What do these three animals have in common? Well, among other things, all are much larger than any wild animals that we’re likely to encounter in Scotland, thankfully. We’ll have a blog post later about the larger and perhaps more interesting animals, but for now I’d like to go smaller:
This is a highland midge, a small mosquito-like insect that apparently will swarm around us as we walk, regaling us with insightful comments and beautiful ballads of our progress (unfortunately, these will be in Midge, which none of us speak).
Oh, and drinking our blood.
Much like North America’s mosquitoes, midges are annoying pests that need a meal of blood to properly incubate their eggs, and so the females will bite mammals that travel near their nests. Anywhere forested (such as a large portion of our route) is fair game — but no worries! With modern conveniences such as DEET and mosquito netting, we’ll be perfectly…
…wait, did I say “modern conveniences”? Shoot.
Okay, next thought — when I was a kid, to keep the mosquitoes away we always had citronella/lemongrass candles; mosquitoes don’t like the smell of the oil, so they stay away. And the lemongrass article on Wikipedia says that it’s from the Old World — which includes Europe! We’re golden!
… Or not, apparently. It’s native to southeast Asia, specifically, among other places, which unfortunately do not include Europe. Double-shoot. (I didn’t even look at Eucalyptus.)
So — what was next? Adam’s suggestion was to, and I quote, “man up”, and while that may be the end result I’m hoping to find a better alternative that results in fewer itchy spots (and I’ll just let Adam test his theory)!
We’ll hopefully be testing these theories next summer, on our own mosquitoes (which are similar enough that most commercial products are suggested for both) – the most likely candidates are cinnamon oil, castor oil, made from the castor bean (which is apparently the most poisonous plant on Earth — only four seeds is enough to kill people!), and peppermint oil.
What would you rather smell like? Or would you, in our place, go with Adam’s suggestion and just grin and bear it?