Page last updated at 10:28 GMT, Friday, 14 August 2009 11:28 UK

Birdwatcher makes meal of midges

It takes a thousand midges for each bird food ball

A woman on the Isle of Skye is asking people to send her dead midges so she can turn them into food for wild birds.

Housewife-turned-entrepreneur Elaine Bunce adds the biting insect to beef dripping and flour to create her Original Highland Midge Bites.

She has advertised in a local newspaper for people to send her expired insects, as it takes a thousand for each ball.

Mrs Bunce discovered that midges, notorious for blighting Scottish holidays, are a good source of protein.

She currently has five litres of midges in her freezer.

She hoping to collect more from midge killing machines.

Mrs Bunce, from Dunvegan, said: "I researched the matter with bird groups and they say midges are full of protein.

"I've got about five litres of them in my freezer at the moment - there are trillions of them. But I need a lot more, there are not so many about because of the hot summer, and this is a good way to recycle midges."

Midges also need a blood meal within a week or they will not survive
Dr Alison Blackwell
Midge expert

She added: "I am trialling the product at the moment and hope to gradually roll it out to leading pet shops and suppliers."

Midge expert Dr Alison Blackwell said most of the 20 official midge traps throughout Scotland were down in numbers of dead insects on last year.

She said some of the midge devices have been recording just a few thousand midges in a week when they would normally be gathering "hundreds of thousands".

Dr Blackwell said: "Midges are quite susceptible to dry weather and their survival will go down in a hot, dry summer.

"Midges like warm and wet weather and not much wind. Midges also need a blood meal within a week or they will not survive."

The biting midge thrives in warm, damp conditions.

The Scottish tourist industry is estimated to lose about £286m a year because of the insect.

A study carried out by expert Dr Alison Blackwell previously found that 49% of tourists said they would not return to Scotland at the same time of year because of the insect.

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