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TORTURE by a Thousand Bites

THE WINTER months have arrived, but for country ramblers and hillwalkers who have been anticipating enjoyable hours on the hills and moors without meeting the scourge of the Scottish midge, climate change cannot be denied. With t-shirt weather having been experienced on several days in November and December 2016, clouds of these persistent little insects were found to be almost as active in some areas as we might expect on a fine evening in May, satisfying their hunger on the blood of humans and animals alike.

One role of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, (SEPA) is to monitor changes in weather patterns and to use this data to predict the impact of future weather changes on the environment. There has been a rapid warming effect in Scotland where temperatures have risen by 1°C in recent decades, causing a 21% reduction in days of frost and an average decrease in rainfall of 27% while winter precipitation of snow and rain has decreased by 50%. These changes have already brought forward the start of the growing season in Scotland by around a month, and this may foretell changes in species and populations of insect pests. Already we have seen a rapid spread in a major biting pest, the tick, from West to East Scotland; is the dreaded Highland midge set to follow?

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iScot Magazine February 2017