What Biting Insects To Look Out For In The UK
Here in the UK, we are lucky enough to have quite a low number of dangerous animals. Unlike other countries with snakes and bears or deadly spiders, we have relatively few creatures that we need to give a wide berth. What we do have, however, is our share of biting insects. While not usually dangerous, being bitten is certainly not pleasant and there is a risk of infection, so it’s a good idea to protect yourself from getting bitten or stung in the first place. So which biting insects do you need to keep an eye out for here in the UK and how do you identify a bite if you get one? We thought we’d put together a bit of a guide to help you out, so read on to find out more.
There are 34 native species of Mosquitoes in the UK, although not all of them bite humans. Plenty do though, and they can be a real nuisance. They tend to thrive in warm and damp conditions, and you’ll find them by areas of standing water such as lakes, marshes and wetlands, or pools. These areas offer the perfect breeding conditions for mosquitoes, so make sure you protect yourself if you know you’re going to be nearby standing water or warm grassy areas. Mosquitoes vary in appearance depending on the species, but most have:
- Wings longer than their body, with a fringe-like border
- A hollow extending mouthpart that looks a bit like a straw
- A hunched back
Mosquito bites tend to produce symptoms such as soft bumps on the skin which are very itchy and may turn pink or red. Symptoms can occur up to 48 hours after the initial bite, and a more severe allergic reaction may display symptoms such as a large area of itching and bruises or lesions near the site of the bite. To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes you can
- Use a mosquito repellant from April to October
- Be careful at dawn and dusk if you are near damp grassy spots, woodland, or standing water
- Cover up exposed skin with cool, comfortable clothing
- Reapply repellent if you find yourself sweating or if you go swimming
Ticks are actually arachnids and not insects, but as they do bite we thought we’d best include them in this roundup. In the UK you will find ticks in areas with woodland or thick grass, and in places where there are deer, livestock or wildlife. Hotspots in the UK include most national parks including the Lake District, North Yorkshire Moors, the New Forest, and the Highlands of Scotland. Ticks are really tiny and vary in colour from brown and red to black. They love warm and moist areas of the body such as the groin or armpits, and when they bite they remain attached to your body drawing blood for a period of days or even weeks until they have had their fill and detach themselves. While ticks are usually harmless and their bites tend to be symptomless, some people are allergic to tick bites and experience pain or swelling, a rash, burning sensation, or even difficulty breathing. Lyme Disease is also a risk of tick bites, which usually begins with a rash flu-like symptoms but can lead to chronic symptoms such as memory loss, numbness and joint problems. Reduce the risk of being bitten by ticks by
- Covering your skin while walking outdoors. Tuck your trousers into your socks.
- Use insect repellent on your clothes and skin
- Stick to paths when walking
- Wear light-coloured clothing as ticks are easier to spot and brush away
Midge bites don’t transmit diseases, but they are often itchy and painful, and they can swell up to quite an alarming size. Midges travel in swarms, and you’ll find them on damp and cloudy summer days or evenings. They tend to be found near marshes and tidal flats, and just like mosquitoes, they are fond of the conditions at dawn and dusk. Midge bites are generally small itchy lumps, but if you’re allergic to insect bites you may develop fluid-filled blisters surrounding the bite. You can usually see a small hole within the lump. Avoid midge bites by
- Using an insect repellent and covering your skin at dawn and dusk
- Wear light coloured clothing as dark colours attract them
- Always wear insect repellent if you are doing physical activity such as hiking, as midges can detect the carbon dioxide in your breath from 200 metres away
Stable flies look a lot like the common housefly, so it’s easy to get them confused. However, the stable fly will suck blood from humans and other mammals. You’ll typically find them around livestock and equine stables, as the name suggests. You’ll also find them near the seaside, and outdoor dog kennels. Stable flies tend to bite the ankles and lower legs, and can be very persistent. Their bites are super painful and sometimes feel like a needle. To avoid being bitten by stable flies
- Use a good quality insect repellent to ward them off
- If you work with livestock or horses, make sure you keep wet straw and manure to a minimum as these are the ideal breeding conditions for the stable fly
Horse flies are rather large, and also hairy. They like warm sunny days, and their bite is very painful as they cut the skin rather than piercing it. This means their bites take longer to heal than other insect bites and can easily become infected. They’re usually found around streams, marshes and woodland, and they’re very persistent, often chasing their targets. To avoid being bitten by them you should
- Cover up well. Horse flies can actually bite through thin clothing such as leggings.
- Buy and use a good insect repellent
Black flies belong to a large family, with about 34 species in Britain but over 1800 worldwide. They’re very small, at only between 2-6mm long, and they feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Black flies tend to bite in the daytime, and they prefer thinner areas of skin such as the nape of the neck, ears, and ankles. You’ll find most bites on the head, neck, and back. Their bites also use the cutting technique, which means they can be sore even though they’re relatively shallow. You may not initially feel the bite as their saliva contains an anticoagulant which partially numbs the area, but itching and inflammation can appear and the bite can swell up and be uncomfortable for a few weeks. Avoid black fly bites by
- Avoiding areas they inhabit such as mixed birch and juniper woodlands, pine forests, moorlands and pastures
- Avoid peak feeding times
- Wear light-coloured heavy clothing with long sleeves and long trousers
- Wear hats
- Use a good insect repellent
Visit our shop here at Alfresco for our range of natural insect repellents so that you can avoid being bitten. Our range of perfumes and moisturisers will leave you smelling fantastic while protecting you from the various critters in this guide!