Certain regions of the Scottish highlands and islands are plagued in summertime with the dreaded highland midge, Culicoides impunctatus.

There are chemical preparations which some recommend either to repel the midges or to treat their bites once inflicted. The most widely recommended repellents include one of three ingredients

Midges are said to be attracted most by dark clothing, so wearing light-coloured clothes has been suggested as a way to reduce attractiveness to these creatures, if not actually to repel them.

Another way to lessen the number of bites a person sustains, widely used in the highlands and islands, is to stay indoors, especially in the early and late periods of daylight and when there is little or no wind. However, this is not always possible and in any case midges tend to find their way in to houses, and it can only take one or few in a room to come and bite when a person is asleep.

To lessen the pain from a midge bite, many substances are recommended, including various creams, some of which contain antihistamine. At least some of these preparations, however, are reportedly ineffective against the bite of the highland midge, and given the number of bites a person can sustain in a short period of time if attacked by a swarm, the quantity that is needed can be unrealistic to apply to the body in practice. Personally I would recommend vinegar, which lessens the pain rather than removing it, which is more than is done by at least some of the creams that are supposed specifically to work on insect bites.

Is there a hack?

  • 1
    This is covered at outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/13282/13144
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:26
  • I wouldn't say the answers to that or the other midge and insect questions I've found on the SE network suggest hacks.
    – user12701
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:46
  • As I am living in the area where this is a major issue and I am very interested in this question, but I feel the scope in this case is too wide as it asks 1. about how to avoid being bitten altogether and 2. what to do once bitten: how to treat bites. So I would like to suggest to divide this question in two.
    – Flint
    Sep 19, 2017 at 11:13

1 Answer 1


My experience is that midges (and the dreaded New World black fly, genus Prosimulium) tend to regard most repellents as tasty meat tenderizer.

An effective means to avoid being devoured is to use a head net with long clothes tucked into boots and gloves or mesh pants. You can even order a full mesh suit.

mesh bug suit

BTW, these insects are also a nuisance when bicycling, since they seem attracted to shiny objects such as eyes, and are very irritating in the eye!

  • I've used a headnet. With midges, a standard mosquito net is too coarse; you need a finer mesh. My approach (I was younger at the time) was that the net looked stupid and so donning it was a last resort. This meant putting it on when there were clouds of insects about and either some were already on my face or neck or there were so many that some could get under the net while I was putting the thing on and arranging its edge. If this method is used, ideally the mesh should be put on before leaving the house.
    – user12701
    Aug 5, 2017 at 7:57
  • -1: This answer seems to be effective for the black fly species that inhabit parts of the US and Canada. The question however was specifically about culicoides impunctatus which can be found all over northern Europe but is especially a nuisance at the west coast of Scotland. While the right kind of net will work here, the one proposed in this answer will not. Follow the link in this answer to amazon.com and look at the close up pictures of the netting. I would think the highland midge wouldn't even have to fold it's wings to fly through that.
    – Flint
    Aug 5, 2017 at 10:19
  • As ruffle & @Flint state, my quick search for mesh garments found "mosquito-proof" clothing, which will not much slow midges, black flies, sand-flies or "no-seeums", a generic term for assorted small biting critters, and I've amended the original post accordingly. In any case, fine-mesh garments are more effective than slathering chemicals head-to-toe, though not as visually appealing ;-) And, yes, put on the garment and get it tucked in without trapping the pests inside! Aug 6, 2017 at 1:30
  • You could put the garment on indoors and then tuck it in indoors as well, or also put chemicals on the garment outside to repel insects from the larger holes. May 18, 2018 at 15:41

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