This is a bug warning for all tourists planning a trip to the Emerald Isle.
Don’t worry, Ireland is not a paradise for bugs like some tropical tourist destinations. No fear of cockroaches or monster mosquitoes! No need to start anti-malarial medication before your trip but be warned! During the summer months, Ireland is home to the mosquito’s most annoying cousin, albeit a 31st cousin of the "state bird of Texas."
The insect in question is the infamous Irish “midge.”
Last year on our annual pilgrimage to Donegal, we parked our car to let the kids pile out, and watch a small herd of deer bounding across the heather-carpeted hillside. Not thinking, we left all the windows open in the car. Before we knew what was happening, a swarm of midges surrounded us.
“Get back in the car,” I screamed out. The kids looked at me as if I was being attacked by a pack of zombies.
“Hurry, hurry,” I urged, as I flapped my hands in the air, whacking at the midges, shooing the kids in the general direction of the car.
They piled in as fast as they could, never before having witnessed Mom in such a frenzy. But the windows at the back were the old fashioned wind-up kind. We were too late.
Lo and behold the car was swarming with little, flying nasties.
“Drive! Drive!” I urged my husband, as I stretched my hand back to reopen the rear windows.
We drove through Donegal with all four windows open. I flapped a magazine around trying to shoo them out, stun them, wallop them, decapitate them or whatever the case may be.
Word got out fast. Surviving midge friends feasted on my legs in revenge. They just loved my sweet tasting blood. My husband says I am the best bug repellent ever. He just needs to stand beside me and not one nibbling midge touches him.
It took over 30 minutes of open-window driving, and violent magazine-whacking, to tame the swarm. I was so sorry I did not have a bottle of Skin-So-Soft in my purse, or the old-fashioned cologne, 4711. They hate that stuff. Wearing it may keep a few humans at bay too, but a small price to pay for a midge-free outing.
Midges are so tiny, it amazes me how much of a nuisance they can be. Here are some interesting facts about these pesky, little bugs:
- Apparently only the female midges bite, and they only bite when they are pregnant, for a second or third time.
- Blood is what they are after, to feed their young ‘uns.
- Luckily for us, they do not carry any diseases, like sleeping sickness, or malaria.
- Biting midges fly in swarms, and when I say swarms, I mean big, old, menacing swarms.
- They like warm, humid climates, so they emerge en masse during the damp, relatively warm, Irish summer months.
- If the wind is high, they get blown away, so you will encounter them inland more so than on the coast.
- They are not fast movers, so sometimes if you run, you can out pace them.
- They do not like bright sunshine, so they love Ireland. The lack of bright sunshine during most Irish summers suits the midges just fine.
- Evening is their favorite time of day. Swarms can often be seen hovering over bushes and trees during the twilight hours.
- The bite does not hurt, but if you scratch, the site can get irritated.
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So here is my advice for tourists:
- Pack some insect repellent.
- Pack some anti-histamine cream in case you do get a few bites, and need to help ease itchiness.
- Wear light colored clothes with long sleeves and long pants. Midges are attracted to dark colors.
- And please, learn from our mistake. Close your car windows if you pop out to do some sightseeing, even if you only step a few yards from your car, for the briefest of moments.
- Do not scratch! Resist the itch! Hold out! The tickle will disappear, only if you wait and DO NOT SCRATCH.
- O.K let’s face it! No normal human can hold out against a niggling itch. If you do scratch, remember the anti-histamine in step 2.
Wishing you all happy, midge free travels, in the beautiful land of my birth.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom.
* Mairead Geary came to America for one year 20 years ago. She now lives with her husband and children in Kentucky and is proud to be an American citizen. Read more on her blog here.