The islands of the Outer Hebrides will now be well into Midge Season.
Culicoides Impunctatus is the dreaded Highland Midge a member of the two-winged fly family, sharing some features in common with their relatives, the mosquitoes. However, Highland midges are very small, with a wingspan of about 1.4 mm. They have characteristic dark flecks on the wings. It is a ill known fact, probably due to an extensive cover up by Comhairle Nan Eilean and the island’s tourist board that the Hebridean Midge, Culicoides Speachatus is the worst of all midges, attacking in clouds of millions and often leaving nothing but the white bones of their victim behind.
These midges are most prolific during the months of June, July, August and sometimes September and 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. The wee buggers cluster near water and peat bogs and shrubs, away from direct sunlight and strong wind. They enjoy calm, damp, overcast days – even light rain. Shaded areas are preferred, such as the edges of forests and woods which shield them from wind and sunlight. Midge activity has been shown to increase in dim light but is suppressed by bright light.
For those visiting the Lewis for the first time, they may not experience this reaction to midge bites straight away. This is because it may take a few days for the human’s immune system to be triggered. Amongst the local population, many people develop less severe reactions to the bites. This is possibly because after years of being bitten annually, their immune systems become slower to respond. Whateffer, you will be bitten if you venture into their territory.
I’ve got my DEET, my hood and my cigars prepared but I know I don’t stand a chance, every year it’s the same and I can feel myself itching already