Teeth on wings

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.

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4 thoughts on “Teeth on wings

  1. Those midges sound awful. We mostly have flies and mosquitoes which are bad enough. Then of course the ticks carrying Lyme, all of our horses have had it. I think Cassie would appreciate the midge rug for some relief. Poor thing I can’t blame her for taking off trying to get rid of them. We use fly masks too with ears in them to keep the little biting insects from driving them crazy.

    • Midges are the bane of our lives, and Cassie really needs that rug on windless nights. Funny how there is no wind when you need it! As far as I know, Lyme is still rare here, so we’re lucky that way, because we do get ticks, although in fairness, not that many.

  2. Those midges sound like our black flies. I remember one time my father and uncle going trout fishing in Newfoundland. They left early in the morning, but were back by lunchtime. Their faces were bloodied and at first we thought they had been in a car accident, but it was the black flies that has attacked them! One of the remedies that I heard for black flies is orange or lemon peel. You rub your exposed skin with the inside of the peel and it keeps bugs away. You’d have to have a lot of orange peel for a horse thought! 😉 Hope you all get some relief soon!!

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