How to Keep Midges Away When Camping in the UK

Knowing how to keep midges away when you’re camping UK is going to make your trip more enjoyable. It’s going to, I’m telling you. They are one of the most annoying parts of a camping trip, but i’m guessing you know that, since you’re here:)

Being the number one biggest bug peeves all us camping lovers have when exploring the great British plains, you’ll be glad you read this post. Luckily, there’s a way to get rid of midges so the adventure can continue.

Let me tell you, we share your love for camping and your detest for all those little flying annoyances that can leave you feeling run down, red and itchy. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about midges and all the answers you could need for escaping the bug torment.

Best Midge Repellants

What Midges Are and How to Identify Them

Midges are very small and black/brown flying insects that can resemble a shrunken mosquito. 

In fact, they’re so small, their entire wingspan can reach only 1-2mm in length. 

With the scientific name of Chironomidae, they have a relatively generic lifespan of one month with a flight time of far less (luckily for us). However, there are around 20,000 species of midges around the world, including some that swarm around Antarctica. 

That said, there’s pretty much no escape as to where you might be met with the need to keep midges away when camping (unlucky for us).

how-to-keep-midges-away-when-camping

When Are Midges Most Likely to Swarm in the UK?

When it comes to camping in the UK, there are a few hotspots where midges like to swarm such as near swampy or watery regions. So, if you’re looking at how to get rid of midges, you could always avoid them altogether. 

Midges love to live in bogs and grasslands throughout the Summer periods due to the humid weather. In fact, their lifecycle (that entire month) relies on specific water conditions that also help to feed those watery ecosystems. From the birds to the fish, midges are a staple part of the diet.

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Here are the most common places to avoid if you don’t want to think about having to keep midges away when camping:

  • Scottish Lochs
  • The Scottish Highlands
  • The Lake District
  • North Wales
  • Cornwall
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Lough Neagh
  • Hambleton
  • Grafham
  • St Ives
  • Kielder Forest Park
  • The Humber River
  • Edinburgh
  • Shropshire

The epidemic of midges throughout the Summer months of Scotland has become so much of an issue that the University of Edinburgh devised their own ‘Midge Control Unit’. It has been in operation ever since 1952 and more so every year thereafter to get rid of midges! 

What Damage Can Midges Do to Our Skin?

We’ll start by saying midges are not dangerous and they don’t pose a threat to us happy campers. 

However, that doesn’t mean to say they can’t be a nuisance with their bites and cause damage when it comes to swarm attacks or spreading disease. In fact, they are known spreaders of blue tongue and other diseases among cattle and other mammals (luckily, we’re not one of them).

It’s also worth noting that only the female midges are wanting a taste of your sweet (is it sweet?) blood. So, at least there’s half the midge population already taken care of when it comes to get rid of midges.

midges-camping

Females need to take a nip of protein-rich blood in order to feed and harbour their eggs (note this can also apply to your dogs and cats in case you decide to escape for a furry-friendly camping adventure). 

When they bite, they release a coagulant into your bloodstream which results in a small, red and itchy lump. Don’t scratch the bite as it can only irritate the skin and make it worse. 

As well this, after one midge has taken a bite, they let off a natural pheromone that attracts other midges to swarm and feed off the find (you).

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How do You Get Rid of Midges Naturally?

In order to consider all the ways to get rid of midges naturally, we should first let you know exactly what attracts them to you other than your blood. In fact, this can apply to many other flying nuisance biters like mosquitos.

Small flying insects don’t have smell receptors in the same way as us and can’t smell blood per-se. Instead, they can ‘sense’ the presence of CO2 (what we breathe out) which tells them there is a blood-based mammal close-by they can feed off. 

Of course, we’re not going to stop here and say: “to keep midges away when camping, just don’t breathe”. While that might stop your midge problem, it’ll create a whole new world of issues 🙂

So, here are the natural things you could do to get rid of midges while out camping:

  • Avoid early mornings and late evenings; midges don’t fare well in high sun and winds, so head out camping and hiking around lunch time.
  • Keep moving at your campsite as midges are slow flying insets who typically find it difficult to keep up with you.
  • Make sure your tent windows and doors are always zipped-up, so the midges don’t have much of a chance of getting in.
  • Take a midge repellent to rub on your skin and spray on your clothes.
  • Make sure you’re stocked up with essential oils that can be rubbed onto the skin and clothes to mask CO2 and repel midges.
  • Cover-up your skin as much as possible. As well as this, use light colours; you’ll both feel cooler in the heat and won’t be as much of a beacon to the midges. Midges are attracted to dark colours on clothes to ‘hone-in’ on a target.
  • Avoid camping in boggy areas or in locations that are close to water such as the beach, lakeside or river trail.
  • Think about camping outside of midge season; you can use the midge forecast to see which areas have less of a swarm or simply miss out on Summer camping altogether.

Invest in a midge trap; they mimic heat, body odour and CO2 production among other human traits to attract midges and contain them in a cylinder that can be emptied later on.

keeping-insects-away-camping

What Scent do Midges Hate?

Midges are very similar to mosquitos and other blood-sucking flying insects in terms of the chemicals, scents and smells they don’t like for one reason or another. 

While they can’t ‘smell’, their antennae can sense and detect the presence of strong chemicals which can be a natural deterrent. 

Here are the most common and effective natural scents that will keep midges away when camping if you can get it into a balm to rub on your skin or a spray to soak your clothes in:

  • Citronella
  • Peppermint
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Catnip
  • Rosemary
  • Eucalyptus
  • Wheatgerm
  • Thiamine
  • Yeast
  • Molasses
  • Neem
  • Chamomile
  • Tea Tree
  • Nettles
  • Bog Myrtle
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What is a Good Repellent for Midges?

A good repellent for midges will always contain a mishmash of all the naturally deterring scents we mentioned above. But there are a few types of repellent that have shone a little brighter when camping for the sunrise. 

An effective repellent will include one of four key ingredients to provide the first line of defence against the swarm.

To get rid of midges you need to have creams or sprays that include either diethyltoluamide, citriodiol, ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate, or saltidin. These are many of the chemical names for the scents we mentioned earlier.

And, no, we can’t pronounce that long one, either.

A great example is an accidental saviour by Avon. Their ‘Skin So Soft’ moisturiser has a high-level combination of citronella and other ingredients that work together to build a skin-barrier layer that lasts and repels midges at the same time. 

Otherwise, you could always look to insect repellent-specific brands such as Jungle Formula, Smidge, Lifesystems Expedition or Buzz Off.

Best Midge Repellant

Let us know which of these methods to get rid of midges you found most useful and which you found most effective when venturing the British countryside.

Being big-time nomad fanatics with the family, we’ve had our fair share of midge attacks and other camping qualms. So, don’t forget to keep checking in to find new tips and tricks about making your night under the stars as perfect as possible. Whether you’re a lone ranger, someone with a furry sidekick or part of a group, we’ve got the know-how for you right here at Camping Cubs.

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