ALAN CASTLE: Things they are a-changing!

How to keep midges off your picnic.
How to keep midges off your picnic.
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There’s something afoot on this planet of ours and the signs are all too visible locally.

I was perturbed to see on the national news that forest managers are resorting to injecting oaks with garlic extract to save them from a life-threatening fungus.

Perturbed on several levels – firstly that some of Britain’s finest trees, many of which have stood for centuries, are succumbing to such an attack from Mother Nature.

Also that the human race is intervening.

The ecosystem is finely balanced and the introduction of a manufactured fungicide could have repercussions, not least in the natural formation of even more resistant fungi.

We saw the worrying spread of ash dieback a couple of years ago, with another of our native trees coming under assault.

Then, more than 100,000 ash trees were destroyed to try to stop the spread of the deadly fungus.

This last week or so, I have been plagued by swarms of midges.

They have been commonplace on trips to the wetter, forested areas of the Lake District, Kielder and the Scottish Lochs, but this is the worst I have encountered in north Northumberland.

Mrs C has reported her windows and washing peppered with little black flies.

The blighters are nipping our skin and crawling through our hair – most uncomfortable.

So why this sudden invasion – in October of all months?

The extraordinarily mild weather must be to blame.

Apparently, if the conditions are right, midges will lay eggs and hatch three times in a year.

But they seem to be all over the place, not just wooded or watery areas – even in towns and on the coast.

Experts are predicting a bumper crop of midges next year after higher-than-usual numbers this year will result in a hike in hatchings of the biting beasties.

They’ll be laying eggs as we speak, ready to plague our lives from next spring.

Get your insect repellents at the ready!

While on the subject of invasions, I have spotted a couple of squirrels in the Alnwick area in the last week or so – both were grey.