Leading Article: The might of the Scottish midge

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The Independent Online
ACCORDING to our report on page 2, a new and successful repellent may have been found for the Scottish midge, now at the height of its annual summer blitzkrieg - frightening tourists, switching the tails of mournful Highland cattle - at most points between the Mull of Kintyre and Cape Wrath. The new prophylactic is oil compounded from the leaves of bog-myrtle, and, if experiments succeed, bog-myrtle may soon be laid down in plantations across the Hebrides, yielding an extra source of income for the crofting population.

Pay no attention. Essence of bog- myrtle may have many uses. It may scare bees, wasps, bluebottles, flying ants, mosquitoes, Rottweilers and small elephants. The Scottish midge, Culicoides impunctatus, is a different matter entirely. Every summer brings reports that suggest a deterrent for the midge is on its way from the laboratory or from fresh folk wisdom. There have been schemes to baffle midges by manufacturing an artificial pheromone, the natural chemical emitted by the female, blood-sucking midge to attract other midges to sources of food; and to cripple midges by infecting them with the red mite. So far, however, it seems that heavy pipe-smoking remains the best defence against a plague which has prompted debates in the House of Lords and concern about its effect on Scotland's tourist economy. The defeat of the midge, as Sir William Lithgow once observed from his Argyll estate, remains 'the Everest of entomology'.

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