Sand Flies or Sand Fly are also known as Sand Gnat, Sandflea, No-See-Um, Granny Nipper, Chitra, Punky, Biting Midges or Marumakshika. Their most important ability is to bite and suck blood. You might want to compare it to a mosquito.
But believe me, mosquitoes are much like an angel before these blood sucking midges. Their bites are very much larger as compared to mosquito bites.
The bites are mostly red in color and are bumpy and might be itchy in some cases. In addition to this they are capable of spreading a number of diseases like – leishmaniasis and pappacti fever.
In some regions sand flies are also called horse flies, although horse flies are much larger than sand flies. As the name suggests sand flies love sandy areas hence they are mostly found at beaches, coastal lagoons, mangrove swamps, and tidal flats in the spring – June to August.
In this article we are going to see how to get rid of sand flies, but before that let’s have a look at their physical attributes so that we can easily identify sand flies.
Identifying Sand Flies:
Sand Files belong to the family of Psychodidae. The length ranges from 1.5mm to 5mm. They are brownish in color. They have dense growth of hair all over their head, thorax, abdomen, and legs. The antenna is long, beaded and covered with hair. They have large black compound eyes.
Their wings make them easily distinguishable from other flies, being pointed upwards in a vertical ‘V’ shape above the body as shown in above image. Their mouth-parts are short and pointed downwards and having piercing and sucking ability.
Now we have learnt about identifying the sand flies, so let’s get more insight about their habitat, behavior, feeding habits and life-cycle.
Sand Flies are mostly active in warm climate only when there is a little wind and no rain during the months of june to august. In warm cities they may be prevalent all through the year. Hence they are usually found in wet soils of coastal lagoons, beaches, tidal flats, mangrove swamps.
They are mostly active in dusk and dawn periods. They become inactive in case of strong breezes, wind, and drop in temperature or rain.
When sand flies are inactive they rest in moist and dark places like walls, cracks, fissures and tree trunks.
Sand Flies are very much attracted to shiny surfaces, moving objects, warmth, and carbon dioxide. On the contrary to other flies, they are attracted to darker shades of colors then lighter shades.
Sand Flies always travel in swarms (a group of sand flies). So, if you have just noticed a single sand fly, then just do not ignore it as the other members of the swarm are somewhere near.
Sand Flies are not fast. Hence they are easily going to give it up on you, if you are running or kayaking as they would not be able to keep it up on your pace. But that does not mean that you could get rid of them by slapping them. Reason being that by the time you are going to get rid of one sand fly by slapping it, four more sand flies will start sucking your blood.
Both male and female sand fly feed on the plant nectar. It is the female sand fly that also feeds on blood as they need protein from blood for egg laying and reproductive cycles.
On a lighter and positive note I think that’s an advantage that male sand fly do not feed on blood, else this would have really doubled our worries.
The life cycle of a sand fly begins at a dry area having a humid environment. The humid environment prevents the eggs from dehydration. Also the environment needs not be too cold else it might lead the eggs to stop developing.
The overall life cycle of a sand fly takes 20 to 40 days. Below is a stage-wise life cycle of sand flies.
- Laying Eggs: The female sand fly deposits 30 to 70 eggs at the breeding site. As mentioned above the breeding site has to be a dry area having not too cold but humid weather.
- Hatching Eggs: After the eggs are laid by the sand fly, it takes 1 – 2 weeks to hatch. After hatching the eggs become larvae.
- Larvae: Larvae have a distinct black head and about 12 segments. Their body is entirely covered in thick hair and they have a pair of caudal setae at end which remains attached to them till the pupa stage. Depending on the temperature and food availability the length of larvae can range from 1 to 3 mm.
- Pupae: Pupa development take 05 to 10 days.
- Adult: After 05 to 10 days of pupae development the adults emerge from pupae, usually before the dawn.
Now let’s understand what damages a sand fly causes and how. Before heading onto the damages, let us first understand how the bite of a sand fly actually works.
As soon as a female sand fly bites a human being, she injects her saliva containing anti-coagulant. As you might be aware that human blood has a coagulating property because of which it’s not easy for the sand midget to suck blood. Hence the saliva containing anti-coagulant makes it easier to extract blood.
Else than the anti-coagulant the saliva of sand fly also has allergens that cause red, bumpy and itchy lesions. Below are some common list of damages caused by sand flies, although it might vary from person to person depending on the body’s immune system.
- Itchy red bumpy lesions (sometimes might be accompanied with pain)
- Leishmania (Kala- Azar) causing cutaneous sore on human body.
- Oraya Fever
- Carrison’s disease
- Sandly Fever Virus
- Toscanca Virus
- Chagres Virus
- Punta Toro Virus
How to Get Rid of Sand Flies:
There are various methods for getting rid of sand flies, although the method will strongly depend on your needs and infestation area. Below are the list of methods to get rid of sand flies depending on the infested area.
Method 1: Infested Area – Indoors
If indoors like house, offices, pet – house, etc have been infested by sand flies, then below listed steps need to followed.
- Vacuuming – Vacuum every nook and corner of the house, especially the carpets. If you come across any cracks in walls, floors, ceiling, window panels, etc then vacuum these as well. It has been proven the vacuuming kills adult and eggs of sand flies.
- Steam Cleaning – Steam cleaning is another most powerful way to kill eggs, larvae, pupae and adult sand flies. Reason being that sand flies cannot sustain in very high temperatures and while steam cleaning the temperature will rise to 1030 degrees eradicating the sand flies.
- Closing cracks and gaps – If you have come across any cracks \ gaps in walls, floor, ceiling, window panels, door panel then you would need to close them out after vacuuming properly. This will prevent sand flies for future infestation as they love to breed in cracks.
- DEET Insect Repellent – After cleaning the house properly, spray the DEET Insect Repellent. You could easily find them in the shopping store next to your house.
- Insecticides – You could also buy insecticides having ‘d-limonene’ and ‘linalool’ as contents. You can easily spray them inside and outside the house to exterminate sand flies. However make sure that you follow the instructions written on the insecticide carefully, in some cases you might need to keep children and pets outside the sprayed area for couple of hours.
- Citronella Candles or Oil Lamp – Citronella is one of the best repellent for sand gnats. You can burn citronella candle or oil lamp to keep out sand flies.
- Eucalyptus Oil Spray or Candles – Eucalyptus is another best repellent for sand flies. You can easily find eucalyptus spray and candles in any store. You could easily spray the oil or burn the candles to keep sand flies at bay.
- Lavender Oil Spray or Candles – Lavender Oil is repellent for sand gnats. You can also spray or burn them to keep sand flies away.
- Orange Peel Extracts – This a homemade remedy. You can keep orange peel extracts at windows, balcony, terrace, doors, or any other entry or exit to keep the biting midges away.
- Lemon, Lime or any other citrus juice – This is another homemade remedy wherein you can use the lemon, lime or any other citrus juice for spraying purpose.
We would also suggest you to sprinkle salt on carpets for 24 hours before vacuuming. As there are certain theories suggesting that salt dehydrates sand flies.
This is all about getting rid of sand gnats from indoors. However do not forget to clean your pets as well and keep cleaning your house regularly to prevent any future infestation.
Method 2: Infested Area – Outdoors:
If outdoors like garbage can, garden, lawn, etc have been infested by sand flies, then below listed steps need to followed.
- Boric Acid – If the sand flies have infested your garbage can then just put some boric acid on the floor near garbage can.
- Diatomaceous Earth – If the infested area is sand, soil or any moist area then you can sprinkle diatomaceous earth. However you would need to sprinkle it again in case of a shower or rain.
- Insecticides – If your garden or lawn is infested then you could spray insecticides having ‘d-limonene’ and ‘linalool’ as contents. However make sure that you follow the instructions written on the insecticide carefully, in some cases you might need to keep children and pets outside the sprayed area for couple of hours.
- Citronella \ Eucalyptus \ Lavender Oil Spray – You can spray citronella oil or eucalyptus oil or lavender oil spray on the infested plants or area.
- Lemon, Lime or any other citrus juice – This is another homemade remedy wherein you can use the lemon, lime or any other citrus juice for spraying purpose on infested plants.
Other Preventive Measures:
If you are going out on a stroll or walk in area prone to sand fly bites, then we would suggest you to use below listed steps to keep them away:
- Keep yourself covered – Its really mandatory to keep yourself completely covered, wear socks, full sleeve shirts or tops, full length trousers or pants, hats or caps.
- Wear light-colored clothes as sand flies are attracted towards dark shades.
Apply below listed repellents before going out in outdoors.
- Eucalyptus Oil – You can sprinkle it on your clothes, hat or cap. Do not use it on sensitive areas like eyes.
- Coconut Oil – You can apply it on your hands, feet, legs, face.
- Avocado Oil mixed with Dettol or Savlon – Sprinkle it on your clothes, hat or cap.
- The inside of Banana Peel – Rub the banana peel on your hands, legs, etc.
- Vinegar – You can sprinkle it on your clothes, hat or cap. Do not use it on sensitive areas like eyes.
- Lavender Oil – You can sprinkle it on your clothes, hat or cap. Do not use it on sensitive areas like eyes.
- Tee Tree Oil – You can sprinkle it on your clothes, hat or cap. Do not use it on sensitive areas like eyes.
- Garlic – You can either eat the garlic orally (if you feel like) else you can also rub it on your hands and legs.
So this was all from my end on various ways about getting rid of sand flies. Do let us know if this helps you out or if you have any queries.
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