My husband and I moved to Argyll in 1987 with our 3 daughters, aged 8, 9 & 10, and our 3 horses. Astounded by the beauty of the area, we were looking forward to enjoying the great outdoors and magnificent scenery - but were totally underprepared for the blight of the small but mighty midges that swarmed Argyll. We couldn’t quite believe how these tiny insects could have such a negative impact on our outdoor lifestyle!
There were many products promoted as deterrents available over the counter, but we were always dubious...they either didn’t work or contained harmful chemicals. This was a big consideration for myself and two of my daughters as we have very sensitive, unforgiving skin and so itchy rashes and blotches would appear when we tried these “solutions”.
Therefore, our only alternative was to suffer in silence....though in reality, the endurance was far from quiet in most instances!
In early 1990 my husband, Rodger, was working in India and during one of many conversations with an Indian colleague the topic of “flying nasties” arose.
Of course, India is home to many flying biting insects but the people do not automatically turn to chemicals to alleviate the problem. Rodger was given a recipe for a carefully balanced blend of essential oils, which are renowned for their non-toxic and soothing qualities. The oils had to be used in balance with each other.
On Rodger’s return home, we researched and sourced the oils, and followed the recipe meticulously - though I do admit we were a little “tongue in cheek”, and the girls did tease their father!
From the moment we started to use the lotion our outdoor lives were transformed and for the first time we were able to enjoy Scotland to the fullest. We gave it to our friends and family and the girls never left home without it during the summer.
We experimented with different qualities of oils within our recipe and discovered, not surprisingly, that the better quality the oil, the more effective the repellent. The oils were expensive but the results made the extra expense worthwhile.
For the first time our children attended pony camp without the usual dread and horror of being eaten alive whilst camping in the middle of nowhere. We made up mixtures for our horses and dogs and made sure they were always protected. We were even able to keep our old pony at home because his allergy became manageable.
We named it Eureka!, which means, “I have found it”. Its reputation and popularity grew by word of mouth, and our product was now in demand throughout Argyll.
My mother then took supplies of Eureka! to Spain, where she spent five months each year, and reported back an astounding success against mosquitoes, while friends in Norway reported how effective and kind to the skin the lotion was.
We were approached by a Dr. Alison Blackwell from the Biological Sciences department at Dundee University. Dr. Blackwell has studied the biological habits and flight patterns of the midge for many years and used students at Ormsary in Argyll to test a number of repellents. The project was funded for four years by the Agriculture and Food Council and later by local funding. Dr. Blackwell had heard of Eureka! and wanted to test it out in some of the field studies. We were not surprised by the favourable findings - Eureka! performed well during the tests and was found to be pleasant to use. Dr. Blackwell gave Eureka! her approval.
And so, after several years of using, trying and testing, we decided to share the magic by marketing Eureka! The range is now enjoyed across the country and abroad, and our girls still never leave home without it.
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Midges are tiny (usually less than 2 mm wingspan) 2 winged flies which share several features in common with their relative, the mosquito.
They have been around for a long time, indeed they have been found preserved in amber going back 125 million years.
There are many hundreds of different species of midges spread all over the world known by different names such as no-see-ums, punkies, moose-flies, sandflies and jejens.
Here in the UK we have but 35 species but what we lack in variety we make up for in numbers!
The most prevalent midge in upland Britain is CULICOIDES IMPUNCTATUS and the lowlands have CULICOIDES OBSOLETUS (otherwise known as the Garden Midge).
However, there are hundreds of different species.
Not all midges bite but those which do work in numbers. The evening stimulus for feeding affects large populations of pregnant and hungry females sending them into a feeding frenzy.
A number of dedicated scientists have sat it out and recorded midge bites at a rate of 2,000 to 3,000 bites an hour.
Midges show a preference for dark colours so wearing light coloured clothing has been shown to help.
Avoid being outside during early mornings and the evening, which is often not possible and certainly not what you want when on holiday! Hence, applying a quality repellent before exposure is the best way to avoid bites.
This is a big question for which there is no definitive answer.
It comes down to personal preferences and what is important to you as an individual. For instance, whether you choose to go for one of the many repellents containing the harsher chemicals such as DEET or DMP or to opt for and apply a natural, herbal repellent instead.
DEET (diethyl toluamide) and DMP are chemicals used in the plastics industry to soften hard plastic.
When used sensibly, insect repellents are safe but the potential toxicity of DEET is high and the use of repellents containing over 50% DEET should be avoided.
We are warned to keep products containing these chemicals away from plastics, spectacles, polished and painted surfaces and some synthetic clothing.Incorrectly used they are toxic and if ingested can lead to acute poisoning.
Many repellents including DEET and DMP are absorbed by the skin, passing through the liver and kidneys to reappear in the urine hours later.
The British medical journal THE LANCET has published cautionary advice on DEET.
Not all natural and herbal repellents are effective and some do contain alcohol which can be harsh on the skin. Some natural plant oils can also be toxic and irritating such as citronella so care must be taken when choosing a product.
Different oils work on different skin so there can be a bit of ‘trial and error’ involved.