Sand flies – Facts and Information

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Sand flies are a type of fly in the order Diptera and suborder Nematocera. It is important to know about sand fly facts and information. There is one type of sand fly that can carry protozoan parasites that can cause Leishmaniasis. Basically, humans, dogs, and other animals are the host species are for sand flies.

Phlebotomines, or sand flies, are a very diverse family of Diptera with over 2,000 described species. Insects in the sand fly family are of considerable medical importance. Phlebotomus transmits the Pappataci fever virus and carries protozoan parasites causing kala-azar, Oriental sore, espundia, and bartonellosis. 

What do sand flies look like?

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Sand flies are easily identifiable due to their distinct features. They have several pairs of long antennae legs, which may be up to an inch in length. Sand flies have two protruding appendages on their back that look like forks.

Sand flies are small, hairy, and brown. The larvae look like worms and can be up to 1/4 inch long. Sand flies are sometimes gray, brown, or greenish. It has long mouthparts, which it uses to suck blood. It also has six very long legs, and its wings are held in a vertical V-shape when at rest.

Sand fly habitat: Where do sand flies live? (Survival Region and Areas)

sand flies

Sand flies are found in moist environments and warm temperatures around the world. They breed in areas with decaying plants and vegetation, moss, and mud. It provides plenty of moisture for their eggs.

In addition, sand flies live in specific habitats. More specifically, they are found on sandy beaches near the high-tide mark. One species of sand fly is Orchestia gammarellus is native to Europe.

Sand flies are prevalent in certain areas near the Atlantic coast. They can also be found near the Santa Barbara beaches.

For example, you can also find sandfly breeding vectors in Spain, Germany, North Africa, the Middle East, France, the Mediterranean forests, Central Europe, and other regions. Kelp removal is an important process as it helps maintain the health of sand flies and other organisms.

Sand flies – Facts and Information About Vector Species of Parasite


Suborder: Nematocera

Mosquitoes are a type of fly that is found in the suborder Nematocera. They have long antennae and are generally midge or mosquito-like in appearance. There are many different types of mosquitoes, all of which can spread diseases.

Though they are not well known, sand flies are important in the economic and medical sense. As pests, they can cause a lot of damage to crops. And as disease vectors, they can transmit many serious illnesses to humans and other animals.

Sandfly Family: Psychodidae and Diptera 

Sand flies are a family of small, biting flies that are medically important vectors of human and veterinary disease-causing agents. They can carry and spread various diseases, including leishmaniasis, bartonellosis, and typhus.

Sand fly fauna is missing for Balkan countries. It puts the population at risk for autochtonous leishmaniases. These are historically present in Balkan countries and have been rising in recent years.

Sand Insect Subfamily: Phlebotomine

The subfamily Phlebotomine comprises only those types of flies that have piercing mouthparts capable of taking blood. These include mosquitoes, blackflies, and sandflies.

The Psychodid fly family tends to have an elongated and more fragile structure than the squat, robust appearance of phlebotomines.


Sand flies are a type of fly that feeds on the blood of mammals, including humans. The female sand flies are the ones who feed on blood. They must consume a blood meal before they can develop eggs. The male sand flies do not feed on blood and instead rely on other food sources.

Interestingly, sand flies also consume sugar-related nutrients from plant nectar or honeydew. In addition, the sand fly hosts vary a great deal. Some species prefer to feed on vertebrates, while others feed on invertebrates.


Sand fly bites are known for being very painful. They can cause a lot of swelling and itching. In some cases, the bite can become infected.

Sand flies are usually found near the ground during the day, hiding in small cavities such as dry tree holes, hollow logs, palm tree crowns, and the canopy of tropical and sub-tropical rainforest jungles. Sand flies come out at night to feed on blood.

Life Stage and Development

The life cycle of a sand fly begins when the female deposits her eggs in a dry area in humid weather. The sand fly eggs will hatch within 1 to 2 weeks. The larvae will feed on organic material until they pupate. The entire life cycle of a sand fly takes 20 to 40 days.

Sand fly larvae have a black head with about 12 segments. These flies are covered in thick hair and have a pair of caudal setae at the end, remaining attached until they reach the pupa stage. Depending on temperature and food availability, the length of larvae can range from 1 to 3 mm.

The life cycle of sand flies is fascinating. After hatching, the larvae will develop into pupae within 5-10 days. The pupae stage can last for several weeks. Adult sand flies will emerge from the pupae. After another week or two, the adults will emerge and begin the processing activity all over again.

Sand fly diseases and infection

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The bite of a sand fly causes sand fly diseases. These bites often result in red, bumpy, and itchy lesions on the skin.

The anticoagulant properties of the sand fly’s saliva can cause significant damage to those who have a weakened immune system. It is important to note that the body’s immune system determines how much damage can be done by a sandfly bite.

Sand flies transmit many diseases. Some of the most common ones are 

  • Leishmaniasis cases
  • Phleboviruses
  • Bartonellosis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Anemia
  • Itchy red bumpy lesions 
  • Leishmania 
  • Oraya Fever
  • Carrison’s disease
  • Sandly Fever Virus
  • Toscanca Virus
  • Chagres Virus
  • Punta Toro Virus

What do sand flies bites look like?

Sand Fly Bites  sand fly

Sand fly bites cause small, red bumps on the skin. In some cases, they can develop into blisters or skin inflammation. They often clear up without treatment, but they can be serious in some cases. Sand fly bites are common and often don’t require treatment.

Sand flies transmit leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease. The bite from the sand fly can cause skin sores weeks or months after the initial bite. Unfortunately, there are no vaccines to prevent leishmaniasis cases and phleboviruses.

Sand flies bites treatment.

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Sand flies are known for their bites, extremely itchy and irritating. You can do a few things to treat the bites, including applying ice packs and antihistamine medications. If you get bitten by sand flies, the best way to treat the wound is to keep it clean and dry.

However, if a secondary bacterial infection does occur, then an antibiotic cream or application may be necessary. A doctor should be immediately consulted in severe cases of infections, as medical advice may be necessary. If the infections are not serious, home remedies can relieve it.

How to get rid of sand flies?

Mosquitoes swarm

Sand flies are a common pest that can be difficult to eliminate. But here are a few factors to get rid of sand flies: 

  • They get killed by vacuuming, but it is important to ensure all the areas they may hide are vacuumed. 
  • Another option for getting rid of sand flies is through steam cleaning. It is because sand flies cannot sustain in very high temperatures, and the steam will eradicate them.
  • It is important to understand their breeding habits to get rid of sand flies. Sand flies love to breed in cracks and gaps, so closing them outwards them off for future infestation. Additionally, using an outdoor insecticide can help kill any sand flies present.
  • Spray DEET insect repellent after cleaning the house properly. Be sure to purchase that is registered with the EPA.
  • While insecticides can effectively get rid of sand flies, they must use with caution. d-limonene and linalool are two types of insecticides that can be effective against sand flies. However, these chemicals are also toxic to humans, so they should only be used last resort.
  • Using a citronella candle or oil lamp to keep sand flies at bay is a great option. The scent of citronella is unpleasant to sand flies and will help to keep them away. Additionally, there are repellents available for citronella candles and oil lamps that can be used as an extra layer of protection.
  • Use Eucalyptus oil. You can apply it on skin or light a candle scented with Eucalyptus oil. If you cannot find Eucalyptus oil, you can use candles that have citronella in them instead.
  • The best repellent for sand gnats is lavender oil. You can either spray it or use lavender oil candles.
  • For those pesky sand flies that seem to love biting humans, there is a home remedy that might help. Extract the oil from orange peels and apply it to the affected area; it will help reduce swelling and inflammation and soothe the itch.
  • Sprinkle boric acid around the areas where they congregate. It will kill the flies and prevent them from coming back.
  • Use diatomaceous earth on the infested area; the diatomaceous earth will kill the sand flies and prevent rain from washing it away. 
  • Spraying infested plants and the swarming area with lemon, lime, or other citrus juice. Another method is using a homemade remedy that includes soap and water.

How to prevent sand fly bites and Pathogen transmission?

Close up macro of small sand fly gnat on green leaf

Sand flies are a common problem in many parts of the world. They can transmit diseases such as leishmaniasis, so it is important to take steps to reduce your risk of being bitten. Like: 

  • Cover up as much body as possible and use repellents when outside.
  • Avoid being outside during the hours of dawn and dusk when biting midges are most active. Additionally, wearing long sleeves and pants can help protect against their bites.
  • It is recommended that you use an insect repellent containing either diethyltoluamide (DEET) or picaridin. The repellent application should be repeated every few hours. Especially if you have been swimming. DEET and picaridin repellents cannot be used on children from 12 months. But those containing up to 10% DEET or picaridin are recommended.
  • Babies and young kids are the most vulnerable to sand fly bites. The best way to protect them is by using protective clothing, socks and shoes, and insect screening such as fine mesh bed nets.
  • It is important to be well away from midge breeding sites and wetlands when traveling or camping. It will help reduce the risk of sand fly bites.
  • Midges are tiny flying insects that often bite people and the likelihood of being bitten increases during new and full moon phases. To prevent sand fly bites, it is important to be aware of these phases and take precautions. Such as using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants.
  • Screen all doors and windows with a fine mesh. To increase the effectiveness of insect screens use the residual surface spray. It will help kill any insects that come in contact with the sprayed surfaces. 


Sand flies, or biting midges, are a type of fly that is found all over the world. They are commonly found near water sources and during the summer months. These pests can deliver a painful bite when they pierce your skin to suck out your blood.

Females lay eggs in moist soil around ponds, creeks, streams, lakes, and dripping air conditioners. In conclusion, sand flies need humid environments to thrive, and the larvae are most active during the summer. Additionally, adults feed primarily at sunset and sunrise.

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.