Every year walkers and climbers in certain parts of the world are besieged by Midges insects which bite and cause skin irritation which differs in severity depending on the person, although there are many species of Midges not all of them are of the biting variety.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer from a Midge bite the culprit is most likely going to be from the Ceratopogonidae family, both males and females feed on traditional plant life and nectar but the females will also take the blood of sheep, cattle and humans with no preference between these victims.
The Midges reproductive cycle can vary greatly depending on rainfall and humidity with very dry summers drastically reducing the number of eggs being laid. The principle successful breeding ground of the Midge will consist of land that receives a regular amount of rainfall during the spring and summer months causing high humidity.
The actual wound is just deep enough to puncture the capillary and access the blood, histamines from the saliva of the insect help to increase the blood flow making the transfer easier for the Midge which will continue feeding until full or some human intervention cuts short the feeding cycle.
After feeding the female Midge will lace the wounded area with a pheromone to tell again other nearby females that an easy meal is up for grabs, this can have a swarming affect as each additional bite will attract more and more more insects. The irritation felt after a bite is caused by the histamines injected into the wound and has been known to cause some heavy irritation.
The initial attraction for any biting Midge is the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) which can be a problem for humans being a very important part of our breathing cycle but there are a few simple things you can do to reduce the risk of an attack.
As with most flying insects, areas with a good windy breeze will have less of a problem than a low lying still area and studies have shown that the Midge population is less at heights above 700m. Wearing long sleeves on those hot muggy nights is not very practical but will reduce the amount of skin left open for any Midge attack. Migdes will crawl around till they find somewhere to feed even getting inside your clothes.
A number of skin products exist that will stop biting but only the immediate areas of treated skin leaving anything you have missed open for feeding, but anything that will reduce the problem can only be a good thing. Similar products are available for use on tents to work alongside any built in anti insect precautions.
Although the Midge will transmit disease to some livestock there is no current evidence that they are causing humans any harm apart from the after bite irritation.
The Cost to Tourism in the UK
Scotland suffered a very bad summer in 2012 with exceptional amounts of Midges affecting its tourism industry to the point where certain facilities and regions where deemed no go areas by many tourists . Unfortunately that years weather conditions produced a bumper harvest of Midges and due to the widespread reported of the problem will most likely influence the way travelers choose their UK holiday destinations for years to come.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia