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Midges, Mosquitoes and Marmite – coping with insects in woodlands ~ by Angus

Midges, Mosquitoes and Marmite - coping with insects in woodlands

There are lots of ways to cope with the irritation of being bitten by insects in woodlands and here are some ideas from various experienced woodland workers.

Avoid Them Altogether

First of all consider when mosquitoes and midges are most active.  In the winter, early spring and autumn mosquitoes and midges are much less active so this is a good time to do your energetic, outdoor work.  Carbon dioxide from breathing and from forestry machinery will attract insects so it's good to avoid doing major forestry operations in the summer months if possible.

If you have to work in the summer, mosquitoes and midges are much less active in the mornings and when there is a good breeze.  Mosquitoes are less active where there is bright sunshine, though this will not discourage horse flies and midges (or "midgies" as they are known in Scotland).   Aside from the time of year, time of day and the level of sunshine there are various protective measures you can take, of which the most obvious is to cover up well.

Smoke out the Midgies and Mossies

Smoking may be bad for your health, but it does keep away the midges!  Even better is a campfire. You may smell like a kipper by the end of the day, but your fire can keep the worst of the biting insects at bay.

Are you Repelled by Repellents?

What about repellents?  People have mixed views, but there is no doubt that the underlying chemical in most of these - DEET (Diethyltoluamide) - is effective in repelling most insects.  This is the active ingredient in many sprays including Repel Plus (from Boots), Johnson's OFF, Deep Woods OFF and Muskol.  The concentration used varies enormously, from 5% for children's sprays and up to 30% and above for some of the Muskol products.  Another popular range of repellents is the Jungle Formula range, the strongest of which has 50% DEET.

Many people don't like using these products because of possible allergic reactions and fears about toxicity.  It should certainly be kept away from the eyes as it can be a strong irritant, and there may be dangers with repeated applications on children.  It should also be avoided by people with severe skin conditions and not used on parts of the body where skin rubs against another skin surface for a significant period of time.  Follow the instructions on the packet.

More Natural Alternatives

More natural alternatives include lavender essential oil which is mild enough to be applied directly to the skin as a few drops.  Other essential oils such as patchouli, citronella or lemongrass essential oils must be mixed with a carrier oil such as almond.  Just 2-3 drops of oil for every teaspoon of carrier.

Other creams are said to help by preventing the insects getting their mouthparts into your skin Johnson's baby oil has been used successfully and, in a more perfume-like way, lemon cologne is said by some to work well.  Avon Skin-So-Soft is claimed to work on a similar basis and repeated applications will not damage the skin.

Drinking for Protection

Some people favour eating or drinking in ways that discourage mosquitoes and midges.  One suggestion is that drinking cider vinegar with honey is effective.  It's a pleasant enough drink with an apple-y flavour and the effect is to make your blood taste unattractive to bugs.  Fans of cider vinegar also claim that if you have been bitten a splash of neat cider vinegar works well on the irritated skin.

Eating for Protection

It's often observed that some people seem to attract insect biters more than others, so much so that if you travel with someone who is particularly attractive they will draw the biters away from you.  Assuming that your companion may not be willing to act as live bait for your day in the woods, what if you're one of those people who seem particularly tasty to bugs?

It's a widespread urban myth that eating Marmite on your toast makes you less attractive to insects.  If true, this seems like a small price to pay to make yourself repellent to insects (or maybe you're a Marmite lover!).  Other foodstuffs that are said to help are vitamin B and garlic.  Although, it's more likely that the flavour of your breath puts off the biting insects than the change in your blood flavour!

What works for you?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Posted in: Flora & Fauna, Practical Guides ~ On: 13 June, 2008

29 comments so far

Tracy Pepler
13 June, 2008

Mike has more attractive blood than me… so, as long as I am near him, he gets bitten and I don’t!
Works for me!
oh and we have a large citronella candle we light too – Its supposed to help but got no proof yet!

Molly Gledhill
15 June, 2008

I use lemongrass essential oil in a moisturiser base. I get the base from Superdrug, Vitamin E cream. It works for me and I have a rather sensitive skin. Insects love me. I make it quite strong and they don’t bite.

16 June, 2008

I’d also say avoid being out late afternoon – midges always seem to be at their worst about 5pm. It’s the way they get in your hair and up your nose that I really hate. In our family baking soda made into a paste with water and applied as a poultice is the traditional treatment for mosquito bites.

17 June, 2008

More Natural Alternatives:

I’ve found Mosi-guard Natural (http://www.mosi-guard.com), to be very effective, and it’s available in various forms, including sprays and a solid deodorant style stick, it’s Eucalyptus-based, and I think you can get it from Boots, and possibly Blacks or Millets.

18 June, 2008

Avon Skin So Soft really is brilliant. I always get bitten and react badly but, in a recent ‘test’ of the scented oil, we had a picnic on a Scottish island covered in clouds of midges. After a while, even I relaxed and they eventually left in disgust without biting anyone – truly amazing.

Jenny Cartright
19 June, 2008

I discovered a product called Arnywear last year – it’s fabric rather than a spray (normal repellents make me come out in worse bumps than mosquito bites!). I was a bit sceptical when I was given some (a black ‘multipurpose’ fabric square) but thuoght it worth trying…and I have to admit it was absolutely brilliant. I usually get eaten by them and after a weeks camping only had 2 bites. pretty amazing I have to say.

20 June, 2008

On a clear night you can often see a spiral of midgies queing above me to land like planes at heathrow! Two years ago somebody suggested that i try garlic capsuels from the supermarket. They worked a treat for the past two years…..but now they dont seem to work anymore. But try them! if one does not work, then go for two. I am up to three a day now, and have a good strong heart as well becuase of it ;)

20 June, 2008

If you’re in Scotland, try the Midge Forecast http://www.midgeforecast.co.uk/2008/

Wild Garlic Recipes | The Woodlands.co.uk Blog
20 June, 2008

[…] they are thought to be superior. Tucking in might also keep away those troublesome midges (see blog http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/wildlife/midges-mosquitoes-and-marmite-coping-with-insects-in-woodla…) […]

20 June, 2008

Don’t overlook the various ultrasonic devices that are available. It’s only pregnant female midges that bite and certain frequencies of ultrasound mimick the noise of an eager male – the last thing that mum-to-be wants in her condition! I use them with good results and they’re useful alternatives for those who either worry about the long-term effects of DEET (especially re: kids) or smothering themselves in so much cream/lotion that you can’t hold onto your chainsaw…
Not great for hearing-aid users though as they can cause sonic interference unless you wear digital models.

richard regan
19 August, 2008

I use a natural product by maggies tisserand oils called no midges really works

Miles Felton
11 October, 2008

Wear a midge net to cover your head and face. Protects against all UK insects but hands are still vulnerable. Deet doesn’t deter some biting flies. Midge nets are warming so may be disagreeable when working hard.

Miles Felton
26 December, 2008

Just remember that the midge is the top predator of the northern tundra. They evolved to eat mammoth.
Look small.

Colin Emes
26 April, 2009

I am, at the top of the Midgie food list.
Having tried most every method I’ve heard of, nothing works that is comfortable for me.
So I rug up on hot days (OH! what a feeling, Toyota)
However, what I have found effective …immediately, after each attack… is cheap roll on deodorant rubbed firmly into the area affected.
The bites then go away quickly with no after affects; itching etc.

2 June, 2009

i find that biting them back works quite well. News travels quick within the bug community and they tend to keep away from the crazy guy with the teeth….!!!

mosquito traps
8 March, 2010

Cider vinegar eh? I’m definitely going to try that next time thanks for sharing!

21 June, 2012

My husband, a dentist, says to cover yourself in brown sugar…it won’t stop them biting but it will rot their teeth!!! BoomBoom! But seriously, I have had some bites that have become so inflamed & infected that I have required serious medical treatment. Over the years I’ve tried nearly every product or suggestion & the 2 that seem to work for me are; taking Marmite, 2 weeks before I go on holiday & every day I’m away. Also the blue Avon Skin-so-Soft dry oil body spray. If I’m bitten I now make a paste of baking soda, lemon juice & aloe vera, spread it on thick, it looks unsightly but it helps with the itch!

Always bitten
12 August, 2012

The marmite technique is tried and tested with me. Two weeks in Kenya and I got 2 bites on the first night. They came up quite badly. On the second morning and everyday after I had marmite on toast and I did not get bitten again. I also use deet at home.

20 May, 2014

I tend to get bitten on my scalp, elbows and ankles …

I’ve found that rubbing a small amount of Olbas oil onto my hands, then running through my hair, massaging my elbows and ankles does the trick.

Not the most alluring of aromas … but it stops the bites!

12 August, 2014

Help off to Kos in September . Am eating 2 spoonfuls a day of marmite . Do I need to take some with me to still use can anyone tell me ? Also intend to get Avon so Soft . Really dread been eaten alive as on previous holidays to Greece .

13 August, 2014

Use a repellant. I use good tropical liquid; brand doesnt matter.
If for some reason, the repellant rubs off or wears off after a while and it will!
So look out for that.
Use deoderant. I use a cheap roll on.
Rub generously, on and around the bite (pee) this Will take some minutes to work but well worth it. Far better than any non-itchy stuff on the market.
I spent many years in the Australian Army and tried everything but the kitchen sink. Deoderant works! If you are hunting or being hunted; get the uncented! or else.. lol

13 August, 2014

I tried that and so many other, so called remedies; I smelt like breakfast, not only for Sandflies but people 2..


2 March, 2015

I take cider vinegar and honey for Arthritis and I LOVE Marmite so I can go anywhere in the world at any time,it works for me

10 August, 2015

10 August, 2015

Thank you

31 January, 2016

I use to be bitten all the time by mosquito’s and so did some of my family but since iv been eating marmite for the last 15years iv not been bitten once. My wife hates it but even she has started eating it an its worked for her to. I don’t believe its a myth. I have watched them land on me and fly away without biting so Im a true believer of marmite if take regularly.

tom Thompson
7 March, 2016

Hi ,
going back to the original information on the use of”Marmite” as a repellent the theory I heard wasn’t in regard to it getting in your blood but to eat daily on toast or otherwise and with Marmite being such a. Strong pungent taste it will almost constantly be coming out of the pores in your skin which apparently mosquitoes and most if not all nuisance insects dislike….

Ian Nicholas
26 July, 2016

Marmite, you love it or hate it – I hate it. I am type O blood type and we in that group are more susceptible to mossie bites, than those with A, B blood groups. Last year I was visiting S Africa, some of which is in Malarial areas, so I was kean not to be bitten. A week prior to travelling I started taking Brewers Yeast tablets 500 mg daily. These are as cheap as chips. Not one mosquito bite during the trip, although several other people on the excursion had bite problems. By the way, Marmite is made from yeast, so give one or other a try. Probably worth spraying with DEET also.

2 May, 2017

Marmite seems to be working for me at the moment. Been having some on crackers every day for a week now and this weekend, I’ve been running in the woods and been out walking in the Lake District and seem to be bite free! But my 4 year old daughter is now covered in them – she must take after me. Going to have to convince her to love it!

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