Adders on the hills be aware! Have you seen one ? Clegs – the “silent assassins” there’s lots about!

I spoke to a friend yesterday whose wife saw an adder on Morven in the far North of Scotland in Caithness . (Morven is a mountain in Caithness, in the Highland Region of Scotland. The hill is classed as a Graham and, at 706 metres, its summit is the highest point in the county of Caithness)

They were amazed to see the adder and did not think adders were that far North but they are about.

In my time on the hills I have seen many. In Arran and Galloway when I was young there seemed to be a lot more about. I would see them often on a hot day on the granite rocks basking in the sun. Glen Rosa and Cir Mor were places I saw them. My Dad warned me about them in our travels on the hills. I saw a dead one on the road low down last week on Arran sadly it had been run over. Dogs can be bitten as they are root around keep an eye on them.

Adders: They are Scotland’s only native snake and its venomous. Luckily its bite isn’t considered very dangerous to most humans and they will hide or flee rather than attack. Still, be careful not to step on one and definitely avoid picking them up; adder bites can be very painful, cause inflammation and me be more serious for the very young or old.

They are about – March to October.

Where to see: They are on south facing banks/rocks/dykes on a sunny day.

Best conditions and time of day to see them:

During Sunny spells. (Ideal in the weather just now)

How to recognise an Adder.

They are Either grey or dark red in colour, adders have clear zig-zag markings.

Adders come out of hibernation in March and will be very active looking for food to restore themselves after a long hibernation. Sunny spots and rocks.

When I was working in the ARCC we had two incidents moving people with adder bites to hospital on the hill. So they can be serious.

What are the effects of an adder bite in people?

The Effects of an Adder bite : This may include: shock; severe pain at the location of the bite; swelling, redness and bruising at the location of the bite; nausea and vomiting; diarrhoea; itchy lumps on the skin; swelling of the lips, tongue, gums and throat; breathing difficulties; mental confusion, dizziness or fainting; irregular heartbeat. Not all of these will be seen in all cases, and the severity of symptoms varies substantially. In around 70% of cases there is no or very little envenomation, leading to only local symptoms such as pain and swelling. The first symptoms may take from a few minutes to hours to become evident. It is estimated that in around one third of all adder bites, the snake does not actually inject any venom (a “dry bite”). In this case the patient may experience mild pain from the wound caused by the snake’s teeth, a risk of infection, and anxiety. Note that adder bites do not always leave two puncture wounds in the skin; such marks typically vary from one to three, and they are not always obvious. In rare cases there can be a range of more serious effects from adder bite, including kidney failure, anaphylaxis, heavy blood loss, coma and cardiac arrest.

How many folk have seen an adder any stories or photos?

Be careful an adder bite is serious on the mountains.

Look closely photo Mrs Mearns on the way to Morven in the far North.

Clegs / there are also a lot of clegs about this year.

From mountaineering Scotland a great source of advice :

“Concentrated in the northern highlands, these relatively large insects have a vicious bite. You will only feel the bite as the fly disengages to fly off, by which time it is too late. They do not swarm in large numbers and thankfully are relatively uncommon. They are most active in the summer months from June to September.

The majority of people react to the bite with a large red weal, which is exceptionally itchy. The itch can continue for many days afterwards, and up to two weeks. 

You should not scratch the site of the bite. Antihistamine creams applied to the bite area help take the pain away and stop the itching. 

These flies belong to the genus Simulium, a part of the black fly family and, like the smaller midges, the females require a blood meal in order to reproduce. Most of these blood-sucking insects attack livestock but, according to entomologists, several species are known to bite humans. The predominant species on Speyside is Simulium reptans.

The worst affected areas appear to be localised, being confined to woodland around Loch Insh near Kincraig and along Speyside around Aviemore.

The birch fly appears when birch trees start to leaf in May and black swarms of them congregate in shady areas under the trees, normally in the morning and particularly near running water where they breed. 

The bite of the birch fly is extremely unpleasant and can cause extremely irritant sores, much worse than mosquito bites. The usual insect repellents do not seem to work. Locals are aware of the problem and resist picnicking or fishing under birch trees for a couple weeks in that area. Warm and very wet weather early in the spring provides ideal breeding conditions leading to a surge in the population of birch flies. Local businesses often place posters warning tourists of the danger. So taking an interest in the weather and reading notices may be prudent if you’re staying down in the woods! “

This weeks quote where’s all the midges “ the clegs have got them”

There’s lots of repellents about “Smidge” works for me.

Smidge !

Al Saw this beauty on the walk off, after climbing Pagoda Ridge with Abo Alexander.

Adder Photo A Barnard

Shane – Al Barnard myself and Brodie Jewison saw a fine specimen on our way up Beinn Tarsuinn (Arran) unfortunately my camera man (Brodie) missed the shot

And a number of shed skins too

I think Arran has good head of adders 👍👍

Adele – One of my adder spottings was Morven too!

George – Aye. GLEN affric and Glen Cannich…….saw Bull Horsefly here in Inverness at the weekend !

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Enviroment, Mountain rescue, Mountaineering, People, Well being, Wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Adders on the hills be aware! Have you seen one ? Clegs – the “silent assassins” there’s lots about!

  1. Sinbad says:

    Several years ago we saw what looked like a knot of spagetti on the path to Coire Sputan Dearg. Had a closer look and saw a bundle of baby adders squirming about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That must have been impressive


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