Scottish bloodsucking parasites have mixed fortunes

The life cycle of biting midges has been disrupted by weather conditions in parts of Scotland this year

This year’s weather appears to have taken a bite out of the number of midges, but it has benefited another pest, experts say.

Stinging midges are known in parts of Scotland, where they swarm by the millions.

But the Scottish Midge Forecast said an unusually cool spring followed by a hot summer had disrupted the life cycle of the tiny creatures in some places.

Meanwhile, milder weather later in the year appears to have extended the tick season.

The parasitic spider-like pests are usually encountered from early spring until October, but this year so far they have still been seen in mid-November.

Scientists have previously warned that ticks, whose bite can cause harmful infections such as Lyme disease, appeared to become a year-round threat.

The midges forecast, run by Dundee-based insect repellent maker APS Biocontrol Ltd, said this year’s weather had disrupted the life cycle of biting midges in parts of Scotland.

A meteorologist said: ‘It all started with an unusually cool spring that delayed the emergence of midges by about two weeks, leading to a later-than-usual peak of first generation midges in mid-June.

“The eggs of these midges would normally give rise to a second generation spike five to six weeks later, but this has been significantly suppressed by the hot, dry weather experienced this year in Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Being so small, with a wingspan of just 2mm, midges dehydrate very quickly in hot, dry climates and although resting in vegetation improves their survival, it means they have less opportunity to fly in search of blood meal.” needed for their eggs to mature.”

TIC Tac

The mild climate appears to have favored ticks, this one pictured next to tick removal tools

Low numbers of midges have been recorded in traps placed in traditional ‘hot spots’ at Glencoe in the Highlands and Inveraray in Argyll and Bute.

Wetter and cooler late summer weather has led to increased numbers of midges in parts of northern Scotland, according to forecasts.

The forecast added that it was unclear whether this year was a one-off or the start of a trend.

Scientists have previously calculated that there may be as many as 21 billion biting midges in the Highlands and Islands, the region where they are most commonly encountered.

That figure was for females of the species, who feed on the blood they need to mature their hundreds of eggs.

In 2015, autumn heat produced a rare third hatch of biting midges.

Check on the dog

A tick picked up by a dog in woodland in Inverness last month

What makes viruses work? – a project led by the Brennan Lab at the MRC-University of Glasgow Center for Virus Research and involving The Conservation Volunteers – is mapping where and when people find ticks.

The project team said high tick numbers were suggested this year.

Sam Langford, from the University of Glasgow’s Center for Virus Research, said: ‘Even with colder temperatures on the way, we continue to receive tick sightings from people across the country, with over 700 sightings recorded on our map. of ticks.

He added: “As part of this, we have received several anecdotal reports from members of the public telling us that 2022 has been a particularly bad year for tick sightings in their area.”

“We encourage anyone who encounters a tick to report their sighting on our online platform and continue to take precautions whenever they spend time outdoors.

“If they have any concerns about a recent tick bite, we recommend they contact their GP for further advice.”

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