Sun worshipers beware: UK’s muggy summer creates 'perfect storm' for biting insects

The UK’s temperatures have created the right conditions for midges, mosquitos and horseflies to multiply

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The Independent Online

Sun worshipers, camping-enthusiasts and gardeners alike have been warned to roll down their sleeves and cover their legs, as the UK’s wet summer has created a "perfect storm" for biting insects to feast more than usual.

The hot, wet, muggy conditions are ripe for midges, mosquitos and horseflies to multiply, which they have been doing in droves, while Britons have been basking in the heat, unawares.

But gardeners are being "eaten alive" by the plague of insects, the National Trust’s naturalist and etymologist Matthew Oates said, and are advised to use insect repellent while covering their limbs.

"This is a very bad year for biters – horseflies and mosquitoes," Mr Oates said. "The water table is high thanks to the winter's rain, there's no real drought prospect, and even the lawns are still very green. The conditions have created a perfect storm for biting insects."

Mr Oates said that when the weather is warm and dry then the biting insects tend to disappear, but because of the recent thunderstorms, the offending insects are handing around longer than they should. Horseflies in particular should be tailing off by now, but they are not, he added.

"The midges, horseflies and mosquitoes are having a fantastic time biting us and all our mammal friends," he said.

And it's not over yet; while the biters are still out and about, the UK is steadily moving into the "stinger" season, when the wasps will come out, though it is too early to tell how bad the season will be.

Mr Oates said: "It's the biters that are plaguing us at the moment, although we'll have to see over the next few weeks whether it is going to be a bad year for stingers – wasps."

But the problems with insect bites come when they are itchy and red, and can get infected from being scratched.

Dr James Logan, senior lecturer in medical entomology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told the Telegraph: "Scratching provides the biggest risk from bites because once you scratch a bit it breaks the skin and opens the body to secondary infection so bacteria gets in and it becomes infected.

"If you get dangerous bacteria in there you can become very ill indeed," he said.

Scientists are seeing a general trend that each year people are getting bitten more and more, Mr Logan said, with different types of mosquitos coming into urban areas.

"There was a study recently that showed that the increase use of garden water butts were to blame as they provide perfect breeding conditions and pest control authorities are reporting increased problems," he said.