The midges responsible for Queensland Itch are called the Culicoides. They are minute flies that breed in wet, muddy areas including fresh or salt marshes, along coasts and the estuaries of rivers, streams and around lakes, ponds or in wet decaying compost, leaves etc.
The midges are active, usually as swarms, biting horses principally in the early morning and late afternoon; the midges will remain active throughout the day on cooler humid days and stay active through the night on warmer nights.
Horses that are bitten by midges will show signs of restlessness, with tail swishing and rubbing, some may even run around and buck in an attempt to escape the midges.
A proportion of horses develop an allergic reaction to the midge bites. This allergic reaction is sometimes referred to as Sweet Itch, Queensland Itch or Summer Itch depending on the country or region.
“Prevalence of sweet itch in surveys has ranged from 3% in British horses, 22-26% in Israel and British Columbia and up to 60% in Queensland. There does seem to be a familial incidence correlating more with the dam than the sire and associated with the major histocompatibility complex genes.” Veterinary Notes from Horse Owners, Captain M. Horace Hayes FRCVS
Commonly, midges that cause Queensland Itch will bite a horse along the dorsal surface including the forehead, ears, pole area, withers, back, rump and base of the horse’s tail.
Unfortunately, there is no real cure for Queensland Itch and it is simply a case of putting measures in place to stop the midges biting wherever possible. Equidae Botanical Horse Care provides products that can offer relief from the clinical signs (skin irritation and itching) in the short to medium term.
The first step to protect your horse from the midges is to make sure you keep your horse rugged with a cool cotton summer rug or mesh rug.