I spent a substantial part of my childhood in Scotland so that means I’ve been providing good quality nourishment for culicoides impunctatus (that’s the highland midge) for over half a century. The problem with that is that while I’m not averse to sharing a drop of blood with a critter in need that I have a very bad reaction to their saliva which they inject to prevent clotting whilst guzzling. Sensibly enough they like to bite near the bone, not because as your granny said the meat is sweeter near the bone, but because the skin is thinner and easier to pierce so backs of hands, jawline, and eye socket are all extra susceptible and in my case the pain is terrible. I used to take loads of oral antihistamine and slather on creams whose main ingredient was DEET aka Diethyl-meta-toluamide or C12H17NO if you’re that way inclined. Now DEET seems to work for a lot of people and its the main ingredient in an awful lot of insect repellents so I’m not going to say it’s rubbish (although scarily there are claims that it is carcinogenic) but I had limited luck with it, firstly, it brought me out in blotches a lot of the time, and second, it smells like fly spray. I suppose it is fly spray but I’d rather not smell of it, I’m more of a tea rose or jasmine sort of girl.
I parted company with DEET containing sprays a couple of years ago when I was eating outside with my friend and her husband. She is impervious to midges, mosquitos, ticks, vampires and just about everything else that sucks blood but he’s like me – in summer the poor guy looks like an acne-ridden adolescent – so we were both squooshing ourselves with DEET spray ahead of the food. He has a dodgy neuro disorder that makes his hands shake and he got a lot on a couple of plastic tumblers before he got it on himself. I watched him take them inside and put them in the sink and later when, like a good guest, I went to help with the washing up those tumblers had started to melt where the spray had touched them.
That was the end of me and DEET but what to do? I’d been through the citronella/herb route and found it hit and miss. In Verona the mosquitos didn’t seem to like citronella and basil but in Florence the zanzari basically said, “Yayyyy, Scottish meat with herb dressing. C’mon guys!” I am quite sure the little bastards actually used to wait for me. I can see them now hacking my Booking.com account on their teeny-weeny iBug pads to find out my arrival date. As for culicoides impunctatus they think I’m a summer barbecue, there are none, seriously none, around the front door used by Roomie, but great ravening hordes around the French windows from my bedroom into the garden.
I googled away and found this article by an entomologist. Aha! Well you’d trust an entomologist who wasn’t being paid, wouldn’t you? I was about to send away for some of the stuff she uses herself when I spotted Smidge in a camping shop in town and as was mentioned in the article I zipped in and spent the best £7.99 I have in ages.
It’s brilliant. I’ve had one or two bites since using it and that’s all, probably because I forget to replace it after I wash my hands, and I haven’t even seen a tick. Apparently the active ingredient in Smidge blocks the antennal receptors of biting insects which is brilliant because it works on ticks as well as midges and mosquitos. Ticks terrify me. Lyme disease terrifies me and I live in the country – there are cows, sheep, deer, foxes, and so much long grass half of the place looks like a prairie – perfect tick harbouring conditions. And the next best part is that Smidge smells nice because there’s no DEET in it and it has a faintly orangey fragrance, perhaps because citron is their least favourite perfume even if it isn’t a reliably effective deterrent.
Works in Scotland and Italy, puts off midge, mosquitos, and ticks. My only gripe is that it doesn’t really last eight hours, at least not on me, but it’s small enough to carry about and easy to use. Just spray a little on your hands and pat gently wherever you need it. I am one happy girl.
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