| How to beat the midges this summer|
|It is, more or less, summer and there are holidays to plan. Unfortunately, midges are on manoeuvres too, just waiting for an unsuspecting ankle to nibble the moment the sun goes down. Even Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia were attacked by them during their trip to Ireland last week.|
Is there anything you can do, other than dress in a spacesuit? Know your enemy, be prepared and you can win. First, you need to know where your adversary hangs out. This is where Alison Blackwell comes in. She is an expert on biting insects and runs Advanced Pest Solutions, a company that acts as a sort of midge MI5, keeping Britain's shifting populations under surveillance. Blackwell is in charge of the Scottish Midge Forecast, a daily report on where the notorious Highland biting midge is planning to dine out. Advanced Pest Solutions also produces a map of expected hotspots across the whole of the UK.
Coloured red for beware are, naturally enough, the Scottish Highlands and Islands but also part of the Scottish Borders and Galloway, the Lake District and a painfully large slice of Wales from Snowdonia down to the Brecon Beacons. The Pennines, the North York Moors, Dartmoor, bits of Northern Ireland and most of the rest of Wales get a lesser orange warning.
This is not a reason to stay away from these places, but more a call to arms. Midges can detect carbon dioxide in your breath 200 metres away. They are attracted to dark clothing and love boggy ground, undergrowth, and gloomy, still conditions at the start and end of the day. So, put on your old cricket whites and head for breezy, sunlit hillsides with a packed lunch instead. And if you do get bitten, don't dance around swearing. You'll only broadcast your location by releasing more carbon dioxide.
A good splash of midge repellent will help – or follow the example of Scottish crofters. Traditionally they tied bog myrtle around their ankles. Today, savvy Highlanders have a new secret weapon: Avon Skin So Soft lotion. Finally, there's an old adage: "Kill one midge and a thousand will come to its funeral." Don't listen – it depends how you do it. Kill it quietly with a precision jab of the forefinger and none of the others need know.