The name 'sandfly' does not refer to one type of insect but is a 'catch-all' name for any small biting fly-like
insect that inhabits coastal sandy areas and mangroves.
The name is used world-wide but in Australia it is used to describe small biting and blood-sucking flies that
are normally found in coastal areas. There are over 270 species that come under the general colquial term 'sandfly'
so it is almost impossible to discuss them individually.
They are most active in the hotter months and are not confined to northern coastlines.
Other names that are used for these insects are midge and gnat.
Usually smaller than mosquitoes, sandflies are easily able to pass through ordinary fly screens and only a particularly
fine mesh known as no-see-um or micro-mesh will keep them out.
Because of year-round high temperatures, these creatures are the scourge of the north west. These tiny winged insects can
turn your pleasant picnic or fun fishing trip into an absolute nightmare.
Their bite may cause severe irritation for several days and can lead to tropical ulcers if they become infected.
It is almost impossible to avoid getting bitten but frequent applications of Rid seem to be effective, and application of a
mixture of strong cold tea and mentholated spirits helps lessen the itching. Bushies swear by a mixture of baby oil and
Dettol to keep these little pests at bay. We have read all sorts of remedies including raw onion, vegemite, bi-carb of soda
with water etc.
The BEST remedy we have ever found is simple, very hot water (as hot as you can stand it) dabbed on the bite site with a
cloth. This method seems to work when everything else has failed. An even better way of doing this we have now discovered is
to boil some water, take it off the heat and let it stand for a minute or so and then dip a teaspoon into the hot water
for about 10 seconds. Then apply the hot teaspoon directly to the bite site. It will hurt and on sensitive areas of skin
can lead to profuse swearing, but it will take the itch away. You may have to do this a couple of times if the itch comes
back but it does really seem to work. This also seems to work for mosquito bites.
Thankfully tent manufacturers have finally realized that ordinary fly screens just won't keep these insects out and almost
all tents sold today have very fine mesh that give protection. Unfortunately the fine mesh also keeps out some of the breeze
but there really is no choice.
The best way to avoid the worst of the sandflies is to only visit northern areas from late May to August when they are much less active.
Some species of sandflies (in other areas of the world) do transmit diseases to humans but there are no known occurances in Australia
to this time.
While many people only experience irritation from sandfly bites, some become hyper-sensitiveand can have severe allergic reactions
Some people (like myself) are lucky enough to deelop an immunity to sandfly bites and after the first bites (that do produce severe prolonged
irritation) they become immune to the effects of bites.