As we start to look forward to the warmer weather, one of the negative aspects might be playing on our minds. Biting insects come out in their thousands during the warmer weather, such as annoying mosquitos and midges. Some of the tiniest midges can live on through September and beyond, so even the departing summer months might not mean an end to the biting midge nuisance.
Midges are the bane of anyone’s life who works outdoors or looks after farm animals. Incredibly, there are over 4,000 species of biting midge! They are from the fly family but measure only between 1-3mm. They can bite and even cause a reaction on the skin of humans. Particularly susceptible are horses who are often out at dawn and dusk in moist grass, the perfect time and conditions for the midge. For relief of the Sweet Itch associated with midge bites, try https://www.stinky-stuff.co.uk/sweet-itch/
Only females bite while the males tend to feed off pollen and plant-life. The adults are gray but may take on more of a red appearance if they have recently bitten a human or other warm-blooded animal and had a feed. Only the female midge bites, whilst male midges tend to feed off pollen and other plant materials.
There are 152 species of midges in the UK and the type that bite belong to the genus Culicoides, which is found all over the world. Even though they are tiny they are visible because they fly in swarms. They generally love to congregate in places like marshes, rivers, streams, woodlands and anywhere with dense undergrowth. The reason they love moist areas is that to be able to reproduce, the females need wet areas for their eggs to develop.
The pesky biting midges grow through a larval stage and then onto a non-feeding pupal stage of between 2-3 days. They then transform into a winged, flying adult that will live anywhere between 2 and 7 weeks.
Similar to the mosquito, midges love dawn and dusk but can remain active throughout the day, even in rainy and windy conditions. A slightly damp warm day is heaven to a midge, so beware of swarms on days like these and protect yourself and your animals from bites.
They are less active in the colder, winter months but can be around for a large portion of the year, appearing in early spring and hanging around until late autumn.
What does a midge find so attractive about biting a human? Rather scarily, they can detect the carbon dioxide in our breath from a distance of 200 metres! Anyone engaging in outdoor activities or out for a nice walk will be a perfect target for bites if they don’t cover up. For some reason, they are also attracted to dark clothing.