With the weather warming up nicely it’s relaxing to spend the evening soaking up the last rays of sunshine in the garden. But often it’s not just tired sun-starved office workers like myself trying to turn their pasty off-white skin a shade less grey before the sun goes down.
When the wasps have returned to their nest for the evening insects such as mosquitoes, midges and horse flies are at their most active. Sometimes it’s not the insect bites themselves which are painful, but the itchiness a few hours later. Some people are sensitive to bites, causing the skin to blister. In rare cases an insect bite may cause Anaphylaxis. After being bitten if you experience dizziness, weakness, wheezing, or swelling contact a doctor immediately.
One of the nastiest biting insects are Horse flies which are active from late May to October. Larger than a house fly, horse flies are around 25mm long and slice the skin open with a scissor-like action, making them more painful than a wasp sting. Horse flies have three sets of antennae and breed on marshy areas. They home in on large moving objects which is why horses are at risk from the horrible beasts. Be warned – a single horse fly can bite (or slash) in several places. They are less active on windy days and after sundown.
Midges are usually found hovering in clouds around water. They breed profusely in rainy summers, which may explain their prevalence in Scotland. Like the mosquito and horse fly it is only the female midge who bites as she needs a blood meal before laying eggs.
Irritating though it might be to walk through a cloud of insects we should be thankful that in the UK bugs don’t spread nasty diseases like Malaria, Typhus, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and Encephalitis. If you are planning a holiday to a tropical country like Africa, South America or Thailand plan vaccinations early and take special care to avoid being exposed to biting insects.
- To reduce the chance of infection clean the wound immediately with soap and water or antiseptic. Be sure to remove any insect debris with tweezers.
- Swelling can be reduced immediately after a bite by covering it with a cold compress such as ice in a cloth (but never hold ice directly on the skin).
- The swelling from a bite may take more than a week to go down and may remain itchy for several days.
- The itchiness and swelling can be relieved with anti-histamine creams for bites and stings.
- Try not to scratch bites as this will increase the itch and could lead to the bite becoming infected by bacteria.
Avoid being bitten when outdoors:
- Go easy on the scented products as these may attract insects.
- The less exposed skin the better – select long sleeves and trousers or spritz skin with insect repellent.
- Burn insect repellent sticks (insects hate smoke) and candles.
- Drain stagnant or still moving water in your garden.
- Introduce some mosquito repelling plants to your garden.