Damn sandflies.

Rum for the bites? Yes please.
Rum for the bites? Yes please.

Sandflies. A word that can strike terror in the stoutest of hearts. Sometimes called noseeums, ’cause you don’t, by the time you feel their bite (if you do), it’s too late, they’re the ninja bloodsuckers poison injectors of flies. The itch is the  terrible part, and for some people the welts are super painful, not just ugly. In both cases they are much worse than mosquito bites. If you scratch them, all sorts of hell breaks loose. I’m talking gaping holes in your skin, inflamed red mini mountains of flesh, dried pussy lymph domes, and of course the itch never goes away. You will easily scratch yourself raw, bleeding and into a serious infection.That’s exactly what happened to a member of the D&C, it necessitated a trip to the ER (that’s where the pirate doctors practice) and 5 weeks of antibiotic cream.

To combat this petite but painful pest, some properties/resorts will spray their beaches with pesticides, it kills the eggs and thus the next generation of  beasts. Unfortunately those chemicals seep into the water and tend to kill the corals. In a lot of places that’s just not an option, and rightly so. Corals have a hard enough time as it is. A buccaneer looking navy vet once told me there was a coral friendly oil (something from the lemon family? Eucalyptus? Lavender?) you could spray on the sand that would either destroy or keep the eggs from hatching, but it had to be done frequently, was pricier, and it was no good if just one place did it but not the other properties nearby. He had tried implementing it, but his neighbours were like, meh, whatever, and nothing came of it.

You don't want to mangle that coral
You don’t want to mangle that coral, plus lobsters and big puffers were hiding there.

Is there no hope?

Some. There’s a few things you can do to stack the deck in your favour.

The worst time for bites is sundown on the beach (dusk as well, but we’re either not up or in a boat at that time), so skip it, stay at the bar, swap stories with us. I can hear some of you cry out in outrage, sunsets! Sunsets! We want our sunsets! And from the beach no less, we are not animals!

Sunset from a rooftop, sticking it to the midges
Sunset from a rooftop, sticking it to the midges

Well you have some options if you really want to watch the dusk feet in the sand (which by the way is partly parrotfish poop). As with most things, different stuff works for different people, so experiment.

A) It sucks to say so, but long sleeves, pants and socks are your best protection. I can’t do it. I just can’t.

B) Mosquito repellant, it works on sandflies, use something with a high concentration of DEET. Remember some of your diving gear could get damaged by DEET, avoid repellant all together before diving, anyways there’s little need for it. The catch is you have to reapply frequently and have to be completely covered in it. Yes behind the ears and on top of the foot.

C) Oil/Lotion up those legs and arms. Grab that baby oil you always travel with (doesn’t everybody?) and give your legs a rub. The blood thirsty maddening midges are so small they can’t get through that coat of oil and will drown in it. Yuck you say? Still better than adding topography to your legs.

It itches underwater as well. Great viz btw.
It itches underwater as well. Great viz btw.

The oil thing really works for me, I enjoy the gladiator like sheen and the lovely smell. I like to use a Tahitian coconut scented oil called Monoi (btw none of this is shilling for anyone or anything and if we were I would tell you), it’s good for your hair, your skin and it smells of Polynesian legends and tiaré flowers. And yes, I’m that comfortable with my masculinity.

You will want to wear a repellant as well, even if you try my South Pacific Fantasy Oil (or any other fantasy oil or thicker lotions), because it will do nothing for mosquitoes. On our most recent trip, I went all oily all the time and it did a very good job (for me, by my standards). Buoyed by that euphoria I neglected the DEET and the mosquitoes had a feast. In my defense, I did not know they were around, I thought these were hummingbirds.

D) Stoicism. Like Marcus-Aurelius said (I’m paraphrasing quite loosely) “I got 99 problems but the itch ain’t one”. Complaining will only make it worst. Put your zen meditation or jedi training to good use and ignore the itch. If you can do it for the first 24 hours you’ve won that war, against that one welt in any case.

E) AC. If you have sandflies in your room, I’ve been told that lowering your AC to below 68 F or 20 C would likewise kill sandflies. I have never tried this or had the need to, so it is anecdotal and clearly not on option in many places.  Just sharing.

There’s long term hope as well. The whitest lady we’ve ever met told us it took about a year of island living before the noseeums gave up on her. The first year was super unpleasant and after that it was like the flies lost the taste for her DNA (or her body stopped reacting to the bites?). I wish someone would do a study on that.

After the fact Benadryl is your best friend. In spray (haven’t tried the gel) directly onto the welts, it relieves the itching instantly. Bring plenty, it will also make you friends wherever you go.

And as always rum and good company help to dissipate all discomforts, use liberally.

Times like these call for a good coat of oil
Times like these call for a good coating of oil

Do you have a secret weapon against the noseeums? If so please share your wisdom and let us know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Damn sandflies.”

  1. Benadryl stick is AWESOME for all sorts of nasty allergic reactions to bug bites. It helped me with a wasp sting one year that I thought I needed to go to ER for – and within hours of its first application. But seriously, hummingbird-sized mosquitoes?!

  2. Still trying to recover from whatever was biting in Roatan- thank goodness for the loan of the Benadryl spray– have stocked up for the next holiday won’t leave home without it! Great Post!

    1. Our pleasure Tiff! For our next foray we’ll bring Benadryl stick as well (I think I should go work for them as a rep). Thank you.

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