So what are these sand flies like in New Zealand?

(22 Posts)
Elf Thu 07-Aug-08 12:49:17

I'm really excited about our move to NZ but am not sure how much these creatures invade on your life there. We want to get walking into the National Parks etc and now I'm thinking yikes. BTW we are going to Nelson so will be around there the most.

Could you tell me,

Where are they? ie beach/national parks
When do they get you? ie is it just summer?
Are they indiscriminate in who they like?

I imagine it's like when you go to beautiful Scotland and get bitten to death by the mosquitoes.

However, some details would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much

OP’s posts: |
misi Fri 08-Aug-08 12:47:55

MrsJohnCusack Fri 08-Aug-08 13:00:58

they are FUCKERS

seems to be mainly summer. I've always been bitten near water. They seem to like hands and feet, and they itch like you wouldn't believe for absoultely ages. Then they get infected and scar (well mine do anyway).

you soon get used to using insect repellent whenever you go out somewhere they'll be. They don't really invade on your life, but insect repellent becomes second nature, just like sunscreen and hats.

so it's Nelson is it? Actually in Nelson, or nearby? exciting! (My parents have a holiday house in havelock, about 1.25 hours from Nelson, so am up there fairly frequently)

Elf Fri 08-Aug-08 13:12:07

Misi, thanks but I can't get anywhere on that address.

Mrs JC, thanks too. They sound hideous. When you say water, do you mean rivers or at the beach? Do you mean you are pretty safe autumn, spring and winter? Also, what about walking through countryside?

Thanks for helping. BTW, to start with Nelson town.

OP’s posts: |
Mercy Fri 08-Aug-08 13:16:40

Be careful of the mosquitoes too.

And the wetas.

Elf Fri 08-Aug-08 13:19:37

Oh great. Sounds like fun, fun, fun. grin

OP’s posts: |
misi Fri 08-Aug-08 13:47:12

Sandflies: New Zealand’s blackflies

If you get bitten by tiny black flies it is likely that you have been the victim of what New Zealanders call sandflies (namu in Māori). Sandflies, like mosquitoes and other flies, are members of the order Diptera, and belong to the family Simuliidae. Similar species found elsewhere are called blackflies.

There are 13 species in New Zealand, all belonging to the genus Austrosimulium. Only two species bite: the New Zealand blackfly (Austrosimulium australense), and the West Coast blackfly (A. ungulatum). At only 2–3 millimetres in length, they look the same to the naked eye.

Sandflies are found wherever there is flowing water and bush. They are often found at beaches, and at the edges of lakes or swamps. The New Zealand blackfly occurs in the North Island and around the coasts of the South Island. The West Coast blackfly is confined to the South Island, where it is a nuisance.

The West Coast and Fiordland are infamous for their sandflies. The terminus of the Milford Track, where trampers board the ferry to Milford Sound, is called Sandfly Point.

Early encounters
While surveying Doubtful Sound in the summer of 1851, Captain John Lort Stokes of the Acheron was tempted but resisted putting the names Venom Point, Sandfly Bay and Bloodsuckers Sound on the map, after encounters with the biting insects. Road builders on the Milford Road and Haast Pass suffered clouds of them. While surveying road routes near Haast in the 1930s, Alan Dawber played a game with his mates: ‘We used to compete with each other by baring our forearm to the sandflies, then when the first one made its presence felt, we would start killing them off one by one. I think the record was 64 before wiping the stinging mass clear.’1

Life cycle
Sandflies breed in fast-flowing streams or rivers. Eggs are laid on rocks or plants around or below water level. Larvae hatch and collect food from the current, using foldable ‘nets’ that surround their mouths. These expand to catch passing organic particles, algae, and bacteria. The larvae pupate and spend around 12 days in this form, before emerging as flies at the water’s surface.

The length of the life cycle varies, depending on the time of year, but averages around six to seven weeks.

Worth writing home about
The first instance of the word sandfly (rather than blackfly) for the New Zealand species is in the journal of James Cook. He came across the insects at Fiordland’s Dusky Sound, possibly at a sandy beach, in May 1773. His journal reads:

‘The most mischievous animal here is the small black sandfly which are exceeding numerous … wherever they light they cause a swelling and such intolerable itching that it is not possible to refrain from scratching and at last ends in ulcers like the small Pox.’2
Only females bite
After mating, the female searches for a meal of blood – needed to produce eggs. (Little is known about the male, who is a vegetarian.) Females attack vertebrates such as penguins and other birds, bats, seals, domestic animals and humans. They pierce the skin, creating a drop of blood that they suck up.

When do they bite?
Sandflies cannot see at night, so they seldom bite in the dark, and generally remain outdoors. Peaks in biting often occur when light intensity increases in the morning and decreases at dusk. The morning peak comes from young sandflies that have recently emerged from pupae, and the higher evening peak is often the result of sandflies taking blood after laying eggs earlier in the day.

Sandflies are most active in dull, overcast and humid conditions, when they may bite at a similar rate throughout the day.


Elf Fri 08-Aug-08 15:13:27

Like I said, fun, fun, fun. Thank you Misi. Shame about the beach FFS. Perhaps I'll stay indoors. I've been wanting to take up knitting anyway.

OP’s posts: |
Piffle Fri 08-Aug-08 15:18:18

wetas are gorgeous things, unless you stand on one
I only ever found them in the postbox though nestled amongst the fliers each week...
sandflies you feel them as soon as they bite, tis irritating but you can prevent them with citronella, insect repellant
nowhere near as bad as mossies not in same league
but they do itch like feck but easier to cope with than mossies - I used to slap the itch bites and that helped,! mine never got infected or scarred though, so assume prevention better than cure.

I've travelled all over NZ (grew up there age 3-27) never been bitten by a weta, or bitten by a mossie. But sandflies yessum

Elf Fri 08-Aug-08 17:12:19

Piffle that's a bit more encouraging, thanks. I'm interested that you mentioned Citronella too. I really don't fancy the family being covered in chemical repellent for days on end. Does the citronella work well against them then?

OP’s posts: |
Mercy Fri 08-Aug-08 17:22:42

hmm, wetas are gorgeous!!

I think dh put me off because when he was a child, one jumped/fell off a tree onto his bare skin [shudder]

legalalien Fri 08-Aug-08 17:24:06

hmm. I lived in NZ for 28 years and only ever had a problem with sandflies once, when i stayed in a holiday cabin right on the shore of lake rotorua, and they swarmed at night. I never used insect repellant. Mind you, I think they're more attracted to some people than others (a friend of mine used to get bitten a lot more regularly). guess I don't smell attractive to sandflies or something.

also when bitten have never had itching or scarring. It wouldn't occur to me to even consider them when moving to NZ.

SSSandy2 Fri 08-Aug-08 17:33:41

yes only ever encountered the sandflies once camping at a lake, somewhere near Rotorua I think(?) anyway up north of the North Island. Never at the beach or in the garden. Was never stung or bitten by anything and I ran around barefoot a lot of the time. Mosquitos here (Germany) pick away at me all summer though so my blood must taste alright

Elf Fri 08-Aug-08 19:11:02

Oh good, two more encouraging posts. I appreciate that. Edge of lakes = not good. I'll remember that.

OP’s posts: |
nannynz Fri 08-Aug-08 21:14:57

I'm a New Zealander and grew up by a lake and never have been bothered by the little things - they're teeny tiny. Never seen a weta either and have probably only seen about three in my whole life.

Eat vegemite I'm sure I ate it every day while growing up, my mother born in England won't eat it and she was always bitten.

The only place I'd recomend not going is Milford Sound they hang around in swarms down there.

Piffle Fri 08-Aug-08 21:35:09

You cannot not go to Milford for reason of sandflies alone!!!! Travesty!
I spent every summer at our cottage on lake taupo (bach to kiwis) and never got bitten once!
Oh the AC thermal baths <sigh>
So bloody homesick now

MrsJohnCusack Fri 08-Aug-08 21:42:54

ah you see thye love me. clearly I'm just unlucky with the scarring and infection. they itch me like nothing on earth

they don't bite DH come to think of it, or the children so far. we used a lemon based repellent rather than chemicals.

you don't really see wetas in the South Island TBH

look, you're going to live in nelson. Life doesn't get much better AND it's nearly the sunniest place in NZ (always won that accolade except last year Blenheim, down the road, just beat it). My cousin lives in Nelson and it's all arty and lovely. Sandflies won't matter in the slightest!

misi Sat 09-Aug-08 18:54:32

try supplementing with a high dose vitamin B1 for a few weeks befroe going, whilst there and for a week after you get back.
you can get 100mg for this or if you are on short notice try the 500mg tabs.

apparently it works cos bugs don't like the smell secreted onto your skin and it seems to work for about 80% of people. it stops the flies biting in the first place and cos its internal, every bit of you is covered ( don't worry humans barely if at all notice the smell)

B1 also has the added benefits that it helps brain power wink

the following is from a stored page on my computer that I have been unable to link to on here but have copied;.....


To prevent bites from mosquitoes and horseflies, avoid *alcohol. Alcohol causes the skin to flush and the blood vessels to dilate, attracting insects. Eating garlic or rubbing it on the skin helps repel insects. Yeast also helps reduce susceptibility to bites. Eat nutritional yeast daily for three weeks before going into the woods to discourage mosquitoes and black flies from biting. After a severe insect bite, drink plenty of pure spring water, light soups and diluted juices to flush out residual toxins.

Nutritional Supplements

As a prevention for insect bites, garlic and vitamin B1 (thiamine) supplements are effective, as they give off an unfavorable scent to the insect. A vitamin B complex can be added to B1 for several weeks to prevent imbalances. Use brewer’s yeast supplements for pets, or nutritional yeast for humans. Garlic is more effective against ticks. Take these supplements several days before and throughout a trip to wooded, damp areas.

Very high doses of vitamin C, taken together with calcium, can be used effectively to combat the *allergic and toxic effects of all kinds of bites, even against venomous spiders and *snakes. The calcium also seems to markedly reduce the *pain.

Daily Dosages

Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids, 4,000-10,000 mg immediately following a bite and 1,000 mg every few hours

Vitamin B1, 50 mg twice daily

Garlic, 2 capsules three times daily

Vitamin B complex, 50 mg daily

Calcium, 1,200 mg

Elf Sun 10-Aug-08 20:00:02

Great, more encouragement. Thanks everyone.

Mrs JC you sound like a wise woman!

Misi thanks for the latest encyclopaedic bulletin.

Vegemite and B vitamins. Lovely. Thank you all.

OP’s posts: |
twentypence Wed 13-Aug-08 01:22:42

Never ever been bitten by sandflies in or around Nelson. Have been bitten by an evil little bugger in Kaiteriteri when the sun went behind a cloud.

I was fine by Lake Wanaka, got the hell bitten out of me on Lake Wakatipu. I was fine in Milford (covered in polar fleece and insect repellent), I was bitten really badly in the Buller Gorge (just one, but hospitalised).

My advice is to get one of those zanta click things and keep it in your handbag at all time. I also now have a little plastic thing that emits a sound flies don't like which I wear on my belt or put next to my pillow. My mum and dad gave me a heat based thing which has been amazing.

Ds and dh do get bitten but they don't itch and therefore they don't get infected.

3Mumwelly Sun 30-Oct-11 08:45:48

I know that by now this post is probably way out of date..... but seriously - they ( sandflies), like mosquitoes, are totally manageable - albeit annoying if you get taken by surprise.... I have insect repellant ( and sunscreen) in the car at all times - mostly they aren't too bad, just the West Coast of the South Island is pretty bad - they'll bite through your socks down there!!

To treat bites, carry a small tube of antihistamine cream ( I use Anthisan - available at any chemist) - put it on bites - stops them from itching.... I have a tube in the glove box of the car...

Sorted! Same strategies for mosquitoes - sandflies bite in the day time, mossies at night! Really the sun, and sunburn are much more of an issue than bugs - most of the time, in most places....

Hope you had a good trip.... smile

thelittlestkiwi Sun 30-Oct-11 09:22:20

I've had a few bites- not a major issue. I use a hairdryer on bites for about 30 sec (so it gets painful hot). That takes the sting out for a good 8 hours.

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