“The most mischievous animal” : Sandfly !


‘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.’

Reads from the journal of James Cook,  May 1773.


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).

There are 13 species in New Zealand. Only two species bite: the New Zealand blackfly, and the West Coast blackfly. At only 2–3 millimetres in length, they look the same to the naked eye.


m-14737-enzSandflies 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.

Preventing bites


The simplest way to avoid bites is to cover up, especially when sitting or standing still – sandflies tend not to bite moving targets. They rarely bite indoors or after dark, and are not found above the bushline.


When camping, cover up well, and avoid swampy areas. In mosquito-prone places, a fully enclosed tent with mesh screens is essential. Repellents should also be used.

Effective repellents

Insect repellents for the skin are effective against sandflies and mosquitoes. The active ingredients in many repellents are known by the abbreviations DEET (diethyl toluamide) and DIMP (dimethyl phthalate). DEET is the most effective repellent but do not overuse it… for your health.


Don’t Scratch! (even if you feel insane)

Scratching extends the healing time and can cause infection.  This is where bites can turn into real problems.  Don’t scratch.   Gently massage a bite soother on the irritation instead.


Early Maori legend even has it that the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa had just finished creating the landscape of Fiordland, but the landscape was so stunning in beauty that it stopped people from working and they stood around staring in awe. The goddess Hinenuitepo became so angry at these unproductive people that she created the sandfly to bite them and get them moving again.



I would like to thank Brettschneider company to generously offer me a mosquito HEAD NET and a FINE MESH Pyramid


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2 thoughts on ““The most mischievous animal” : Sandfly !

  1. Pingback: Prepa Sommaire | Te Araroa Super-Tramp

  2. Pingback: Gear / Matériel N°1 : La Maison = Tente, duvet et tapis de sol | Te Araroa Super-Tramp

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