How to avoid midge misery

The Highland Midge!

It's that time of year again: the sun is shining, the days are long, the hills are beckoning ... and swarms of midges are lying in wait. The scourge of the Scottish summer, the Highland midge, or Culicoides Impunctatus, to give it its proper name, has ruined many a day trip and camping holiday. It's by no means a recent phenomenon; back in 1872 even Queen Victoria was forced to abandon a Highland picnic after complaining of being 'half-devoured' by the beasties.

Under attack

Prevalent at dawn and dusk the midge is particularly problematic in the Highlands and Western Scotland where damp conditions provide perfect breeding grounds.

A single midge is almost invisible to the human eye, measuring one millimetre in length with a wingspan of less than two millimetres. The male is less of a nuisance, happy to feed off plants and nectar; it is the female of the species which is vicious. She requires blood to help form her eggs and when she's alerted to our presence by smelling carbon dioxide in our breath she attacks - along with thousands of girlfriends!

According to research, a swarm can inflict about 3,000 bites in an hour, while 40,000 midges can land on an unprotected arm over the same period. After their - or more likely, your - retreat the effects of the attack can still be seen. The bite marks will be itchy, often lead to swelling and, occasionally, other complications.

But not everyone appears to be appetising to the midge; some remain oblivious to their attentions while others find they're helpless in the face of the insects' advances. There are many theories about what can offer the best protection from attack, ranging from citronella, bog myrtle, repellents including the chemical DEET, cigarette smoke or simply staying indoors at certain times of day. Research into midge bite prevention is on-going but as yet there has never been any official guidance on how best to beat the midge.

Your midge tales

At Scotland Outdoors we want to hear about your encounters with the nation's least favourite beastie. Have you had to cut short holidays because of the presence of midges? What are your tips for avoiding the insects and what's the best course of action if you're unlucky enough to be attacked? Have you any photographic evidence of midge attacks? Will you be trying out new prevention tactics this summer? Let us know how you get on.

Use the form at the bottom of this page to get in touch or email us. Keep coming back to this page over the course of the summer to read other users' advice and experiences.

Play the game!

Image from Armidgegeddon game

Fed up being eaten alive each summer? Get some target practice in by attempting to kill as many midges as you can in our great game Armidgegeddon.

Page first published on Wednesday 7th May 2008
Page last updated on Monday 5th January 2009

Your Views

Charles Peters
I've found a brilliant way to avoid getting bitten by midges on holiday - DON't GO ANYWHERE NEAR SCOTLAND!!!

joe wilson
i walk across a bridge in glasgow south side to get to work any you are just about tearing your skin with the amount of midges that attack you. unfortunately i have no other route to get to my work so i nedd to run when i get to this bridge as they all seem to swarm above the river clyde

Diane Bannon
just visited family in Thurso did some gardening, now suffering,back home in wet YORKSHIRE midge free.Did use Avonskin so soft but got bit to death! area's you would'nt believe! Still worth it breathtaking scenery.

Tom Bailey
Hi, me and my sister were going to do the west highland way next june but I've changed my mind! I am thinking about doing the fife coastal path to avoid the midges. Has anybody got any experience of the east coast and whether midges are a problem there??

Barry C
I sea kayak but from the end of May to October simply avoid the west coast. We usually battle sea breezes during the day, by the time we camp up, our tents are pitched, and it's time to enjoy the setting sun and some food/wine the wind dies completely and it's out with the midge nets. I usually just go to bed at this point they ruin everything at the end of the day!Applecross peninsula was the worst we had them once...no point going there with this guaranteed misery. Will be back October with a 4 season bag, rather be cold than eaten alive any day...

mick brennan
went to kielder last week got eaten alive lovely place to visit and camp but unbearible midgies.

jill tyson
AFTER READING ALL THE COMMENTS ON MIDGES IN SCOTLAND, WE WILL REROUTE AND CATCH THE FERRY TO IRELAND! WE WOULD LOVE TO GO TO THE HIGHLANDS AS WE HAVE HEARD SO MANY TALES OF THE BEAUTIFUL SCENERY., BUT I SWELL UP IF A HOUSE FLY BITES ME SO I'LL NOT GIVE THE LITTLE BLIGHTERS A MEAL.

Audrey Stephens
I too have found Avon's SSS helpful and have recently been advised to try yeast tablets as the little blighters don't like the taste. I have also tried eating Marmite too - but drinking beer must be a better alternative? Anyone else had any success stories with yeast? Oh, and lavendar is supposed to repell them too - must try that next time!

Bq
Oh migod! I'm scared stiff now are there midges in lake district?

Sue
We're going on holiday to the highlands next week so have been interested in all your comments. I'm concerned about what Jenny said about this "Skin so Soft" being an oil and therefore making it easier for your skin to burn. Sunburn is much more of a hazard than midge bites so I'm going to try and find an alternative.

Jennie
If you are using Skin So Soft, remember to put suncream on before applying - SSS is an oil and you can burn easily.

Michael Parker
Over several years of walking and fishing the highlands, I have found mossigard, a product boots sold ( maybe they still do) worked for me. It will not stop you getting bitten, but they do not seem to devour you as without it on. The only downside with it ( and other repellents such as DEET or cirtonella, is that when the sweat runs off your brow as you are walking uphill, mixes with the stuff, your eyes sting like hell!The other answer is don not wash or use shampoo, scent or aftershave,at least a couple of days before you go walking, and for some people that works!

Daisy Murphy
I live in Wester Ross. It's early morning as I write this and I have just battled through a cloud of midgies - honestly, a real thick cloud - to go and let my chickens out. This morning I've covered myself with Jungle Formula, even better than Skin So Soft. If this was the United States, the authorities would spray the entire area regularly to get rid of the midge population. This is the loveliest part of the world but completely ruined by the midge. Many people like myself are eventually forced to sell up and move south because they can no longer cope with the bites.

Emma
I spent a wonderful week on Skye two weeks ago, with hardly a midge in sight, so they are not always a problem. I have been midged-on before and know how nightmare-ish it can be, but I wouldn't let it stop me from going (I might not choose to camp, however!).The plus side is that Scotland would be over-run with tourists if it wasn't for the midges!

Charles Steele
The Dark Peak midges can be almost as bad as those in Scotland, but my worst experience was in the Cheviots several years age where I ferll into a steam whilst trying to get the damned things off me.

Rhona Ferguson
Oh my god. Meant to be going to bridge of orchy for a week with my hubby and 9 month old baby. Dont care if we get eaten alive, but what about the bairn?! Might just need to leave her at grandmas for a week...!

Brian Morrison
A friend told me to drink beer a few days before going into the wild, the midges don't like the yeast in the blood from the beer.being a tea-totaller another option to to eat marmite. Never actually tried either of these myself, but maybe somebody else has.Happy Scratching !!

ROB CLOSE
My family and me have just spent the weekend camping at Loch Lomond, beautiful area, fishing for free, but.......we beat a hasty retreat this morning ( sunday )as the midges were just toooooooo much, my wife is absolutly covered in bites and i am not much better, they are a nightmare, strange though the kids (2 and 9 ) never had a single bite between them ????? solution tie a small child to you and stay midge free, nothing else will work!

Cal Kirby
Use Skin so soft ,, we thought it helped so much

Jacqui
Hang on a minute....Midges do not just bite in Scotland. We were staying at Kielder caravan park at the weekend and both my husband and myself were chewed to bits. All his bites have calmed down butI have huge red scabby bites that are driving me mad. Is it true that odourless garlic tablets keep midges (both Scottish and English) away? We use Avon Skin So Soft but these wee english midges at the weekend were persistent.

Julie Myatt
We are having a BBQ on Saturday. We live in the moors about West Linton and the midges are a nightmare from hell. They love our English skin!!! We put bottles of Avon Skin So Soft next to our bottles of Pinot Grigio for our friends and kids to spray on themselves. That seems to work!!

bill and bernice. argyll and bute.
midges hate... skin so soft by avon... they also hate scented moisture cream or even sun cream... as we noted they didnt attack the grandchildren. However, noticed they attacked our BLACK DOG terribly, so i threw a white towel over the dog.... wow. it worked they went away.... not that bad now i know. I also used windowlene (pink one) on the car windows...wow it helps.....and you can buy that mesh for doors to stop insects....it also stops midges..... hope it helps.

Sue Brown
We went camping in Glencoe. It was really beautiful.But the midges were biting in full force. We tried everything that was recommended but nothing worked. Avon skin so soft, Didnt work,A herbal remedy to put on the skin, didnt work,a spray ,didnt work we bought face nets and we made a video on a mountain were I was sat down and my legs were covered in midges.We are off to scotland next week for our 2 weeks holiday and we have a big bag full of repellents of every description.

Cathy
Have suffered many times from midge attacks, but agree that Skin so soft dry oil spray is very effective if regularly applied. Recently, while on backpacking trips, I've had 2 bottles solidify. Does anyone have an explanation?

Daniel
A few years ago my father and I camped in Oban and got eaten alive. When I got into the tent I could fell them biting my face as I was trying to sleep,so I put the torch on and spent the next half hour or so, squashing them one at a time. Then finally got some sleep. I bought some mossy spray from the local pharmacy. The following day I sprayed my arms and face earlier. Just before I got into my tent, I looked at my arms and it looked liked a long black mark on my arms, this was the midges stuck to my spray,but never qot bitten again. But i had all these little lumps on my legs and arms for a few weeks after.(from the midges)

Julie Farley
Can anyone advise which of the Avon Skin so Soft products it is - there is a 'blue spray' bottle in the Avon catalogue but it is a softening body oil - is this the correct one????????

Linda Grocott
Just got back from a weeks camping and touring in West Scotland,The Highlands,stayed on Skye 1 night which was ok until the wind dropped then out came the midges,used the skin-so soft by Avon which helped but the sheer volume of midges left us with too many bites to count,needless to say we beat a hasty retreat off Skye,we headed up to Gairlock and Durness which was loads better,Glencoe was also bad for midges so we ended up driving to the Lake District after finally admitting defeat,love Scotland but hate those midges!!

mandi dalgleish
HI TO THE FAMILY CAMPING IN DUMFRIES, YOU ARE SAFE NO MIDGES HERE

Scott
Smear Jam (any flavour) on exposed skin....doesn't stop them biting but it rots the little blighters teeth!!

Simon Cooper
We are having a wedding near Dumfries in June this year will the we beasties want a bite of us???

Mark Critchlow
What time of year do the midges appear? We are thinking of cycling in the Western Isles at the end of May. Will we need to take precautions?

Doreen Jones
Last May we had a glorious 2 weeks on Mull.midges were not a problem. We then went to Resipole and everyone was wearing net covering from head to toe,except us! We were bitten all over and left there in a hurry, went to Callendar, not a midge in sight-bliss!

Roy Oxlade
Two sides to every story, would the western side of scotland have remained so remote & beautiful had it not been for the midges ?

victoria
I am hoping to stay at Luce Bay in June. Does anyone know what the midge situation is in that area and time of year. Are there problems with ticks on dogs too?

RYAN
HI ME AND MY FRIENDS WAS IN SCOTLAND LAST JULY THE MIDGES WAS SO BAD,I FOUND THAT THE HIGHER IN SCOTLAND YOU ARE THE LESS MIDGES,ALSO AVON SKIN SO SOFT IS BRILLIANT TO KEEP THEM AWAY AND GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN.GOING BACK THIS JUNE LOVE SCOTLAND

barry freeman
was going to skye ...... not going now

Scott Morrison, Argyll
Having been in the TA and Army and lived in the North West of Scotland all my life, I can confirm that Skin so soft by Avon is the best repellant, however it has to be the blue 'spray on' type, normally only available from Avon or some boots stores and you need to keep your skin moist with frequent sprays otherwise it dries off and becomes redundant rather quickly!

Happy Camper
Avoid Glen Trool area, it's called midge valley, tried skin so soft to no avail. We ended up in bed at around six every night for a week, not fun with three kids!There were some german people there who had been taking the non odourless garlic capsules for around six weeks before their trip and they sat out all evening with no troubles!

ROBERT KILGOUR
TRY EATING A GARLIC BUD EACH DAY FOR A WEEK BEFORE HEADING OFF CAMPING,I FIND THIS ALONG WITH SOME AUTAN AND SKIN SO SOFT MIX WORKS WELL BUT DO REMEMBER DUSK AND DAWN IS MIDGE TIME OR WHEN THE WIND DROPS LOOK OUT.

Delia Heap
I have heard there is a midge watch site that you can log onto. This would help. does anyone know this web site?

Uwe Hoeppe
Beware of possibly fake "Skin-So-Soft" products. We were sold a bottle without an Avon logo that did not bear the original graphics. It did look very similar at first sight (same colour and shape), but at closer inspection it seemed like a typical bootleg. I don't know if there are different designs inside the Avon product lines, but concerning midgie repellant qualities, this one did not quite live up to its expectations. It did not stop the midges from sitting down on the skin, it just seemed to reduce the biting rate, albeit without cancelling it out completely. I'd say it was about 70% or so successful, but with midgies you should really be doing a lot better than that.

Alison McGlone
Last year in August, we camped on the shores of Loch Lomond. We are regular campers, however, never in this area. On the first day, we were laughing at the "tourists" with their midgey hats on, typical "tourists" or so we thought! Later that evening we were sitting outside the tents after having our barbeque. All of a sudden we were finding midgeys in our drinks, on the table, on us! It got so bad, we abandoned our leisurely evening and went to bed. The next day wasn't as bad. However, on the last day it had been raining in the morning and the afternoon overcast and then they came!!!! Millions of the beasties attacked us while we were taking down our tent, we had to send the kids to the car as they were crying. I was helping my husband dismantle the tent, I was almost in tears and felt like leaving the whole lot to the midgeys! When we finally got the car packed, we were covered in red bites all over our bodies!!! I have never experienced anything like it and as I said before, we have camped all over Scotland. It looks like the last laugh was on us! We are going camping this year to Dumfries area and I hope we do not experience anything like what we did before. We have two bottles of Avon Skin So Soft, so hopefully that will help!

Susie
I can vouch for the Avon Skin-so-soft, after descending off Ben Vrackie into the Glen of Killicrankie and starting to get bitten, the moisturiser was applied before heading down into Pitlochry - it really does keep the wee blighters away - thankfully!

Richard Robb
Vitamin B1 tablets - 100mg once a day for 2 weeks beforehand may not keep them away - but if they bite, there is hardly any evidence. Also - no soaps. Based on several years experience in the Western Isles.

Diana Carmody
Anthisan Cream seems to help calm down the angry red lumps caused by the little blighters. We have been midge free in the trossachs - till tonight - the evening after the rain! Tonight I can't finish the washing up in the kitchen, they got me, so it's anthisan cream out then lights out and hide till the morning!

Roman Cetnarskyj
Having climbed two wonderful Munros we descended down to Glen Etive from the White Corries side of Glencoe. It had been a brilliant August Day and warm enough for a 'skinny dip' in a pool near to the glen road. Later, we found an ideal place to pitch the tent and once erected we headed off to the Kingshouse for food and after a few hours found our tent in the dark and settled down for the night. We reflected on how lucky we had been avoid the 'midge' as it had been awful at the Kingshouse Hotel with people walking around in full net suits. And then the attack began! First they aimed for my ears and then my eyelids, so i covered up as much as I could. But they persisted and once they bombarded my mouth & nose it was just too much. MMeanwhile my wife slept on! Too Bad. I was up in a shot, I dragged her out of the tent in her bag, nudged the tent poles into the middle and the tent collapsed. In under a minute we, the tent and the car were heading back to Edinburgh, and in our beds before sunrise.

John Dalgleish
Just returned from a fishing and camping weekend on Ardnamurchan. Scenery and weather outstanding but now counting the cost of camping beside slow running water and trees. 30 plus angry red bites on one hand, 25 on the other and I'm just not going to count the ones on each arm. Use Skin so Soft to keep the midge away, as apperently this is what the British Army is trialing at the moment. Let me say that the trial is a complete waste of time. Next time I am simply going to cover up better and camp beside the sea or shoreline.

Ali
Avon do a spray - Skin so soft - 2 scents;guys can fet away with it.and it is the best midge/mozzie repellent we have found yet!!!

Joanne McGivern
I moved to Arrochar from Northern Ireland last year and locals in Fort William swear by Avon "Skin so Soft" moisturising lotion. Having been bitten soon after arrival I tried the Avon lotion and can confirm that it really does keep the wee blighters away!!

James Westland
Just two points:1) I lived in Skye for a while - my neighbour was a fine old Sgiathanach - born and bred there, worked the land all his life. I remember him often complaining about the "meanbh-chuileag" (the midge in Gaelic)I thought "theres no hope for the likes of me - if a retired crofter suffers from midges, I might as well resign myself to it - for it was obvious that you simply dont get "used to them"There was another instance when the late Donaidh Chrotail of Breakais once said to me "Uill, a Sheumais, that a'chuileag dona an nochd!" Trans: Well, James, the midges are bad tonight!" It was interesting to hear that he simply said "a'chuileag" meaning "the fly" rather than"meanbh-chuileag" (the little fly) for midges specifically.2) Still on the Gaelic theme, I remember reading a while ago a comment someone made, that there is very little referenceto midges in Gaelic literature, poetry, songs etc.Strange, considering how bad they are and how widespread.Could it be that they are a lot more widespread today than they were a long time ago? Just a thought.James WestlandMull

Angela Montague
We have just had a wonderful holiday on the island of Shona spoilt only by the midges. We covered up best we could I didn't get too many bites but my husband's arms were covered in red angry bites, they didn't attack me so much I only got one or two. He had to go outside on one of the evenings to take a call it was the only way he could get a signal on the mobile and when he came back inside he was just covered in these red bites we had to cover his arms in cream, two weeks later and his scars are subsiding but I think there will always be marks. I wouldn't let it stop us holidaying there again the place was out of this world but I would cover up more and take every cream and lotion going. We found Piriton helped quite a lot too.

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