SWEET ITCH NEWS, RESEARCH & AWARENESS
According to an article in The Scotsman on the 7th March 2011 the Scottish midge invasion was set to be 800 times worse than normal because of the protection given to the larvae by the blanket of snow.
Dr Alison Blackwell of the SCOTTISH MIDGE FORECAST believed the severe winter weather would reduce midge numbers but to her surprise the converse has happened.
SCOTTISH MIDGE THREAT 2011
"We thought that a hard ground frost would kill the midge larvae off as they hibernate because we know that they die if you put them in a freezer," she said. If Scotland were to have a wet Spring it is quite likely every midge trap would have 2kg of midges collected in one Summer night. This equates to 16 million midges instead of about 20,000 at one location.
SNOW BLANKET PROTECTS MIDGES
Scotland and The Lake District probably had the most snow and the longest staying 'blanket'. But nobody knows for sure whether other parts of Britain blanketed for many weeks with snow are going to suffer a plague of culicoides midges. A warm, wet Spring could also affect midge numbers too as these are ideal conditions for breeding. We won't know whether this is going to be a bad year for midges until late May. Editor's Note: We hope to get an update in March 2013 from Dr Alison Blackwell and will publish her comments here.
SWEET ITCH PRECAUTIONS & AWARENESS
We should take early precautions and set in motion a thorough preventative regime for our Sweet Itch horses. April 2013 is Sweet Itch Awareness Month. See pictures from Redwings.
NEW TREATMENTS FOR SWEET ITCH
Research into the Sweet Itch problem and possible new treatments has in recent years broadly revolved round three areas (a) immunotherapy as exemplified by the work of BioEos and The School of Veterinary Sciences at Bristol University and (b) repellents and (c) attractants.
ATTRACTANT PHEROMONES LURE MIDGES
Attractants are pheromones which lure midges to their death in Midge Machines or Midge Traps and repellents are often pheromones too but ones which push away midges or mask attractants. There are,of course,lots of repellents which make the skin surface unpleasant - eg. acid, oily, greasy - either by direct application or by exudation: the in-feed technique. Putting garlic, apple cider vinegar and herbs into food/water is one way of introducing these repellents.
SCOTLAND'S BITING MIDGE CULICOIDES IMPUNCTATUS
Scotland, the home of the infamous Biting Midge culicoides impunctatus, has been the focus for alot of on-going research into midge behaviour. Dr Alison Blackwell of Edinburgh University and retired Professor Jenny Mordue of Aberdeen University are just two well known individuals out of many involved in 'beating the itch' and curbing/frustrating the predatory feeding habits of the female midge.
SALTIDIN AND SMIDGE TO THE RESCUE
Advanced Pest Solutions (APS), an Edinburgh University start-up company sponsored by Calor and Scottish Enterprise, researched and developed the Scottish Midge Forecast. This in turn launched a new midge repellent in June 2010 for humans called SMIDGE with Saltidin (aka Icaridin, Picaridin or Bayrepel) as the active ingredient. SMC claim it repels midges for up to 8 hours, is a safe and effective alternative to DEET and water and sweat resistant. Saltidin isn't registered for use with horses in the UK, so Smidge can't be officially recommended. But,as with Avon Skin So Soft, horse riders will no doubt decide for themselves whether SMIDGE is suitable for their horses.
SMIDGE is available from www.midgeforecast.co.uk in a 75mm aluminium pump spray. Here is an independent review on "a repellent that works ?" on Song of the Paddle.
UNSOLICITED TESTIMONIAL in The Horse and Hound Forum "We have a horse here which has itching problems. We have found a new product
developed for the Scottish midge and its called Smidge. Our horse is now happy
and has a mane and tail intact. We also stable and rug with a hood - much happier
horse" - Angrovestud.
RESEARCH BY ABERDEEN UNIVERSITY ON FARMYARD MIDGES MAY LEAD TO A NEW MIDGE REPELLENT FOR SWEET ITCH HORSES.
At Aberdeen University Dr James Logan says:-
"PhD students are currently working on farmyard midges in the UK and a large project in India. We are hoping these projects will allow us to develop a useful product which can be used to control midges around livestock".
Just how the repellent will be deployed with horses is a mystery at present
The human applicaton of this repellent using push-away or masking pheromones geranylacetone and methylheptonone is due to be launched in 2012.
LATEST NEWS FROM DR JAMES LOGAN
18th March 2013
"We are still working on the development of this product although we will aim it at the human market first as this seems to be where the funding is to develop such products. It takes a while to get through all the processes to take something to market.
We are very much still interested in developing this (and other) product(s) for use with livestock but again we have found it difficult to get enough funding to do the development work.
I do now run an organisation called 'arctec' which is designed to work with commercial companies and bring products through the registration process to market. We run efficacy testing on repellents, insecticides and after bite treatments (including sweet itch in horses) and we have the capability to do this on humans, livestock and horses. Many active ingredients that do well in the human market may lend themselves well to the equine market. We hope to be working towards bringing some highly effective and useful products for use on horses to the market soon. And we encourage organisations with promising products to get in touch.
MIDGE TRAPS FOR STABLES & EQUESTRIAN CENTRES
Returning now to Midge Machines or Midge Traps - there are numerous other proprietary names such as Midgeeater, Midge Monster, MidgeBlaster, Midge Guard and Midge Magnet. These operate on the basis of attracting midges by creating carbon dioxide from Propane using a catalytic converter, infusing with another pheromone attractant called Octenol and releasing this gaseous concoction in the area to be kept clear of midges. The midges are then sucked in and 'bagged'. Useful for stables and equestrian centres but probably a bit too pricey for most horse owners who'll opt for ceiling or wall fans to deter midges. Picture: Predator Dynamic Midge Trap from The Scottish Midge Forecast. Link at the bottom of the page.
SWEET ITCH MIDGES LIKE DARK MOVING OBJECTS EXHALING CARBON DIOXIDE - THAT'S YOU RIDING A HORSE AT DUSK AND DAWN FEEDING TIME!
Carbon dioxide is what we, and other animals, breath out. Its what midges home in on. It indicates a blood meal. Visually midges are drawn to dark moving objects. They target large women and tall men and love their potential meals to be hot and sweaty - plenty of attractants. Someone sitting on a dark horse would be particularly vunerable as most midges prefer to fly nearer to 12 feet from the ground than 3 feet, the midge-cloud density increasing with height.
Read more about midge behaviour and insect repellents for horse Sweet Itch here.
GOOGLE TRENDS - SEE CHART TOP LEFT
This panel takes little while to download.
Editor's Comment:- The number of 'searches' in Google for Sweet Itch tends to mirror what's really happening to our allergic horses
For the Scottish Midge Forecast go here
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