Beasties – Midges and Ticks
There are really only two beasties to worry about in Scotland – Midges and Ticks.
We do have adders, poisonous snakes, but you’d have to try to get bitten. Nessie has never been known to disturb a swimmer. Our sharks are basking sharks and aren’t interested in you. Beware seagulls wanting a chip in busy tourist spots!
These tiny flying insects are irritating and can bite. The bites are not usually harmful but are can itch so avoidance is advised.
Peak Midge period is June, July, August and sometimes September. They are most active at dawn and dusk. Biting begins at about 5 am, peaks at 7 am and falls to lower levels after 9 am. Peak activity in the evening can be anytime between 6 pm and 11 pm.
General midge advice is
• Avoid areas that are wooded, damp, dimly-lit and still – Spend time at areas that are sunny, warm and/or exposed to wind.
• Avoid outdoor activities in midge-prone areas in the early mornings and evenings.
• Cover your arms and legs where midges are active. Wear light-coloured clothes.
• Do not leave windows or doors open in the early mornings or evenings, especially if you have a light on in the house.
• Use insect repellent on exposed skin. Remember to re-apply.
In the season, you can find a Midge Forecasts from one of the commercial product producers:
Avon’s Skin so Soft oil is one of the most popular anti-midge sprays used in the Highlands, preferred by many to chemical sprays. It is not sold as a midge repellent but the Army and many forestry workers use it so, in the Highlands at least, there is nothing effeminate about the smell. It is readily available from a surprising array of outlets.
Commercial repellents often contain DEET which is effective but as this is toxic, don’t spray onto children’s skin or use for weeks on end. Spraying on clothes works but staining may occur.
If you wish to avoid chemicals, pungent herbs such as bog murtle, lavender, etc. may help. These are used in the herbal midge repellents and work for some people.
If you have been bitten then rubbing with dock leaves may help or try vinegar or a paste of bicarbonate of soda.
Citronella candles or coils may help if you are camping. Or smoke from a fire if you don’t mind being kippered.
Adult ticks feed on larger rodents and mammals such as deer and sheep. They will also feed on humans when given the chance. They climb to the top of foliage and attach to passing animals.
The tick’s bite is painless, and it remains attached until it is gorged with blood, increasing greatly in size, before dropping off. This can take between a few days and 2 weeks. It takes up to 24 hours before the bacteria are transmitted from the tick to the host.
Inspect yourself, children and animals for ticks if you have been brushing against vegetation. When you find a tick, do not squeeze the body as they can vomit into the flesh. The prong of a tick removal tool should be slid between the skin and the tick and then you twist to disengage the mouth of the tick.
There are special tick removal tools sold or use tweezers. If mouth parts stay in, leave them and they should drop out – if they don’t treat as splinter or consult a doctor. Use an antiseptic on the area and disinfect the tweezers or tool.
General tick advice: If walking in damp areas, tuck trousers into socks to avoid direct contact. Do not go bare legged. Use repellent.
Dogs: We strongly advise the use of tick collars on dogs for the duration of their stay.
Ticks are usually harmless but can carry Lyme’s disease. The most common symptom is a pink or red circular “bull’s-eye” rash that develops around the area of the bite, but it doesn’t appear in everyone. Flu-like symptoms and fatigue are other noticeable signs of infection. In case of doubt, consult a doctor making it clear that you may have been exposed to ticks carrying Lyme’s disease. The normal treatment is a course of antibiotics. It is very important to treat Lyme’s disease early.