Friday, July 10, 2020
Home News Notes from the sticks: Midge over troubled water

Notes from the sticks: Midge over troubled water

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THE midge season is in full swing. I wondered when we moved to a house beside a stream if they would be a problem. As it turns out, they aren’t.

As ever with tiny forms of life, there are far more than I would ever have imagined. Apparently in Britain there are 150 types of biting midges and 500 non-biting ones, and ours all seem to be the latter, fortunately.

They lay their eggs in water or the margins, and the larvae develop in the water. It puzzles me how they remain in place when our small stream is capable of turning into a powerful torrent two or three feet deep, but they must be able to seek out refuges when necessary.

As larvae they provide food for fish, but there are still enough of them when they hatch to form swarms above the water. And that is the key thing – they stay above the water. We can be sitting beside the stream, maybe two or three feet from the edge, and the midges keep to their zone.

Although they are so tiny, it is possible to discern several different types from their flying patterns – the speed they fly at or the height above the water, for example. There is one type which flies in rectangles, turning at a sharp 90 degrees as if the flight path is marked out in lights.

The swarming is a courtship dance, and there may be two or three generations in the summer. Instead of feeding on blood (as anyone who has suffered from biting midges in the Highlands will testify) the adults drink nectar or in some cases their lives are so short that they don’t feed at all. The presence of midges can be an accurate indicator that the water is clean.

Here is a rather artistic video

and this is how they are more usually seen.

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Regular readers will remember a plea last week from Michael Fahey (aka 39 Pontiac Dream) for advice on clearing the wilderness that is his Norfolk garden. Here are a few pictures to show the challenge he and Tina are facing.

If you can identify any plants worth keeping or have any general tips, Michael would be glad to have your comments. Tina is walking out of the first picture and the lad himself is in the last.

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We have had lovely weather this week and the gunneras are making the most of it.

This is last week’s picture:

And this is yesterday:

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Last week I took a picture of some common twayblade orchids, not realising how quickly they would develop. This is last week’s picture:

And this is this week:

At this rate the flowers will be fully out by next weekend.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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