They much prefer sheep and deer to humans but if there are no sheep or deer around, they will make do with your (inferior not nearly so tasty, human) blood

Fortunately there are excellent ways of repelling midges. All the midge repellent manufacturers tell us so. The best known are probably DEET (di-ethyl toluamide) based products. DEET can actually dissolve plastic sunglasses, and has allegedly been investigated as one of the drugs allegedly responsible for Gulf War Syndrome – so it must be good!!! There are allegedly a few deaths in the States every year allegedly as a result of using strong concentrations of DEET although these are not available in this country. Another chemical, DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is also effective, although it’s not so popular (and it’s even more difficult to pronounce).

Safer repellents include Skin So Soft, the Woodland Fresh variety (our recommendation). This Avon skin care product is very effective although we have been told that midges also enjoy a bit of so soft skin themselves.

Natural bog myrtle oil offers another alternative but it takes acres of bog myrtle to produce one small bottle of the oil. Eucalyptus oil and citronella are equally effective (and smell nicer!).

For the antisocial you can dose yourself with garlic capsules and brewer’s yeast tablets. Midges definitely do not enjoy the garlic and brewer’s yeast combination as it excretes from the pores of your skin. Neither will your friends, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, granny, dog, etc.

A less anti-social repellent is the sonic barrier. This is created by a small battery powered device which you hang round your neck on a cord. The device creates a noise which deters midges but which is inaudible to the human ear. Even if it were a different frequency and audible to the human ear you probably wouldn’t hear it for your friends laughing.

However, help is at hand in various forms, the most publicized of which is the ‘midge magnet’. This is a Calor Gas (propane) burning, therefore carbon dioxide producing, contraption, which attracts and catches millions of midges daily, particularly when aided by a few drops of midge attractant. The machines indeed do catch millions of midges but midges breed even more quickly. Several of these machines have been installed at various points along the West Highland Way but at the moment few (with the exception of the manufacturers and Calor Gas suppliers) are convinced of their effectiveness. Secondly, there has been discussion on introducing midge eating bats to the more midge infested areas of the countryside and each bat can eat around 3 million midges a day and finally, the Forestry Commission, who lose thousands of man hours work to the midges every year are also fighting back and have now enlisted the help of nematodes. The plan is the nematodes, already used successfully to counter the pine weevil and in Argyll, the blackfly, will munch their way through the midge larvae population, breed even more prolifically than the midge itself and consequently munch their way through yet more midges.

The final solution may take a while. In the meantime, don’t be a wimp. Midges may give you a wee bite but they are not carriers of any diseases, so get your shorts on, roll up your sleeves and get out there. We are talking about a creature so small that you can hardly see it. It is not a tiger for goodness sake. It is not even a bad tempered pussy cat. Just rely on the power of positive thinking. Tell yourself the midges won’t bite you – and if they, tiny creatures that they are, do bite you, who cares. That’s the attitude, and if you have that attitude and cover yourself from head to toe in a three ply industrial strength midge/mosquito net and super-strength anaesthetic cream, you will hardly feel a thing. So get out there and get on with it. To you – Bon Voyage, and to the midges – Bon Appetit!

Tried and Tested - and left behind.

Most of the above have been left behind by people staying at By The Way, which might possibly suggest they were not completely convinced of their effectiveness. The products include, (roughly from the left), LifeSystems Expedition 50, CarePlus 40% Deet, Shoo Tissue Wipes, 3M Ultrathon, Camouflage Midge Hood, Witch Doctor Natural Hazel Gel, Jungle Formula Insect Repellant, Anti Mosquito Incense Sticks, Rannoch Midge Hood, Citronella Tealights, Anti-histamine Sting Pad, Boots Repel Tropical Strength, Autan Active Insect Repellant Body Spray, Cotton Tree Insect Repellant Wipes, Scottish Midge Repellanr Candle, Bite and Sting Relief Pen, Avon Skin So Soft, Bite Fighter Citronella Lamp Fuel, Mombai Extra Strength Insect Repellant Liquid, Highlander Midge Hood, India Tree Herbal Insect Repellant, LifeSystems Expedition Plus Insect Repellant, Blue Plastic Repellant Tablet Electric Burner, Dr Johnson’s Aromatherapy Based tropical Strength Mosqito and Insect Repellent, Extra Large Citronella Candle, Bugproof 50% Deet Insect Repellant Lotion, No-Bite Insect Repellant Wipes, Piezo Electric Remedy for Insect Bites, Baseball Cap with Retractable Midge Hood.

Approximate cost of above is One hundred and Sixty Pounds – just who is being stung?

Our Address

By The Way Hostel and Campsite
Lower Station Road,
FK20 8RY
(see location in larger map)

Tel: 01838-400-333
(or use our Contact page)

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Exploring the West Highlands

Tyndrum is an excellent base for you to explore all the activities and outdoor pursuits available in Scottish West Highlands – please check out the Activitiessection of our site for more info.

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From our Visitors Book

Great walking weather and the usual fantastic By The Way hospitality. Four great days in the loveliest place on earth.

We enjoyed a relaxing night in this gem of a hostel.