When I lived in Scotland (the first half of my life, basically) I used to go hillwalking and climbing in the Highlands quite a lot. There’s some impressive scenery up there, including the UK’s 56 highest mountains and some extremely scary ridge walks. That makes the Highlands a magnet for outdoorsy people from all over Britain, which is unfortunate in some ways; the weather is unpredictable and can turn savage with little notice, so quite a lot of people die up there. But if you ask anyone with experience of the Highlands what the worst thing about the place is, they probably won’t mention the weather. Tales of blizzards in May, or horizontal icy rain, will be a distant second to horror stories about a little monster called Culicoides impunctatus – the Highland Midge.
Midges are tiny insects, less than a tenth of an inch long, but they have a massive appetite for blood. Their bites are insanely itchy and often swell into irritating bumps that can last for days. I went camping with a girlfriend once and she, against my advice, slept outside her bivvy bag because it was a warm night. In the morning, she had a face like a bag of gobstoppers. Midges are most active at dusk and dawn, and they hang around in dense swarms – if one bites you, ten thousand others will be right behind it.
Luckily, midges are just annoying. They don’t carry any diseases that affect humans (although they can infect cows, sheep, deer and horses with some unpleasant stuff). In large parts of the world, there are biting insects that can carry human diseases. Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, Eastern equine encephalitis, tularemia and of course malaria – and that’s just mosquitoes. All of these diseases are a lot more than just annoying; malaria kills half a million people a year. If you’re outdoors, whether you’re hiking or trying to survive after the SHTF, you need to do all you can to avoid biting insects.
The most basic way to do this is to avoid places where insects hang out. Standing water or boggy ground are danger spots; that’s where mosquitoes and many other insects breed. Avoid camping near them if you can. Biting insects are usually more active at dawn and dusk, so try to collect water in the middle of the day or when it’s windy – most of them can’t fly faster than a good breeze, so they tend to stay on the ground until the air’s calmer.
If you do have to spend time in an insect-infested area do all you can to keep them away from your skin. Good repellent is essential; something with loads of DEET. Keep your sleeves rolled down, too, because they can’t bite you through cloth. At night protect yourself from being bitten while you sleep. A Gore-Tex bevvy bag with a mosquito net works well, or you can add a mozzie net to a GI cot. In malarial areas, if you have access to prophylactic tablets take them. There are always all sorts of rumours about the side effects of these, but none of them is as bad as malaria.
The reality is that if you’re in an area with a lot of insects, you’re probably not going to keep them all away. Most insects don’t carry disease, though; every bite you avoid improves your chances of not getting sick. Whatever situation you’re dealing with it’s vital that you don’t overlook the little things – especially if they’re out to drink your blood.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.