To Deet or Not to Deet... that is the Sandfly Question - by Emma McGrath

Sorry, EVERYONE gets Sandflies. Not all the time - but, but, but....on those occasions when they are "out"????

Definition: Evil, tiny, almost non existent flying blood sucking bitey insects designed to make your life a living hell when in abundance. Specifically known for leaving any human uncovered and bitten with all the semblance of a Gray's Anatomy photo of some tropical variety of measles. Once bitten, the desire to scratch your skin off is inevitable.

When I first arrived on island, the ONLY guarantee that anyone would give me is that their house was immune from sandflies - whether it was being up on a hill where the breeze blows them away, or down on the ocean where the salt AND breeze may shoo them off to somehow being in a little sandfly proof zone because they were so lucky.....

Being up on a hill AND having a great cross breeze AND of COURSE being super super lucky (well I found Long Island so I MUST be), I thought I was going to be completely immune from even thinking about this issue......not to mention that even if I was INITIALLY affected, after a few months, as everyone said, I was BOUND to become "island-ised" and the affect would diminish......right??

Drum roll...... WRONG.... I would like to hereby reassure any reader who is reading this to distract themselves from a bite, that EVERYONE gets sandflies and, even if you were born on the island, you will indeed feel the wrath....... how do I know? When they were bad at my house, I tried to retreat to all of the aforementioned locations and, short of looking remarkably similar to Ursula Andress in Dr. No using a reed under water as a snorkel, I rapidly ascertained that sandflies were going to be a part of my existence. I sat in the ocean with a veritable plume of sandflies around my head and, as I returned to my house in dismay (with all the same sentiments of someone who discovered the tooth fairy didn't really exist); I crossed the path of one of my workers who was at another house that day (yep, one of those "immune" spots).  Lo and behold, he begged me for some insect repellant as the sandflies were so evil! So, yes, I rarely use the word evil but this evil, horrible welt causing issue has to be dealt with by everyone - UNLESS you are one of those people who just happen to not feel as affected - I know one and am thinking of trying blood transfusions.

A few DEET facts to begin. Please note that when I use the term "facts", I mean pretty much only what I personally have found to be completely unscientifically proven or tested by anyone.

  1. I will start by saying that no one in their right mind would voluntarily bathe in a substance that will literally melt plastic, has one report that vaguely links it to Gulf War Syndrome (google) etc..... unless driven mad by sandflies.
  2. The precise DEET level that is needed to mitigate sandflies is open for debate. I can absolutely assure you that there is a significant heated question whether that is 30%, 35% or 40%.  When evil, I use 80% waterproof, including sunscreen Bushman's that I import from Australia whenever humanly possible.
  3. The precise DEET level needed to evade mosquitoes is irrelevant as mosquitoes aren't anywhere close to the evility of sandflies - and I used to live in Alaska where mosquitoes are deemed the state Bird.
  4. Dusk and Dawn are the biting hours... don't ask me why, but they are. On a bad night though....??? They don't even have the courtesy to adhere to the no night flying rule!
  5. These things bite through anything.... do NOT think skin tight clothing will help... 
  6. What works for mosquitoes does not work for sandflies (again, the Alaskan bit of me thought... SIMPLE....hahaha)

SOOOOOOO..... what to do? I LOVE what everyone says.... but frankly, try everything, do anything but avoid being bitten - whatever works for you....  

  1. Baggy Clothing - Wear loose baggy clothing from head to tail... this means that if you are ever wandering around Stella Maris and see someone that looks remarkably like a beekeeper who is wearing an abaya and Afghan harem pants this would definitely be me.... unless it is HOT. Loose baggy clothing = absolutely nothing touching skin - one section touching - including long pants as you sit down and they will penetrate!
  2. Baby Oil... keeps your skin soft and stops the sandflies from being able to bite... the few times I have, out of desperation, attempted this I have come out resembling someone who has not shaved for a while or sprinkled pepper on my legs as they are all stuck to me and that kind of put me off... a lot swear by this though... I find a sticky sandfly salad on my legs a little icky
  3. High speed fans - sandflies are tiny - they can't fly past high wind.. why those that are on the breezy side often don't feel the affects as badly - the wind literally blows them away.... so if you have high speed fans, this in theory helps... only problem is that I can't take a high speed fan with me and there is always a wind block by my body on one side!
  4. Electric Zappers - sandfly zappers - I am definitely going to be trying these. I had one in Alaska for mosquitoes but that was over 10 years of inventions ago... so I am all for trying new gadgets... watch this space! UPDATE DEC 8, 2016 : DIDN'T WORK.
  5. Citronella candles/Mosquito coils...again, some people swear by this - I personally had a circumference of citronella candles & mosquito coils touching each other around me and, while I think I saw Elvis and had a great aroma for a few days, I was still eaten.
  6. Eucalyptus/Citronella sprays - most natural sprays are a combination of these... 
  7. Staying Inside during dusk and dawn..... wise. Very Wise but not quite what we live here for...note to anyone using this tactic...change out ALL your window screens to No See-Um screens.
  8. or.... getting back to the topic of blog: DEET  - wear DEET and enjoy your life albeit with absolutely no plastic around you left intact, a likelihood that it may cause significant health issues up to inclusive of death (or not)....well that hasn't been proven yet, but I will be the prime test case as to whether it does.

I am allergic to sandfly bites. To be bitten leaves me with a scar, a welt that looks significantly horrible for days and I am now a 2 year veteran of this issue. All I will say is that to Deet or Not to Deet is a redundancy, it is simply how often or little (although do buy one with moisturizer in it as I have noticed that that which melts plastic, also has a very very good skin drying effect).

PS. I am writing this whilst in good health and mental capacity. In the event that either of these matters alter, I will happily be the first to attest that it is due to DEET.


What do you do? What remedy do you have for this island native and their love of flesh...?