Warning: the supermidge is heading for our shores

editorial image
1
Have your say

Changes to the Scottish climate could soon see the rise of a new species of supermidge with the potential to transmit disease to humans, according to industry experts.

Pyramid Travel Products say that the increased number of foreign species being found in Scotland could be bad news for agriculture, tourism, and even human health.

In Scotland, the most common form of midge bite comes from the Culicoides impunctatus species (better known as highland biting midge) which is responsible for 90 per cent of bites. Despite this, there are now more than 37 different species of midge known to exist across Scotland.

There has been increasing concern about other more aggressive species of midge being blown over from Europe, including Culicoides obsoletus. These species have been responsible for outbreaks of deadly Bluetongue and Schmallenburg virus in livestock.

Although these diseases are not communicable to humans, there are concerns that some midges have the potential to transmit disease in ways similar to mosquitoes, with research already under way to try to understand the changing dynamic.

Nicola Cameron from Pyramid Travel Products said: “Scots are used to dealing with the nuisance and discomfort caused by midge bites, but there are concerns that a new breed of supermidge could in time bring new problems, not confined to the usual discomfort associated with the Highland midge.

“With new species finding their way into our ecosystem, which can survive away from damper areas, research is underway to sequence the midge genome and try and establish the potential for diseases to be communicated.

“While the Highland midge is undoubtedly a pest, should a new species establish itself in Scotland with the potential to carry disease to humans, there could be an obvious impact for agriculture, tourism, and general health.”

During winter, midge larvae are found in damp areas such as at the sides of rivers and other boggy areas. Able to survive at temperatures of down to -10C, this year’s relatively mild winter, combined with wet weather close to the hatching season in May, could mean large midge numbers in spring/summer this year.