SCOTLAND’S leading midge expert is scratching her head after a massive and unexplained drop in the number of the bloodsucking beasties.
Dr Alison Blackwell predicted in June that Scotland would experience its worst midge season in six years.
But the numbers in some parts of Scotland have dropped by as much as 95%.
One trap in Inveraray, Argyll, which was catching around 500,000 of the insects a night last month is now catching around 20,000 a night.
Similar falls in the numbers of midges recorded have been seen across Scotland.
Dr Blackwell, who previously worked as an Ecology lecturer at the University of Dundee, said: “We had some big catches in June [this year], in some places around double what we had for June last year, but they have reduced significantly this month.
“I don’t really know why the numbers have tailed off, but I suspect there has been a warm, dry spell when we would normally expect the second generation to emerge, which has delayed the second hatch.
“Where we’ve had quite a hot spell, followed by not enough rain, I suspect there have been a few deaths.
“But I’m still expecting them to appear – just later than usual.”
As well as the trap in Argyll, another trap in Gairloch, Wester Ross was recording 340,000 beasties per night in June, but just 4,200 this month.
Dr Blackwell, who runs the Scottish Midge Forecast, based her earlier prediction on a rare combination of a damp spring immediately followed by a rapid rise in temperatures.
The conditions in late spring and early summer provided ideal breeding conditions, even allowing for a third wave of the pests being born in September.
But the scorching temperatures experienced last week may have killed off midges in their countless millions.
There are almost 50 types of midge in Scotland but the 3mm long Highland midge most commonly causes problems for Scots in the summer months.
These midges begin to emerge from their larvae in May and June and then lay eggs that give a second emergence of adult midges in July.
A third set of midges can hatch in September if July and August are warm enough.
Midges can live for between two and 14 days depending on how favourable the weather conditions are.
The Scottish tourism industry is estimated to lose nearly £286 million-a-year as people are put off by the biting insects.