Don’t let the midges in Scotland stop you from enjoying the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Here’s tips on how to avoid midge bites, midge repellent reviews plus how to stop midge bites itching.
It is worth mentioning that however annoying these pesky Scottish midges can be, they are not such a serious threat to your health as ticks which can give you Lyme disease. Read: What is Lyme disease & how to avoid tick bites in humans
Scottish midge facts
What are midges?
Midges (also called gnats) are tiny flying insects and the Highland midge (Culicoides Impunctatus) is the one that causes issues, particularly in Western Scotland and the Highlands.
Midges are not the same as mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are sometimes confused with midges but mosquitoes are much larger insects. You may come across mosquitoes in Scotland but there aren’t as many as the midges.
Why do midges bite?
It is only the female midge that bites. When female midges emerge they have built up enough fat reserves as a larva to lay their first batch of eggs. To mature more batches of eggs than this initial batch, the female midge needs a blood meal.
Male Highland midges are vegetarian and eat plant nectar so won’t bother you.
- Biting midges are normally about 2 mm long
- Female midges are only active in low light so the most active period tends to be the two hours before sunset
- Midges are an important part of the ecosystem and are food for other animals such as bats and birds
- Midges don’t transmit diseases to humans in the UK.
- Midges lay their eggs in wet soil in boggy, wet areas where there is normally Sphagnum or purple moor grass
Midge season in Scotland – the best time to avoid
If you want to know when is the best time to visit Scotland to avoid the midges, you need to find out when is the midge season in Scotland.
Adult midges in Scotland start to come out in April and they are active on the wing until October. There are often two peaks in emergence during this period which are the worst time for midges in Scotland so these are the best times to avoid – one in late May/early June and the second in late July/early August. In saying that we’ve been on holiday in the Scottish Highlands and Islands during these peak midge times and it hasn’t stopped us going back year after year.
How to avoid midge bites
The best method to avoid being bitten in the Highlands is to use a repellent and to recognise the conditions when midges are likely to be most active and avoid going out in them.
Top tips to avoid midge bites
- Cover exposed skin – midges have short mouth parts so can’t bite through material although they will crawl under clothes.
- Use insect repellent. Below we list some insect repellents you may want to try.
- On still summer evenings, try to avoid being outside.
- Be aware that calm, windless days and dull days are likely to be more midgey – midges stop flying in wind speeds greater than about 6mph.
- If you encounter midges, keep walking as they can’t fly as fast as you can walk.
- Wearing light-coloured clothing may attract fewer midges as, like goths, they seem to prefer dark colours.
- Avoid breeding sites (wet, boggy areas) or at least keep up-wind of them.
- Get to higher ground as midges are less common above 700m.
Midge nets and midge hoods
If you’re still getting attacked, then bring out the midge net. I always carry my midge hood in my rucksack and wear it over my trusty Tilley hat. Midge hoods can be bought in local shops or you can buy them online from
- Lifesystems Midge/Mosi Head Net CC7435 £6.99 or from Cotswold Outdoor £7.00
- Amazon have a range of midge hoods and jackets
The bad news is that we have yet to find a midge repellent that works all the time on every occasion. Once on the Isle of Mull, on getting out of the car at a viewpoint we were attacked by midges. We applied insect repellent and the midges disappeared. On our next stop a few miles down the road, the midges weren’t affected at all by the same midge repellent. Maybe certain “groups” of midges in Scotland are unaffected by some products but I’m not a scientist. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) say that:
Repellents are effective but not perfect: they will only reduce the numbers of bites.
The good news is that I have found a few insect repellents that do work some of the time on the midges in Scotland.
Midges are repelled by:
We prefer to use insect repellents which don’t contain DEET or DMP. Although DEET and DMP are more effective than non-DEET or natural insect repellents, they are capable of melting some plastics and that isn’t really something we want to put our skin.
Smidge that Midge review
We used this on our last trip to Scotland and found it to be very effective. The active ingredient is Saltidin (also known as Icaridin and Bayrepel) which was developed as a safer alternative to DEET and which smells and feels much more pleasant. Apply it before you get attacked and it should keep the pests away. It has a pleasing fragrance and is like a moisturising milk.
- Protection for up to 8 hours
- Water and sweat resistant
- Repels midges, mosquitoes, horse flies, sand flies, fleas and ticks
- Safe for use on adults, children over 30 months and pregnant women
- Safe alternative to DEET and won’t melt your plastic kit
- Moisturising milk formula with lovely fragrance for an insect repellent
- Recommended by the World Health Organisation
- Scientifically proven in Scotland
More info and to buy
Badger Anti-Bug Balm (Organic) review
This is another of our favourites. This “USDA Certified Organic – All Natural Mosquito Repellent” comes in a small metal tin so can easily fit in a pocket or small bag. As you’d expect with a balm, a little goes a long way so it lasts for ages and is another great-smelling natural product.
- Certified organic and 100% natural DEET-free insect repellent.
- Independently lab tested to repel mosquitoes and stable flies.
- Suitable for use by the whole family.
- Uses organic and all-natural citronella, cedar, and lemongrass essential oils.
Find out more and to buy
- Amazon £7.81 / 0.75 oz tin and also available in stick and travel-stick format which is probably easier to use than a tin
Lifesystems Nat Kids 30+ Plus Spray
We haven’t tried Lifesystems Natural 30+ Insect Repellent Spray but I like that it’s another natural insect repellent.
- Formulated from a blend of natural plant oils derived from the Lemon Eucalyptus plant.
- Active ingredient Citrepel®75 is proven to repel midges, ticks, horseflies, mosquitoes, sandflies and gnats.
- Includes natural pyrethrum to act as a bite inhibitor.
- Each application lasts for up to 8 hours. Re-application may be required in areas with high temperature and humidity.
- Durable aluminium bottle with pump-spray top.
- Suitable for children over 2 years.
- Expiry: 24 months from when it is first opened.
Find out more and to buy
Lifesystems Midge & Mosquito 50 Insect Repellent
Lifesystems also have a product formulated especially for midges which contains myrtle extract and DEET.
Find out more and to buy
A. Vogel Herbal Insect Repellent (Neem oil insect repellent)
I first bought this from a little natural health shop in Tobermory. This was the first natural insect repellent I ever bought and I was really pleased with the results. As I mentioned before, it didn’t seem to work all the time so I ended up trying some other things too. I do think it’s worth trying though and there are some good reviews.
- Repellent for insects such as mosquitoes, flies and midges
- Made from Neem seed extract
- Does not contain DEET
- Won’t damage clothing or spectacle frames
- Suitable for children
- Plastic spray bottle
Find out more and to buy
Avon Skin So Soft Original Dry Oil Body Spray with Jojoba and Citronellol
When researching midges in Scotland, it’s well-reported that Avon Skin So Soft is an effective midge repellent and it’s widely available to buy from Amazon and other online retailers.
Incognito – Less Mosquito 100% natural insect spray protection
- 100% natural and clinically proven to protect against Malaria
- Protects against all biting and stinging insects including ticks
- Can be sprayed on clothes and skin
- GMO & detergent free
- Not tested on animals and Vegan Society registered
- Non-greasy with a pleasant fragrance
Insect repellents containing DEET
Products containing DEET include Jungle Formula, Autan and Pyramid.How to prevent #midge bites and stop bites itching #midges #Scotland #Highlands Click To Tweet
Midge bites treatment: How to stop midge bites itching and how to get rid of midge bites
To stop a midge bite itching, try using a specific bite and sting relief product such as hydrocortisone cream or an antihistamine cream.
Amazon has a range of products to stop midge bites itching which are also effective for relief from other insect bites, such as horse flies and mosquitoes. Although I don’t normally react to midge bites, I do tend to have a bad reaction to mosquito bites and my must-have bite treatment is a bite click relief which I find works really well at reducing swelling and itching.
- aloe vera gel (from Holland & Barrett and Amazon)
- essential oils like lavender (from Amazon and Holland & Barrett) and tea tree oil (from Holland & Barrett and Amazon).
- Soak a cotton wool ball or pad with cider vinegar and apply to the affected area for a few minutes. You can buy cider vinegar in supermarkets or on Amazon.
Help your friends
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Midges in Scotland – Our advice
Don’t worry too much about the midges in Scotland. Midge bites don’t irritate me as much as mosquito or cleg (horse flies) bites and as midges don’t transmit disease to humans, I’m more relaxed about midges. We generally find it’s too windy for midges most of the time anyway! When you go out and it isn’t that windy, carry a couple of different natural insect repellents and a midge hood and you should be fine.
What are your best products for repelling midges in Scotland? What’s your advice for avoiding midge bites? Please post in the comments below.
Ticks in Scotland and Lyme disease
If you haven’t read the post about What is Lyme disease and how to avoid tick bites in humans, please do so you can avoid contracting this terrible disease and also share on social media to raise awareness.