1 EAGLETON NOTES: Midges and Storms

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Thursday, 14 June 2018

Midges and Storms

After many weeks of no rain and pretty good weather the inevitable June scourge arrived: the Dreaded Midge.  Today, however, there will be no midges. Storm force winds blew last night and midges definitely don't like that.

It reminded me that many years ago I blogged about the Scottish midge and I decided that it was about time I did it again.

The midge bible is Midges in Scotland by George Hendry.  A must read for anyone coming to or living in the Highlands if only for the humour of which this cartoon is a taster (used on the basis that the copyright holder won't mind given that I'm giving this plug and using it as a 'quotation' for the purpose of honest comment).  The work is otherwise an exceptionally readable treatise on how and why the midge plays such a dominant role in the ecology and human life of the Highlands.

When I first came to live on Lewis in the mid '70s I was told that more people left the Islands because of the midge than because of unemployment, that every midge represented a sin of mankind, and that for every midge killed a hundred came to seek vengeance. I didn't believe such superstitious nonsense.  But do you know what?  There are days when I could believe that it wasn't superstitious nonsense after all.

These days however when the midges get bad even the hardy road workers wear midge protection clothing such as the Midge Head Net or Midge Jacket which were probably inspired by this Punch cartoon from 160 years ago.

Writing this post reminded me that some of my readers have been with me for a long time and I'm sure at least two will remember the first post.

31 comments:

  1. They don't bother me too much but I have a head net. I have worn it on occasion but always trap a couple inside it. Best to put up with them rather than risk letting more in.

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    1. Adrian, yes the couple trapped inside is almost inevitable if it's put on when one is outside.

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  2. I remember the previous post(s) and couldn't agree more with the book recommendation -- can't remember on which trip to Scotland I picked up a copy but it's a surprisingly good read. Unfortunately I really suffer with the bites. On a holiday to Skye a few years ago I reacted so badly I had to take my wedding ring of for about three days while the swelling on my hand from the bites went down far enough! They don't put me off visiting, but I'm always on the look out for a better midge repellent.

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    1. That's very unfortunate Mark. I don't react much to the bites fortunately but I find their persistent desire to enter every orifice in great numbers deeply unpleasant.

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  3. I am one of those people who get allergic to many types of insect bite. I visited Skye once in late May and was told that the myrtle leaves were a good antidote, although at that time the midges had hardly made an appearance. And I don't know if that is true about the myrtle. Do you?

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    1. Jenny, I have never heard about myrtle as an antidote (or even as a repellent). On Lewis the midges rarely appear before 10th June.

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  4. Get stuck into the B vitamin group. It works, I guarantee it. The nasty little critters love me...and have done so since I was a kid.

    Every now and again, depending on the season and prevailing breezes/wind, when my ex and I were working in Hastings Street, Noosa Heads, when the midges/sandflies came to town we'd dose up on Vitamin B. And when we knew we were going up to Fraser Island for a few days, we always made sure we'd O/D on them for a couple of weeks prior to our departure. As I said...it works.

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    1. Perhaps, Lee, the reason the midges don't bite me very much or that I don't react is because I eat quite a lot of vitamin B. It certainly doesn't stop them being a nuisance though. They are attracted to carbon dioxide. Sandflies, on the other hand, have caused me considerable angst in the past worst of all, oddly, in France.

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    2. That would be the reason why, Graham.

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  5. I have personal experience of Scottish midge plagues that make any kind of outdoor activity extremely unpleasant and almost unbearable. Midges are never mentioned in Visit Scotland brochures or TV commercials but I would rather holiday near an active volcano than spend a moment in the Scottish highlands when the summertime midge population has exploded.

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    1. That, YP, is why Scots are such a hardy lot.

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    2. That, GE, is why so many Scots escaped to Canada and New Zealand.

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    3. They didn't escape they were rounded up and deported. The midges in Canada are worse, they drive Elk mad.

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  6. I think I remember your previous post about midges, too, Graham.
    These days, I am reading "The Old Ways" (recommended by YP) and I have reached a series of chapters about Lewis and Harris. So far, there has been no mention of midges. But the author mentions a few people and places I am sure you know (the places) and can imagine you know (the people).

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    1. I had a look at the book, Meike, and have ordered a copy. Thank you. I'm pretty certain I know at least one of the people referred to. I shall await with bated breath.

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  7. They sound worse than our mosquitoes.

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    1. In a way, Red, they are. They are the 'no see ums'.

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  8. I don't think I'd survive... Or at least it would drive me hysterically mad. Like Jenny I tend to get allergic reactions and just recently one single tiny bite on my ankle from one tiny no-see-um kept me itching and (partly) sleepless for 3-4 nights... I never saw the culprit who bit me, so I don't know what it was, or where or when. But the itch was triggered even by the bed sheet touching my ankle at night. I finally found it best to wear a tight-fitting ankle sock covering the bite, to lessen the friction. But with the hot weather we've been having, that got too warm! - so I had to cut off the toe-part of a sock, to leave my toes bare! Other treatments tried involved ice (tricky to get that to stay on, though - and wets the bed when it melts!), hydrocortisone, and peppermint oil... Getting better, but I think it will still be peppermint oil and toe-less sock tonight! (And all that from ONE bite, some time last week...)

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    1. Oh heavens, Monica, that's terrible. Sandfly bites affect me badly but midge bites are less of a problem than the fact that they are just there and get in your ears and hair. If I do happen to get a lot of bites a single antihistamine will generally solve the problem. Far worse than any, though, are the clegs (horse-flies) that I've encountered everywhere from the North of Scotland to the Mediterranean.

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    2. We usually call all the tiny ones "knott" here. When I look up that word in Swedish Wikipedia, there are two different species of knott (not to mention ~fifty different sub-kinds of the one, and ~sixty of the other). One links to English "biting midge" and the other to "black fly". As they never introduce themselves before they bite, I have no idea whether I react more to one than to the other! ... (Living in town, I don't usually get bitten all that often, though. There are many places in Sweden where mosquitoes/midges are a much bigger problem. Especially up north.)

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  9. I remember your mention of midges, but I think it was last year.
    It is interesting how travel shows rarely mention bugs and varmits of an area, or where the bathrooms are.

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    1. Maywyn, I have mentioned midges in more posts than I can remember but I think the last time I mentioned the 'midge bible' was 2012 (although I could well be wrong on that) so I thought it was time for a revival. It is hard for some to realise how big a part the midge plays in one's life here. Having said that the problem is not constant because they don't like wind and the Islands are very often windy. Ideally they like warm, still, muggy conditions and the are relatively rare in the Islands.

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  10. I have never experienced 'Midges'. Do they get inside the houses? Our Mosquitoes do, although it may only be one or two.

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    1. Cro, the only time they usually come into the house are if they are still on you when you come in. They can come into my conservatory if the windows and doors are open when they are around but midge screens deter them. In my experience on the European mainland a single mozzie in the house is worse than anything I've experienced with midges. In Italy once there was one in the hotel bedroom trapped inside by the mosquito screens. I had no insect spray. In the morning I was covered (my face in particular) in bites and was quite a mess for a while afterwards.

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    2. One Mosquito is enough to ruin several nights sleep; and has often done so!

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  11. Oh dear, Graham, reading your comment above, you would not be able to live in Georgia! Why, we can have mosquitoes the size of helicopters! Whey seem that big when they are buzzing around you anyway! And they will "eat you up" , that is what your parents tell you to make you come inside when it is late in the evening.
    The ticks here are what really give me the creeps, they can be on you sucking your blood and you never know it, you have to really check out your body to make sure they are not attached to you!

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    1. Kay, ticks are quite a problem here too. I certainly wouldn't walk through the long grass in shorts.

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  12. oh midgees, here we call them mozzies they are so annoying in Summer when you need the windows open, especially when they buzz in your ears.

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    1. Amy, I thought mozzies where mosquitoes. I didn't come across midges in New Zealand but the little flies were a pest in the evening.

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  13. Thanks! I am now scratching.

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