Namu Sandflies

Sandflies are common insects in Aotearoa New Zealand. While the ones we get are a nuisance they are not a public health risk. The kinds that bite do not carry infectious diseases.

Symptoms of a sandfly bite

 Typical symptoms of sandfly bites include:

  • get itchy at the bite site
  • have redness at the bite site
  • have swelling around the bite site. 

Reactions will be different for everyone. These symptoms may last for a few days, to a few weeks, depending on how you react. 

While overseas species carry disease which have different symptoms, those in Aotearoa do not. Visitors to Aotearoa who have not been exposed to sandflies may have a more severe reaction to a sandfly bite than those who live here. 

Treatment for sandfly bites

Treatments for sandfly bites vary. It is most common to apply an antihistamine cream or calamine lotion to soothe the affected areas. For a severe reaction an antihistamine pill may be required.

If you are bitten, you should avoid scratching the bites. The risk of secondary infection is higher if the skin is broken.

How to prevent sandfly bites

You can do these things to prevent being bitten.

  • Cover up when you are not moving, particularly ankles and feet.
  • Apply an insect repellent regularly when exposed to sandflies. Repellents that have diethyl toluamide or dimethyl phthalate as the active ingredients are most effective.
  • Burn a citronella candle to help in a small area to put off sandflies.
  • Take additional Vitamin B. This may help your immunity to reaction.

Types of sandfly in Aotearoa

There are 19 sandfly species found in Aotearoa, but only 3 of these bite people. It is only the female sandfly that bites. This is because she needs blood to produce eggs. She does this by piercing the skin.

  • The New Zealand blackfly is found in the North Island, and coastal areas of the South Island.
  • The West Coast blackfly is found in the South Island only.
  • A. tillyardianum is found on both islands, although not in great numbers.

These 3 species are very similar in size — approximately 2 to 3 mm in length. To the naked eye, they look identical.

Where sandflies are found

Sandflies breed in running water. You will find many of them in in areas near water and humid bush, for example: 

  • beaches
  • lakes
  • rivers
  • swamps.

They are daybiters, mostly biting at dawn and dusk.