Originally Posted by oetzi
Lst week I attended the outdoor-show at Friedrichshafen and doing so, I stayed at a camp for three nights. Even though the tent has very good midge nettings and I took all possible precautions, I got badly bitten the whole time. There have been midges even in the large air-conditioned halls of the exhibition and we got bitten there, too. So I thought, why not write a bit about midges and how to avoid them.
Your lines of the defense are twofold: physically and chemically. Lets deal with the former first as its the easiest one to choose.
Tightly woven clothing is your friend when you want adequate protection from midges. If its loosely woven or knitted (like woolen socks) the material has to be quite thick to protect you. (I remember one summer´s holiday in Italy, when sitting on the veranda in the evening. I had to switch from thin cotton socks to my heavy woolen hiking socks to prevent gettong bitten aound the ankles.) If your clothing is very thin, wear two layers since the midges can not bite through these separate layers.
Its basically three different groups of stuff to apply:
-“natural“ stuff based on oil of citronella, eucalyptus, lemongrass etc.
The latter two is what one can apply to the skin and clothing worn next to the skin. Of these, DEET is the most effective. The natural stuff works acceptably, but this depends very much on factors like your skin, the intensity of sweating and your general desirability as seen from the midges side. These oil-based products have he advantage of being usable on children, too. There are also no health-related problems as with DEET. But they are way behind in effectiveness and therefore IMO only usable when there is no risk of catching a disease through an insect´s bite.
Generally speaking, it boils down to whether you want to protect yourself from merely annoying bites or from nasty disease as they are oftentimes transmitted by all kinds of insects. Because DEET may be/is more harmful to the human body than the other stuff, everyone must decide for himself what to take.
Now to the bad news for birders and everyone using modern binoculars or digital cameras made from lots of plastics (likewise sunglasses etc): DEET turns plastic – and that means the armour of your precious binocular - into sort of a goo. So as a birder you should never ever use that stuff on your hands or in your face, it will severly damage the armour of your binoculars. Porro-lovers can rejoice as long as they use all-metall ones with a cover of real leather.
As for application on your clothing, DEET is ok with cotton, linen, hemp, silk, wool and polyamide. (It also eats holes in your spandex shorts and may act as a nail-paint remover.)
So its possible to apply DEET on clothing. In fact it makes it possible to wear those very lightweight clothes, which make the summer heat bearable. But I dont know wheather sweat may dissolve the DEET in your clothing and transfer it to the binoculars hanging around your neck. So I wouldnt recommend this, too.
An alternative to DEET is Icaridin (Bayrepel) by Bayer, which is said to have the same good effect, but the verdict is still out. Icaridin does not dissolve plastic! Now thats good news for us and worth giving a try.
Permethrin is a bit different. This is the most powerful stuff currently available and should only be applied to clothing worn on the outside, never when it touches the skin. Permethrin gives excellent protection against all kinds insects and is also about the only useful protection against ticks (but thats another story).
Two ways of using Permethrin are available, self-application and industrially bonded to the fabric.
DIY is easy, you buy some of the stuff and spray it on your clothing. Let it dry, wear it and for a couple of weeks you are protected very well. There are a lot of Permethrin-based products on the market, I currently use that from british company Nikwax.
(Disclaimer: I am very much biased in this aspect! I learned about Nikwax during my decades in the outdoor retail business and the sale and usage of their waterproofing stuff. Nikwax doesnt uses any solvents other than water, they never used aerosols like propane and butane. They even shunned away from Fluorcarbons (PFCs) in a time when no one but some freaks considered them harmful. So when they added insect repellents to their line we stocked them and I used them, too. I simply have faith in this company, their products and the philosophy behind.)
Since I personally dont like to smear anything in my face – I am a heavy sweater, it wouldnt stay put anyway – Permethrin is my first line of defence against midges biting me in face and neck.
As a wearer of hats (mostly Tilley, I am much of a stereotype), I apply Permethrin to the brim of the hat. First a good dose on the upper side, then I turn it around and cover the head-opening and sweatband with a piece of paper. A heavy dose on the underside of the brim follows. Having dried I can handle my hat as usual and even when sweating hard the Permethrin is far away from my skin.
But how may this protect my face, you may ask yourself? Well, the Permethrin in the hat´s brim creates sort of an aura which keeps most of the midges away from face and neck. At least thats how I explain it to myself. Refreshing the proofing often enough is crucial, though.
A much much better use of Permethrin is to be had when it is industrially bonded to the fabric. Names like „Insect Shield“, „NosiLife“ stand for a process where Permethrin is infused into the fabric. It will be washed out after a number of cycles, like seventy or so. Otherwise it doesnt „seep“ out of the fabric due to sweating etc.
You can purchase hats, shirts, trousers and the like with these treatments. One of my next additions will be a Buff, as they are available with Insect Shield, too. IS or not, a Buff is one of my standard pieces of clothing anyway. I can highly recommend them for universal use as a neckerchief, sweatband or whatever. Together with my Permethrin-proofed hat I think I will have as much protection as is possible without wearing a head net.
So what do you do if you have been bitten? Transmitted diseases not withstanding, what really bugs me is the itching after the bite. The itch is caused by the body´s reaction to the bite. The midge injects some fluids into your body to make the blood not coagulate and thats what the human body reats to. Histamine is produced as an allergic reaction and thats what causes the itch.
Now you can apply some special ointment to reduce this Histamine production and all be well. My preferred alternative is a small device pased on Piezo technology. You may know it as „Zap-IT“. Thats a small item which on the pressure of a knob produces a tiny electric charge. The technic behind is a small piece of Tourmaline which is squeezed by the pressure of the button and then produces an electric charge. Upon discovering a bite, 5-10 times as per your sensitivity to the bite of the midge is usually enough. You may have to repeat it after several hours.
These elctric charges „destroy“ the stuff the midge has injected and therefore stops your reaction with the Histamine production. It works the better, the sooner you discover the bite. But I have made good experiences even many hours afterwards, like when wake up and have been bitten while asleep. Clever tool, isnt it? No batteries needed, infinitely storable, always ready to be used and cheap, too. I always haveone on me these days.
Thats my two cent worth of knowledge to the topic of midges and their bites. please note, it only applies to me here in central europe. Others may have made different experiences and maybe we cah share these in this thread.