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Sand Flies

Summary: Sand flies are tiny nuisances, no bigger than 1/16 of an inch, that easily fly through window screens. Once inside, they target humans and animals, biting both for blood meals.

Sand flies. No-see-ums. Punkies. Biting midges. Sand gnats. Call them what you will, they are common household pests that can easily fly through window screens in their quest to find you for their next blood meal. They are only about 1/16 of an inch and are found in and around sand and mud near springs, ponds, creeks, lakes, and trees. Larvae can live year-round, but adult sand flies are most active in June, July, and August.

Like mosquitoes and buffalo gnats, sand flies survive by sucking blood from humans and animals. Females need blood to survive, whereas males do not need it and cannot bite.

On windy days, sand flies are less active. They are attracted to warm body temperatures; so outdoor manual workers are especially susceptible to sand fly bites. Bites produce reactions in humans such as swelling or rashes. Extreme swelling, itching, or other allergic reactions require medical attention. If you have these symptoms, take an antihistamine and go to the nearest hospital immediately.

In parts of Texas in September 2007, many people developed a disease called leishmaniasis, or Baghdad boil. This disease causes boils or sores to appear on the skin. Other symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, and swelling of the spleen. It may even affect internal organs. Baghdad boil has been in Mexico, South America, and the Middle East for some time, but it has not developed in the United States until 2007. The people who became infected had not traveled to any places where Baghdad boil is a problem. Scientists did some research and found the source of the infections to be sand flies that had taken blood meals from rodents carrying the virus. These same sand flies subsequently fed on humans who developed the sores.
Gulfwar veterans may experience sand fly fever. Symptoms include headache, fever, shivering, chills, flu-like symptoms, conjuctivitis, lethargy, lower back pain, stiffness in the neck, confusion, encephalitis, and meningitis. Often, antibiotics are prescribed by a physician, along with directions to drink plenty of fluids and get a lot of rest.

Another ailment that sand flies cause is Carrion's disease. Carrion's causes painful blisters and sores, high fevers, headache, soreness, swelling of lymph nodes, and even death. Symptoms typically do not appear until at least two weeks after being bitten, then persist for a period of three or four months. Erythromycin, tetracycline, or other antibiotics are usually administered by doctors to lessen the symptoms of Carrion's disease.

Tips to Avoid Sand Fly Bites:

¢ When spending time outdoors in the summer months, apply bug repellant every two hours.

¢ Do not wear perfume, cologne, or scented lotions when you plan to spend time outdoors as this will attract sand flies and other pests.

¢ Apply lotions containing citronella or Deet.

¢ Light citronella candles if you are entertaining guests outdoors.

¢ Try to eliminate moisture from your home or yard as much as possible because sand flies are attracted to mulch, clogged gutters, lawn thatch, woodchips, sewers, drainage ditches, and planters.

¢ Apply an insecticide such as Talstar Pro to your yard the day after heavy rainfall. Use a hose sprayer for best results.

¢ You might want to consider making your patio screened-in to avoid several different types of pests.

¢ Avoid the outdoors after sunset during the summer months because sand flies are most active during this time.

¢ Wear long sleeves and long pants in order to cover up as much skin as possible.

¢ Spray clothing with insecticide if it is going to be worn outdoors. This spraying needs to be repeated about every five times the clothing is washed.

¢ If you plan to go camping, use a bed net on your mattress. Make sure the net is made of fine-mesh netting, and spray it with permethrin insecticide for best results. Spray the insecticide on the netting again after a few months, or every time you wash it.

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