Midges are small flying insects that are a common nuisance, particularly in the UK's rural and coastal areas. This guide provides essential information about midges in the UK, including their types, behavior, habitat, impact on humans, and tips for prevention and control.

Types of Midges in the UK

  1. Highland Midges (Culicoides impunctatus):

    • Highland midges are the most notorious midges in the UK, particularly in Scotland and parts of northern England.
    • They are tiny, only about 1-3 mm in size, and their bites can be very irritating.
    • Highland midges are prevalent in damp, boggy areas, especially during the warmer months.
  2. Non-Biting Midges (Chironomidae):

    • Non-biting midges are also common in the UK and are often found near water bodies such as lakes, ponds, and rivers.
    • While they do not bite humans, they can form large swarms, which can be annoying, especially during outdoor activities.
      Highland midge (Culicoides impunctatus) biting a persons skin

Behaviour and Habitat

Midges are primarily active during dusk and dawn but can also be active during the day in shaded areas. They thrive in humid environments and lay their eggs in moist soil, decaying vegetation, and standing water. Highland midges, in particular, prefer areas with peaty soil and dense vegetation.

A cornfield at dusk with midges swarming the air above

Impact on Humans

The bites of Highland midges can cause significant discomfort, with symptoms including itching, swelling, and redness. In severe cases, some individuals may develop allergic reactions to midge bites. Additionally, midges can be a nuisance during outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and gardening, particularly in areas where they are abundant.

Preventing Midge Bites

Preventing midge bites in the UK requires a combination of personal protection measures and environmental control:

  1. Use Insect Repellents:

    • Apply insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to exposed skin to deter midges.
  2. Wear Protective Clothing:

    • Wear long sleeves, long trousers, and hats to reduce exposed skin and minimize the risk of bites. 
  3. Avoid Peak Activity Times:

    • Try to schedule outdoor activities during times when midges are less active, such as early morning or late afternoon.
  4. Use Screens:

    • Install fine mesh screens on windows and doors to prevent midges from entering indoor spaces.
  5. Environmental Control:

    • Eliminate standing water around your home to reduce midge breeding sites.
    • Keep outdoor areas well-maintained and free of dense vegetation where midges may hide.
      Pyramid fine mesh midge jacket to prevent bites

Treating Midge Bites

If you are bitten by midges, the following steps can help alleviate symptoms:

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce swelling and itching.
  • Use over-the-counter anti-itch creams or antihistamines to relieve discomfort.
    Person using a skin applied soothing lotion on to midge bites

Midges UK Conclusion

Midges are a common annoyance in the UK, especially in rural and coastal areas. By understanding their behavior and taking appropriate preventive measures, you can minimize the risk of midge bites and enjoy outdoor activities more comfortably. Stay informed, take precautions, and seek medical advice if you experience severe reactions to midge bites.