Page last updated at 10:16 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Midges die off in freezing cold

Midge larvae spend winter a few centimetres below ground

Freezing temperatures are believed to have killed off a "proportion" of Scotland's midge population.

Expert Dr Alison Blackwell said midge larvae that spend winter a few centimetres below ground will have been vulnerable to the prolonged cold spell.

But she said most of the trillions of midges in Scotland will have survived.

Tourists put off returning to Scotland after being repeatedly bitten by the tiny insect are estimated to cost the tourism industry £286m a year.

Dr Blackwell said: "The hard winter is going to kill off a proportion of the wintering midge population, but you have to remember there are trillions of midge.

"If we have a nice warm, damp spring there will be a big midges emergence as we have seen previously, but hopefully there may be a few less."

Expired insects

Last summer, two men cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats in their underwear for charity were badly bitten by midges shortly after reaching the Highlands.

Adam Dunn and Gavin Topley, from Branksome, near Bournemouth, had taken no other clothes, money, food or insect repellent for their journey.

They relied on offers of free accommodation and meals.

However, also last summer, a woman on Skye was using midges as a key ingredient in food for wild birds.

Housewife Elaine Bunce added the biting insect to beef dripping and flour to create her Original Highland Midge Bites.

She advertised in a local newspaper for people to send her expired insects collected from midge killing machines, as it takes a thousand for each ball.

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