Covering up seems to be the best way to keep midges away
Tiny, relentless, capable of withstanding freezing temperatures, and of breeding in mind-boggling numbers – it wouldn't be Scotland without the midge.
But this year something different is happening. Across Scotland, scientists are seeing five times the usual numbers of the creatures collected in midge-counting traps.
One expert is predicting we could be about to see a unique extra breeding cycle of the Culicoides impunctatus, or Highland midge, and its cousins.
Dr Alison Blackwell, who set up the Scottish Midge Forecast, says a combination of warm, wet weather and the absence of a prolonged hot dry spell this summer, means it's boom time for the biters.
Blackwell said: "Midges emerge in late May. They mate, the males die off and the females lay a batch of eggs. They develop to give a second generation about six weeks later. So quite often if you get a hot dry spell in the middle of the summer, that second generation tends to be quite small.
"This year we've had warm, wet weather at the beginning of the summer which has maximised survival of the first generation.
"They've laid up to four batches of eggs. Survival seems to be high, so we've had a big second emergence.
"The second generation's larvae develop and normally go into an over-wintering suspended animation state."
The problem is that the normal over-wintering state appears to be getting missed this year.
Blackwell said: "Sometimes we get a third generation when those larvae develop into September/early October, and we may get a third generation this year.
"This is the picture across Scotland. Only in the Western Isles have midge numbers been low."
So what can be done? Apparently, not a lot, says Blackwell, as the midge tracks the CO2 emitted when we breathe.
"Midges are fed on by birds and bats and their larvae break down organic matter in soil," she said.
"We don't want to get rid of them, even if we could."
And Blackwell's advice for Scots and tourists alike is simple: "Get yourself a good repellent and check the midge forecast."
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