We are pretty lucky in Ireland. We don’t have to deal with scorpions, malaria flies, poisonous spiders and on the whole our insects are fortunately not equipped with the exaggerated array of weapons that a lot of tropical bugs carry around. But we do have midges. Lots and lots and lots of them. Scientific research suggests that one hectare can harbour as many as 50 million midges. 50 million! The area around here is an ideal habitat for midges; we are surrounded by pine forestry and more often than not the ground is wet and marshy and covered in rushes. This year the midges are worse than ever, because we had a wet summer followed by a mild and wet winter. Usually we don’t see them until May, but this year the first ones were out in February. They hate wind, but unfortunately the wind here often dies down in early evening, just when the midges like to come out.
Today we had a fairly good breeze up here, but it didn’t last into the evening. The horses were restless, constantly swishing their tails, stamping their feet and biting their chests and they couldn’t settle down to graze, they kept moving around trying to find relief and obviously not finding any, in spite of all having been treated with midge repellent earlier. Then Cassie jumped the fence and tore off across the front field, kicking and bucking. I ran outside, was immediately attacked by a swarm myself and had to run back in to get a jacket with a hood to cover myself up as much as possible. I then calmed Minnie and Arrow down and called Cassie. To my surprise she came almost immediately and let me put a lead rope around her neck. She was absolutely covered in midges, it was horrible.
I brought her to the stable and brushed the midges off. Her neck and chest were covered in bumps and swellings, which really worried me. When I first got Cassie, she suffered from sweet-itch, which was treated initially with steroids and then with homoeopathy and I got her a sweet-itch rug. She responded really well to the homoeopathy and she hasn’t suffered from sweet-itch since. I repeat the homoeopathy every year before the midge season starts. The rug has been stored in a bag in my tackroom, but now was a good time to bring it back out. I have used every available midge repellent, but this year nothing seems to work. Garlic, tea tree oil, citronella, and neem oil don’t keep them off either. Is there anything that does work? I am going to have to keep Cassie rugged when the midges are out, it is not fair on her, she can’t cope. While I was rugging Cassie I got tormented myself and ended up with dozens of bites on my face, so now I’m covered in stinging red swellings, but at least I can go inside. No such relief for the horses.