Posted by: David Green | February 26, 2010

Britain’s No.1 Pest

As an occasional visitor to Scotland I have had plenty of experience of what has been described as Britain’s number one pest: the highland midge Culicoides impunctatus. This tiny fly has a bite out of all proportion to its diminutive size. Midges are commonest in the north and west of Scotland, where they thrive in the mild, damp climate. To avoid them, it helps to know a little about their likes and dislikes. They abhor strong sunlight and wind but love damp, still, overcast days.

Ideal midge habitat in Glen Coe, Scotland

Midges have been around for tens of millions of years. I recently got the opportunity to photography a mating pair in forty million year old Baltic amber. The forests that covered Europe at this time must have swarmed with midges, much as forests in western Scotland do today. The ecosystem probably looked rather different, containing trees like the Umbrella Pine, which appears to be the source of all Baltic amber, but is now restricted to Japan.

Midges preserved in flagrante for forty million years in Baltic amber.

It is worth keeping midges in perspective. They control the activities of another species that is sometimes described as a far more serious pest… people. Without them Scotland would be a very different place!

David Green

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