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Walkers beware a rise in bugs

  How strange! Normally by the end of September the fearsome midge has retreated to whenever they go for winter and stopped their excruciating hunt for humans to eat. But there, on my wrist and the back of my knee, I found two midge bites – and that was two days ago. It seems this is not unusual for autumn 2012. September’s weather has been anything but predictable and while the recent storms are thought to have been caused by global warming, so dramatic changes in our climate are also causing a record increase in insects for this time of year. In August, BBC online reported that "NHS Direct says it has received 8,953 calls complaining of bites and stings in England since early May". There has been a massive increase in mosquito numbers this year, with many people in the West Country sleeping under a mosquito net. Admissions to hospitals from insect bites have also increased by 150%. Insects, such as the green shield bug, are usually only found in areas like North America, the Mediterranean and Africa. But a couple years ago the bug started showing up in the UK in an area that is historically too cold to support it.

But why more bugs in autumns

The best insecticide is cold weather. But as temperatures rise each year, we are experiencing earlier springs and hotter summers. And insects thrive in warmer climates. There have been many more cases of Lyme disease in recent years and this is thought to be because the Lyme disease carrying ticks are thriving. As winters shorten, ticks are showing up earlier each year and leaving later. Mosquitoes and the Scottish midge are also enjoying the longer periods of warm weather for extended breeding. Added to this, severe weather has caused massive floods. After a storm, the water recedes leaving small ponds, pools and puddles. And this stagnant water becomes the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Dangers while hiking

Although midge bites are not life threatening for most people, mosquitoes and ticks do carry disease, and these diseases are potentially fatal. The best way to avoid illness is to prevent the bites. Always cover skin at prevalent times, especially dawn and dusk, and use an insect repellent. Pets are also at risk from bites so make sure they are kept up to with their injections at the vets. Check yourself, your family, and your pets for ticks on a regular basis. Monitor the amount of water you leave out. Stagnant water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

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