Friday, June 24, 2022




I’m not actually sure what a varmint is, but from cartoons they seem to be pesky, annoying and small.

While the world is getting rid of plagues, the Scottish plague at the moment is biblical. There are creatures in Scotland that will hunt you down, they will find you, they will make your life a misery until you leave.

I’m talking about the humble midge.

In my second book, Singing to the Dead, one of the characters is a cartoonist who invented the character Squidgy McMidge. For the launch, we had t-shirts made, fridge magnets, bookmarks, we even had a song. Maybe at Bouchercon I’ll sing it for you. If you pay me a couple of dollars I won’t.

He’s Squidgy McMidge

He’s Squidgy McMidge

You can stick him up your chimney

You can stick him on your fridge

He’s Squiddgy, Squiddgy McMidge


I’m on a research trip at the moment but we’re unable to go in to the great outdoors without being eaten alive. All the vents are closed, all windows are closed, the midge nets are down, the curtains are closed and we’re burning citronella. Hanging on the door are midgy nets to wear when the dog needs to go out. The dog takes her chances.

The second fortnight in June, with this slightly warm weather and no breeze, the little shi....varmints are everywhere.

I was following this story on social media when googling about the subject

Person 1 is running across some Scottish mountains. After pitching his tent, he left the campsite thinking he would leave the midges behind as he needed to perform some natural functions (not specified). He ran a mile into the woods and convinced himself he was midge free. Within half a minute they were on him and bit him somewhere sore (not specified) He was asking the question if midges find you by the pheramones of the other midge that got there first, then how does the first midge find you? 

Person 2 replies, they detect the CO2 in the breath, so to be free of them, you’ve got to stop breathing. Then he said there are 34 species of midges but only the female bites. In a low lying glen, near still water there can be 25 million per hectare. That's quite a lot.

Person 3 offers the advice that spray on lotions etc only work for the initial swarm, so are okay if you keep moving. The minute you stop, they’re on you and they will be up your nose and in your ears. And anywhere else they can get.  The good news is that while they are very persistent, they are also very fragile. They can’t cope with wind, bright sunshine and the months from August to early June.

Person 4  says the best way to deal with them is to find a tastier friend. Some people do attract them more than others so, hang about with someone midgies really like and they’ll probably attack them instead of you.   (I remember once, my cousin Craig – a midge magnet - leaving the tent to go to the toilet in the campsite. When he came back his yellow t-shirt was black with a swarm.)

Person 5 offers the advice re an  US ex army cream with 37% diEToluimide, and its rumoured that you can buy this on Ebay, mixing it with black pudding and water and smear it on to any exposed body parts is an effective deterrent and probably quite a good way to ensure that you have the entire campsite to yourself.

For the purposes of the blog I decided to find out what the midge was about. 

Culicoides impunctatus, known as the midge is found across the paleartic regions. There was a very cold winter in 2010 and the Scottish tourist board looked forward to a reduction in the midge population. The midge population rocketed because of the reduction in natural preditors – bats and birds. For some reason that nobody knows they do not go into houses or farm buildings, but they love going into tents and caravans. Queen Victoria was so annoyed by them she permitted smoking at Balmoral just to keep the wee varmints at bay.

The Tourist board does produce midge maps so you can plan your journey and avoid the worst excesses. And there’s also the Scottish Midge forecast which tracks the varmints by satellite and will give you a 5 day forecast.

I’ve just looked at the map today, a 4 means pretty substantial midge activity, and guess where we are? Right  under a 4.  4 is pest level, 5 is intolerable.

I may not survive. Or I may right a locked room mystery where nobody could get out because of the midgies.....and the murderer was the one covered in bites.




  1. Caro, Caro, Caro. Sigh. It's no longer politically correct to call them a midge. You're supposed to use the term 'dwar', short for the more formal effendwar.

  2. The person deemed to be the murderer because they're covered in bites might be a red herring. A second person immune to their bites for one of the reasons listed might be the culprit.

    PS. Does oor John qualify as a varmint?

  3. If you agree to sing at Bcon, I'm prepared to arrange backup choreography bedecked in sequined T-shirts emblazoned, "Bite Me Midge."

  4. Person 6: You say they can't cope with wind!................Always carry a portable fan.