Midge strategies^

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Graham T
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Midge strategies^

Post by Graham T » Sat May 08, 2010 10:04 am

Are there generaly accepted strategies for reducing the number of midge bites. I have read enough about them to want to know what works or doesn't. I understand that "locals" may simply ignore them. Would it be true they are not present while on the water ?
I have read about a "patch" from which the body absorbs Thiamin from and provides protection for up to 36 hours. They do not apparently appreciate vit B1 excreted in sweat poor dears !. Also Avon "skin so soft" is meant to be effective as an insect repellant. Unlike the patch however the skin so soft only provides protection to the areas covered. I don't want to use a Deet based repellant if possible
Any thoughts please

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Mark R
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Mark R » Sat May 08, 2010 10:25 am

uksailor wrote:Are there generaly accepted strategies for reducing the number of midge bites.please
Yes, paddle the wonderful coasts and islands of England or Wales.


Failing that, you have to accept that you're going to have a shitty time swatting the little blighters off, and that they will have a detrimental effect on your trip enjoyment. The exquisitely crappy misery that they cause is a fundamental part of Scottish paddling that no one seems to want to acknowledge.

My own careful strategy when arriving at a camp spot when there isn't a breeze ... I carry a headnet in my bouyancy aid. I leave it and my paddling gear on whilst I sweat about putting the tent up and then shifting the gear and myself into the tent porch. The tent inner stays closed up to this point, but I open the door a very little and slide my gear (dry clothes, sleeping bag etc) into the inner tent through the gap. By now, inside a now humid flysheet, the midges tend to have died down a bit - I finally whip off my paddling kit and quickly sneak into the inner, closing the small gap behind me; finally I put dry warm clothes on! To cook, I open the inner door just enough to reach my hands out and handle the stove etc - as soon as something is boiling, the midges tend to die down.

If the midges are bad (as they often are), that's me for the evening, I stay in the tent and read a book - after all, If I want to know what I missed, when I get home I can always look at pictures on Douglas' blog of paddlers watching glorious sunsets whilst enduring midge clouds in ridiculous all-body midge suits ...

In the morning, of course I reverse the process, with the headnet staying on until I've paddled away from the beach.
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Owen
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Owen » Sat May 08, 2010 10:34 am

Head nets or a Kari-tek midge jacket are a must, no one ignores them. Deet works, it might give you cancer but who cares that's a small price to pay. radioactive waste might also work? Skin-so-soft works for some, I find you need so much on that you can't grip anything. There are one or two other herbal based repellents around, some work some don't. Smoke coils in the tent work as does a really smoky fire. They don't fly very far so once on the water you can escape them.

Coming early i.e. now works as their not around yet. They can't fly in any wind so exposed campsites are good.

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keith
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by keith » Sat May 08, 2010 10:49 am

In addition to Mark's comments:

Our tent (Hilliberg Nano 3 GT) has a full footprint groundsheet, this includes the porch area and surprisingly keeps the midges out - they do live in the grass I think.

Camp on exposed headlands, not deep in the woods (campsite on Rum near the Castle is possibly the worst example of this)

I've often had to cook supper on the beach or rocks to get away from them.

Paddle in May and Sept?!

One of my paddling buddies has made a mesh cube where the 4 corners are held up with paddles and a few guys. Really good on calm evenings to cook in or just lie outside the tent and not get eaten. It would blow down in any kind of wind, but then you wouldn't need it :-)

My midge hat is one of the wide brimed thngs, kept in the BA for rapid deployment.

The only chemicals I use is the 'Avon skin so soft'. I still have some 100% Deet I bought in the States a few years ago but I stopped using it when it melted the buttons on my Sunnto watch :-)

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Graham T » Sat May 08, 2010 10:55 am

I can't come now and know they are due soon, so sorry if this is another DOH type question but in reality what is the down side of comeing after they have vacated the pemises i.e September. I realise that cold bad weather are the possibilities but from experience what is the reality or potential for a good early September ?

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by sleepybubble » Sat May 08, 2010 11:21 am

uksailor wrote:Are there generaly accepted strategies for reducing the number of midge bites. I have read enough about them to want to know what works or doesn't. I understand that "locals" may simply ignore them. Would it be true they are not present while on the water ?
I have read about a "patch" from which the body absorbs Thiamin from and provides protection for up to 36 hours. They do not apparently appreciate vit B1 excreted in sweat poor dears !. Also Avon "skin so soft" is meant to be effective as an insect repellant. Unlike the patch however the skin so soft only provides protection to the areas covered. I don't want to use a Deet based repellant if possible
Any thoughts please

Forget Avon Skin so soft, its a brilliant midge attractor....the only thing that works is DEET, it kills them on contact with your skin.... I'd reccomend a decent midge hood/hat or if you can get one there are midge jackets available now, which are supposed to be even better. A bright light helps as they wont bite above a certain light level. As for locals ignoring them, hmmm....

Mark

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keith
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by keith » Sat May 08, 2010 12:23 pm

sleepybubble wrote: Forget Avon Skin so soft, its a brilliant midge attractor....

Mark
Sweeping statement Mark, possibly you meant to say "in my experience it's a brilliant midge attractor". Strangely - it does work ok for me :-)

Someone once suggested the hand sterising stuff they sell in places like Tesco's works too, haven't tried it myself yet.

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Graham T » Sat May 08, 2010 12:59 pm

Thanks for all the replies. It just goes to show they are a pain the the butt and any where else. Like I said I don't want to use Deet and would paddle elsewhere if such use was required. From what I have read the Avon gear is good for many but like so many things different strokes for different folks

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maryinoxford
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by maryinoxford » Sat May 08, 2010 3:36 pm

There are other repellents that come somewhere between Avon and Deet - look on the shelf in Boots, but be prepared to use a magnifying glass on the ingredients. As you say, different things work for different people.

I used to like the Central Highlands, but I find myself seeking out windy coastlines nowadays. Have the midges got worse in the last couple of decades, or am I just getting soft in my old age?
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Eclair » Sat May 08, 2010 5:04 pm

They are not a problem on the water once you are a short distance from shore. They are also considerably worse in the evening and early morning. Campsite location is crucial, find the windiest hilltop :o) Avoid trees and (if you can) heather.
In everyday life I don't need repellent, generally I just avoid standing still outside in the evenings. If camping, Skin so Soft works fine for me, but obviously does not work for everyone. A jacket with tight cuffs is good, and tuck your trousers into your socks! I dislike midgenets because you can't drink through them ;o)
The bites don't bother me too much (though some people react a lot more); it's the swarming that I can't stand!
(By the way, May is fine, but they are still evil in September).

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Graham T » Sat May 08, 2010 5:23 pm

Thank you Eclair I guess then by the time they have gone the weather is getting cold given they are still evil in September

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by David A » Sat May 08, 2010 5:37 pm

I am scratching at my head just reading this post.
Mark R wrote:Skin-so-soft works for some
Make sure you get the one with the 'GREEN' top and use liberal amounts. I have been informed by my wife that is now called ‘Soft and Fresh’. It is always better to apply it before the midges appear.

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Skerry Packer » Sat May 08, 2010 5:56 pm

Ah, The wonderful midgie, guardian of Bonnie Scotland. A friend on holiday abroad brought me a small gadget that emits a high pitched sound and operates from an AA battery, swears that it deters the mossies but have not yet tried it on the midgies. will let you know if it works.
At present I buy 100% Deet and mix 50/50 with Skin so Soft and it kills them dead on touchdown. If in clouds of them I smoke like a Beagle in a laboratory.
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Scots_Charles_River » Sat May 08, 2010 7:24 pm

Just like other posters -

Buy a hat, I have the wide brimmed on with net, stays off my face, and bug jakcet, you can
sit outside the tent and enjoy the views and still drink thru them.

Camp in exposed places eg Arisaig, or near rivers as they can have breezes eg Glen Etive.
Glen Silgachan on skye, the campsite has them coming in the showers there.

A small firebox or kelly kettle can be enough to kill em off

Moisturisers work for me but have to be liberal. I find Skin so soft very oily.

They were out up Glen Etive last monday, in the sun and at about 600m when
I was on Ben Starav. So they are out but not biting possibly yet.

Nick

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by sleepybubble » Sat May 08, 2010 8:38 pm

keith wrote:
sleepybubble wrote: Forget Avon Skin so soft, its a brilliant midge attractor....

Mark
Sweeping statement Mark, possibly you meant to say "in my experience it's a brilliant midge attractor". Strangely - it does work ok for me :-)

Someone once suggested the hand sterising stuff they sell in places like Tesco's works too, haven't tried it myself yet.
Ok... it was a bit of a sweeping statement, we've got loads of the stuff, and we keep it well hidden from the midges or they swarm it, perhaps i could post it down to you :) that might get rid of them.

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MikeB
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by MikeB » Sat May 08, 2010 9:52 pm

Nothing works. Avon stuff may stop them biting you, but you'll still feel them crawling on your skin. Deet might have some effect, but will destroy any plastic it gets on and I strongly advise against touching your more intimate bits with hands which have deet on!

The only thing which saves you is a full midge jacket.

There is a suggestion that the harsh winter may have reduced the population a bit. But I bet it hasn't.

All the aforementioned advice so far is, however, worth trying. Some of it might work for you. With the exception of the jacket, most of it won't.

September can be a glorious time to paddle in Scotland. For all the summer months, expect midges.

Mike.

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Ian_Montrose » Sun May 09, 2010 12:30 pm

I've always avoided DEET because it's apparently capable of causing extreme damage to plastics and I don't want to risk it melting the seals on my dry cag. That said, I hate midges and extra-high strength DEET is the only thing I've found that really works. Can anyone calm my fears about DEET eating plastic?

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sun May 09, 2010 1:24 pm

Let's not beat about the bush, that's sure to stir them up, midges are one of the planet's most fearsome predators. (How many people do you know who have been mauled by a Great White?) In Britain there is a cline in the number of midges that is inverse proportion to Conservative voters. Midges are most prevalent in the NW and least prevalent in the SE. They can make any summer visit to Scotland a complete and utter misery and as Mark has said there are some fantastic pieces of the British coastline further south that are not bothered by midges. I am not sure if anyone has noticed, but we do most of our sea kayaking in the winter!

Image
Note the trousers tucked into the socks.

Image
When we do venture out in the summer we use midge jackets because you can pull your arms out of the sleeves and eat and drink inside them. Whatever you do do not take the jacket into the tent. I generally cook down on the shore perhaps out on a littly rocky headland. Sometimes in the morning they are just too bad to bother with breakfast and we just make a bolt for it and wait until the sun gets higher up further along the coast before stopping for first breakfast. When touring in the summer, we quite often stop to have our evening meal about 4:30pm before they come out in strength, then move further along the coast to set up camp as quickly as possible.

Really, the only practical solution is to keep away from this dreadful, Labour and midge infested country in the summer, and I havn't even mentioned ticks yet! Since the reduction in sheep dipping their numbers have soared to almost unimaginable proportions. On a recent trip, camping on the west of Jura, Tony and I found ourselves to be covered with literally thousands of biting juvenile ticks. In case anyone doubts my description, Tony is a professionl, academic parasitologist. My brother is very ill with the neurological sequelae of Lyme diseaes, which he caught from a tick bite on Gigha. He remains unwell with poor balance, speech difficulties and memory loss, even after 3 months of intravenous antibiotics.

Be sensible, stay away in summer!

Douglas

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Simon Willis
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Simon Willis » Sun May 09, 2010 1:27 pm

Hi Ian

In my experince DEET does 'eat' plastic as it is an effective solvent. Despite Wikipedia's shortcoings, it contains an interesting entry on DEET. The higher the concentration, the more voracious its appetite for plastics but also the more effective it is at repelling midges. Like you, I cannot stand midgies, yet we paddle and camp along Scotland's west coast all through summer and manage to avoid their worst.

All the advice mentioned above is good. Sometimes it's a question of how to put it all together. So this is our anti-midge strategy for kayak camping.

Requirements: midge head nets which are kept in PFD pocket or close to hand; wide-brimmed hats; tent with midge-proof netting; anti-midge smoke coils (and holder); midge repellant of choice - and here you just have to experiment. High concentration DEET (from the USA) used to be the oly thing which worked for me, but now I find Skin-So-Soft offers some protection so I rarely use DEET. Funny how this has changed, and I don't understand why!

When landing: Aim to find a campsite with some breeze, ideally on a headland or with some wind exposure. If you set this as your goal, chances are you'll find somewhere. As you land, if the beasts are active, get the head net on immediately. Set up the tent first, but don't open the inner door. Light an anti-midge smoke coil (or three!) and put them in the vestibule, ideally in a coil holder which you can hang it relatively safely without the risk of setting fire to a nylon tent. Bring the rest of the kit up from the kayaks. By now the tent vestibule is full of smoke and there are no midges in the immediate area. Get changed, cook etc. all in the midge-free environment of the tent. These coils add a certain aroma to the tent however.

If you want to go walk-about, watch the sun-set and generally explore, then either use the head net or use the midge repellant sparingly on face and hands, especally under watch strap. I remove my watch. If using DEET, don't get it on the walls or floor of the tent as it can melt them. Once you return from your walkabout, whip out the baby-wipes and clean the repellant off your face and hands as it's awful to sleep in. This sounds like a lot of fuss, but when we kayaked the route of our 'Trail' we rarely needed DEET or any repellant. By picking a site with a breeze and always using coils we were usually midge free.

Before going to bed, line up some anti-midge coils in the vestibule ready for lighting first thing in the morning. Get them going when you wake, and you'll be able to cook midge-free. Get dressed, head-nets on, and strike camp, making sure all smouldering midge coils are extinguished.

I'm not suggesting this is the only way or even the best way to avoid midges. Other people will have their own strategies which work for them. This is what works for us, and you might be able to adapt it to your way of kayak camping. The female Culicoide Impunctatus might have the power to remind you of your place in the food chain, but should not stop you exploring the delights of Scotland's west coast. There's a little more in my book.
S

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Graham T » Sun May 09, 2010 1:57 pm

Thank you one and all for the helpfull information and frank discourse of your experiences. I think certainly for this year I will stay with midge free holidays and think more in terms of visiting Scotland when they are out of season. I have yet to paddle the Scilly Isles, Britany, or the Channel Isles, so there is a lot to choose from, as well as liking Cornwall.
The Scotish destinations look fantastic with wonderfull wild life but the comment regards mostly paddling in winter perhaps puts the midge nuisance in perspective, and that is what I needed to know

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by EdSmith » Sun May 09, 2010 2:32 pm

Its generally windy during the day, and then annoyingly still in the evening. I've started to take a long lunch break, sun myself, cook a nice lunch time meal, and also sort some cold food for the evening, maybe cook up pasta for a salad or just cook double, possibly a fill flask if you like a hot drink later.

Then in the evening if likely to really bad just keep paddlin' as long as possible. Once you've got the tent up you have several choices. Straight in the tent, kill all intruders and eat the cold food in the tent and don't leave (Marks option without even putting your arm out to cook), if nice but still run up the nearest hill with your pre-cooked food in the hope of a breeze and views at the top. If not too midgie walk and eat simultaneously up and down the beach, or if breezy and nice laze by your tent with your food, beer and whisky.

In the morning I normally have some doorsteps of home made flap-jacks and powdered fruit juice, so no need to leave the tent, or even open the door to put the stove on.

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by EdSmith » Sun May 09, 2010 2:46 pm

All this talk of midgies and ticks re-inforces why I dread the end of spring, and start longing for the first frost of winter in summer. A dozen or so ticks pulled out so far this year, and as I speak all my camp clothes are either twirling in the tumble drier, or in the conservatory with the dehumidifier on to kill any buggers that have hitch hiked home. I normally reckon to pull-out one or two more at home whom I've indavertantly relocated if I've been attacked while out.

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sun May 09, 2010 2:54 pm

I forgot to say, I always take a can of natural pyrethrum spray for flushing out the tent. (Not artificial pyrethroid) This is a chrysanthemum extract that literally has the little bastards dropping like flies!
Douglas

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Ian_Montrose » Sun May 09, 2010 2:59 pm

I hate ticks as well. Damn things always seem to home in on my nether regions for reasons that completely escape me. I still suffer the mental anguish of having the head of one removed from my ring by a mate equiped only with a rusty penknife. I had hoped to use my emergency 1/4 bottle of whisky as some form of pain relief but my friend made the very valid point that his need was infinitely greater than mine and scoffed it pre-op. Thankfully, our friendship survived but that was the first and last time he ever went camping with me.

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Ian_Montrose » Sun May 09, 2010 3:04 pm

Simon

Thanks for the excellent reply BTW. The Wikipedia article made reference to Picaridin as a viable alternative to DEET. I'll give that a try when I get the chance. Also noticed that Avon Skin So Soft contains Picaridin though in a fairly low concentration which may explain why it has some effect on the blighters.

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Graham T » Sun May 09, 2010 3:06 pm

I have only had one experience of a tick. My friends young daughter got one I removed with tweezers and eye glass. It was like unhooking a fish hook or a snakes fangs. I believe there are tools availble to remove ticks without leaving the head behind probably a good idea for those of you affected by them.
I dont understand why if you have something which kills them off in the tent Douglas doesn't this work if rubbed onto exposed parts of the body or does it burn or something ?

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Ian_Montrose » Sun May 09, 2010 3:14 pm

uksailor wrote:I have only had one experience of a tick. My friends young daughter got one I removed with tweezers and eye glass. It was like unhooking a fish hook or a snakes fangs. I believe there are tools availble to remove ticks without leaving the head behind probably a good idea for those of you affected by them.
I dont understand why if you have something which kills them off in the tent Douglas doesn't this work if rubbed onto exposed parts of the body or does it burn or something ?

I now carry tick tweezers as standard and would urge everyone to do likewise. Do not under any circumstances try to removing them by burning or coating in vaseline etc as such methods, whilst effective at persuading the tick to relinquish its grip, also tend to make it vomit before it does so thus increasing the likelihood of it passing on disease.

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Douglas Wilcox
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sun May 09, 2010 3:21 pm

Hello UKsailor, you can also buy small pump action pyrethrum sprays for spraying on the skin but in my experience it does not work. The aerosol spray works in an enclosed space at relatively high concentration by killing flying insects. It can't do that if it's on your skin surrounded by fresh air.

Developing Simon's point, we all vary in our response to midges. My wife hardly notices them at all and never bothers with any repellents or hoods. I come out in a hot blotchy red rash with them and once a bad dose of midges precipitated an asthmatic attack. So I am very careful to avoid getting bitten too much and carry a steroid inhaler and steroid and antihistamine pills. Some of my local friends, who go hillwalking, are even more badly affected than I am and avoid the Scottish outdoors completely in midge season.

Douglas

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MikeB
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Re: Midge strategies

Post by MikeB » Sun May 09, 2010 3:26 pm

Apart from the dreadful nuisance of the little beggars crawling over one's skin, the nasty bit is actually the bodies reaction to the bite - the itching. I have heard a suggestion that taking anti-histamine for a few days before a likely exposure is likely to either stop or at least reduce the reaction. Has anyone any experience of this?

Mike

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Re: Midge strategies

Post by Douglas Wilcox » Sun May 09, 2010 3:29 pm

Image
One further point, the Outer Hebrides midge is a subspecies that does fly and bite on the water.

Douglas

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