The summer holidays are almost here, and we're getting glorious weather in the UK. As families across the country are unpacking the paddling pools, dusting down the BBQs and investing in new garden furniture ready to enjoy the great outdoors, there's one thing that everyone needs to be aware of - bugs and insects. Particularly the biting kind.
The UK's warm, wet and damp summertime conditions ensure that several tiny critters are thriving, and some of these can cause nasty bites. While most insect bites are more of a nuisance than harmful, some can cause particularly nasty side effects. But as anyone who has had to contend with a swarm of incessant mosquitoes or midges will testify, constantly swatting away flying insects and other creepy crawlies can really spoil a day out or even an evening in the garden.
So who are the biggest culprits?
These are the bug people are most afraid of on this list. These insects are small, but they can be irritating and cause sore bites for everyone. Whilst many people associate mosquitos with warmer climates, we have them here in the UK for at least 6 months of the year - from as early as April and May through to the end of the summer.
In the UK, mosquitoes exist all over the country. They thrive in warm, damp conditions, as well as by areas of standing water such as lakes, pools, marshes and wetlands which offer perfect breeding conditions for them. Take care near ditches, man-made lakes on golf courses and even near your eco-friendly water butt and the dog’s water bowl in the back yard. They are also particularly fond of warm grassy areas to hide in. Be aware their internal body clock actually kicks in at dawn and dusk telling them it is feeding time so be extra vigilant for mozzies at these times too!
Common symptoms of mosquito bites include soft bumps on the skin that may become pink, red, and very itchy. Note that these symptoms may occur up to 48 hours after the initial insect bite. Symptoms of a more severe allergic reaction may include a large area of itching, lesions or bruises near the site of the insect bite.
More commonly associated with pet care, ticks can prove a real problem for humans, too. These eight-legged parasites feed on the blood of humans and animals and can even be capable of transmitting infections such as Lyme Disease, which affects at least 3,000 Brits every year.
The UK has a growing population of ticks across the countryside and rural areas as well as urban suburbs and towns. Experts have also warned they are on the increase, and we are seeing this happen on a yearly basis. Areas with good vegetation, dense woodland and thick grass tend to be their habitat of choice, in addition to areas frequented by wildlife, deer and livestock.
Ticks love warm, moist areas of the body such as the armpits or groin. Once a tick has found its way onto your body, and bitten into your skin it draws blood. Ticks normally remain attached to your body after they bite you meaning many people only realize they have been bitten by a tick after finding one still attached. After a period of several days or weeks of drawing blood from your body, an engorged tick can detach itself and fall off.
Often travelling in packs, or swarms, midge bites don’t transmit illness but they’re often painful, itch intensely and can swell up alarmingly. It’s thought midges can home in on carbon dioxide sources from up to 200 metres away which helps them zoom in on their next meal - you!
The bane of the summer evening, midges feature throughout the UK. The Scottish Highlands in particular are known to be a midge magnet due to the climate and landscape. Midges tend to make an appearance on damp and cloudy summer days. They are big fans of wet ground such as near estuaries, marshes and tidal flats. They also love dense undergrowth and like their pals the pesky mosquitoes, they love dawn and dusk conditions.
Often confused with the common housefly, stable flies are also known as biting flies. However, unlike other flies, the stable fly sucks blood from mammals.
Stable flies are prevalent across the world, particularly around livestock and equine livery yards, where the animal manure and wet straw offer them the perfect breeding ground. Stable flies can also be found near the sea shore, and loitering near outdoor dog kennels. They tend to prefer the outside environment to indoors.
Stable flies can deliver a very painful bite which can sometimes feel like a needle. They can be extremely persistent and tend to attack around the ankles and lower legs.
These are large hairy little beasts and while they do not carry diseases, their bite can be very painful. They favour warm, sunny days to search for their next meal.
Adult horse flies are fast, strong fliers usually found around streams, marshes, and wooded areas. They are also very persistent meaning simply swatting them away does not work. They will be back! In fact many often give chase to their intended targets for a short time so be sure to use a good repellent for some added protection.
They tend to attack the head and upper body with their bites. Their nips can prove very painful as their bite cuts the skin rather than piercing it. This is why horse fly bites can take longer to heal than other insect bites. This also means horse fly bites can easily become infected. As well as the formation of a weal around the bite, you may also experience a rash of weals (hives).
It is the female of these tiny midges which is the biter, drawing on the protein of the blood she needs to produce her eggs. Sand fly is a colloquial name for any species of biting flies encountered in sandy areas. Other names include "greenheads", biting midges, sand gnats or sandfleas.
As the namesake suggests, sand flies do indeed prefer to loiter around sandy areas where there is also flowing water and foliage. So think sandy shores, tidal estuaries, and marshes. You might find a sand fly resting on fences or vegetation waiting for their next meal. Weather wise they love dull still days with high humidity.
Sand fly bites can leave large, raised red itchy bumps that may turn into a rash. These bumps can be just as itchy as mosquito bites and may well last longer too. They can also be vectors of some diseases including leishmaniasis and pappataci fever; both often referred to as sand fly fever.
How do you prevent bites?
With all of these bugs out and about, ready to pounce on you in warm weather, it's key that you get some protection for the whole family. Luckily, you don't need to get a different formula for every bug - as our formula is the perfect solution. You can buy our insect repellents from our website, all with free UK delivery, and be sure that you'll be protected from the nuisance of the UK's biting bugs. Not only that, you will also be sure that the products are safe as well as effective, with them being completely DEET and alcohol free and suitable for children over 6+ months and pregnant women. They're also completely natural, so you know you're doing your bit for the environment too!