Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Midgies vs Mosquitoes

Are you a midge or a mosquito? Inquiring minds need to know.

In Vancouver people kept warning us: Beware the midges! —like it was the Ides of March come to visit us all toga-ed up during the dog daze of August. Et me, you brutal midgie? Take that!  Talkin' smack, here. Fkn bloodsuckers.

I asked: Did you mean small mosquitoes? (In the Sierras, Alaska, and upper BC, mosquitoes the size of small helicopters, bloodthirsty packs have been known to drain a caribou dry in a single night). No? What were they referring to?

On the other end of the biting insect spectrum are the no-see-ums. They do bite. But not all small flies suck blood or bite. Most of them just don't. Well, it turns out that it's a case of generic mistaken identity. I always assumed midge stood for midget mosquitos, mosquitoes being a Spanish word, and we all know how the British like to masticate and mangle foreign words. (That's masticate, you durty bird).

Some of those small UFO clouds of hovering flies that try and crash-land in our nostrils, mistaking them for hangars, are also sometimes called midges too. (We called them gnats and mayflies in Marin). Nothing quite like breathing in a fresh cloud of gnats.

It also seems that folks in the UK have a pathological fear of all one thousand and one varieties of mosquitoes—especially she-who-shall-not-be-named. And they erroneously assume that all mosquitoes are tropical poseurs, and they carry all manner of deadly diseases (so not true). We'd all be dead in North America if that were so. (Well, there is the West Nile Virus.)

I found conflicting information that midges do (or do not) bite—at least in Scotland they do. Apparently all Highland midges carry small bagpipes and a big proboscis. It's not just a case of Scottish DTs in progress as no unidentified flying pink elephants were involved. 

Mosquitoes, on the other hand, are all about the meeeeeeeeeee generation. You can hear them coming in for a soft landing at 3 AM. And of course you do know that the word "mosquito" (mosca and diminutive -ito) is Spanish for little itty-bitty fly. Make that bite-y fly. All thousand and one-two-three species of them.

But do we have midges in Western North America? I think they do have midges on the East Coast. They're called 
no-see-ums or punkies. Punkies! Or is it merely a case of mistaken identity, or a case of mistaken similarity, in the case of our Vancouver midgie friends—like old and new world robins?

Have you ever seen a British robin, he's the size of a midge, er, minute, compared to our American robin red breasts. I had one boldly hop up to me on Callendar Bridge, and I was dumbfounded as to what he was, until the Robin Red Breast rhyme came to mind. A tiny bit of orange fluff on twig legs, not at all like our pigeon-sized robins.

In any case, back to the story of True Blood. Those blasted broody female midges and mosquitoes are ardent Dracula fans. I vant you for your blood! The bhoys midges and mosquitoes, on the other hand, are content with supping and sipping on flower nectar all day long, not feasting on our necks. Better 
bless those bats who are the first line of defense against the bloodthirsty mosquitos and midges.

Will the real midgie please stand, er, fly up?

    Blephariceridae, net-winged midges
    Cecidomyiidae, gall midges  (The gall of it all.)
    Ceratopogonidae, biting midges (also known as no-see-ums or punkies in North America, and sandflies in Australia) (Take that you little punkie!)
    Chaoboridae, phantom midges  (For ghost itches.)
    Chironomidae, non-biting midges (also known as muffleheads in the Great Lakes region of North America) (They sound so Republican.)
    Deuterophlebiidae, mountain midges  (Oh, the trees they do grow high...
    Dixidae, meniscus midges   (You can't see them coming on the horizon.)
    Scatopsidae, dung midges (no shit, Sherlock!)
    Thaumaleidae, solitary midges (Sung to the tune of Solitary Man.)

My next burning question: how many toes does a mosquito have? I think maybe I've had a tad too much tea this morning.

I know you're itching to know...

midge or mosquito


Highland Midge

Kenneth McKellar - The Midges  (song)


The midges, the midges, I'm no gonnae kid ye's,
The midges is really the limit,
Wi teeth like pirhanas, they drive ye bananas,
If ye let them get under yer simmit!

1. The Lord put the Garden of Eden on earth,
And it's north of the Tweed, we believe,
Aye, Scotland's the place, and the whole human race,
Started of with MacAdam and Eve!
In six days or under, he finished this wonder,
Except for the Forth and Tay Bridges,
Then always a bloke for a practical joke,
He made Scotland the home of the midges!

2. Back in 1314, proud Edward was keen,
To take Scotland into his care,
But he made a U-turn when he reached Bannockburn,
Just a few weeks before Glasgow Fair!
The midges let loose by King Robert the Bruce,
Straight into the English they tore,
So they ran off in tears, and for six hundred long years,
They've been blocking the A74!

3. Now never forget, when the sun's going to set,
And the midges arise on Loch Eck,
Like the vampires you see, played by Christopher Lee,
They'll give you a pain in the neck!
You can smack them and whack them; in vain you'll attack them,
They know every move that you make,
If you manage to kill yin, another half million,
Are ready tae come tae the wake!

4. Now Torquil the piper's a giant of a man,
With a sporran as long as your arm,
And in Oban he's known, for the sound of his drone,
And a pibroch of real highland charm!
But they're sighing and sobbing, the ladies of Oban,
Torquil is not what he was,
Since a midge in Glenbranter, got hold of his chanter,
And carried it off in its jaws!

Andrew MacRae's favorite midge... 

Mosquitoes: There are thousands of species!

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