When we talk about midges, we really mean any number of small insects, especially of the family “Chironomidae”, which somewhat resemble a mosquito. The part which often collects these animals into the term “midge” is that fact they bite us.
How can we avoid these bites?
There’s no hundred per cent successful answer. Midges of varying different sorts are rife this time of year, and have the potential to disrupt an outdoor learning session. Take a look at these tips on how to avoid them when you take your groups outside over the summer holidays.
1. Keep moving. This is how caribou avoid midges during their huge annual migration; a midge flies at about 5mph, so if you move at 6mph they can’t catch you!
2. Light a small fire. If you’re stopping in one place and have the permission of the land owner, a small fire with natural materials will help deter midges from your camp site.
3. Use repellent. 50 % of the time it works every time.
4. Wear long sleeves, long trousers and a hat. Even if it’s hot, wear something that covers but is thin . Putting up with the heat can be preferential to putting up with lots of bites. This may seem obvious, but wearing shoes instead of being barefoot will help too.
5. Sleep off the floor. If you’re stopping over night, sleeping on a woodland floor can be perilous. Get yourself off the floor on to a camp bed, or better still, a hammock with a built in mosquito net.
6. Stay away from water. Midges are more active around ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, canals etc. Even moving 20 meters away can be helpful.
7. Midges are more active at dawn and dusk so stay inside your hammock and mosquito net at this time.
8. If it’s one particular site you’re using, put up bat boxes. Bats eat midges, so encouraging them to set up home hopefully means more bats and less midges.
9. Stand next to someone getting bitten. This is a little harsh but midges just prefer some of more than others. If you can see someone who seems to be a favourite with the midges stand next to them and it's likely you won’t get bitten.
10. Avoid perfume or strong smelling soaps or products, these can smell just as good to midges as they do to us.
Bonus tip: Spend more time outdoors. The more often you’re out and encounter the midge, the more you will build resilience. Power through the bites at the start to leave yourself bite free for time to come.
The above tips should help you out, but also know what could do your group some serious discomfort. Make sure they know to watch out for bees or wasps and anything else which could really bother them. Horse flies give a nasty bite, asking your group to watch out for them landing on each other and brushing them off other members of the group can be really helpful throughout the day.