Sand gnats resemble a mosquito than to a fly as it carries two wings. Sand gnats or tiny black critters are known by different names such as Chitra, punkie, or punky, biting midges, granny nipper, sand flea, non=see-um. The most important thing about sand gnat is their ability to bite and suck blood. Once bitten, it can cause diseases such as pappacti fever and leishmaniasis.
In some part of the world, they are also called horse flies, which are larger than a sand gnat. As the name proposes they love to be in sand areas and show up at all times at beaches, mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons, and tidal flats in spring season especially March, April, and November. They are active in warm climates where there is no rain. They become inactive during dusk and dawn time. They are inactive in rain, strong breeze, wind and cold weather.
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Sand gnats-medium sized flies belongs to the gamily of Psychodidae and has a length from 1/8 to 1/10 of an inch. They are brown in color and have thick hair on the body such as head, stomach, legs and thorax. The antenna covered with hair is also long and decorated. They have very big eyes in black color.
Their wings are in vertical v shape which distinct them from other sand flies. Their mouth is in pointed form and short but has adamant sucking ability.
Now we got the idea about the sand fly, now let’s discuss their behavior, feeding habits, and life cycle.
Moving and shiny objects, heat, and carbon dioxide all attract sand gnats. As compared to other flies they are more appealing towards dark colors than light colors. The good and strange thing about sand grants is they always move in a group. If you encounter a single sand gnat, don’t be surprised to see a group of flies in a while.
Sand flies are not fast at all and can’t keep up with your pace and thus can easily give up on you. It does not mean that just by slapping you can get rid of them. The reason behind is that you will slap one sand gnat four more will come to bite you.
Biting midges feed plant juice and thus rely on them. The female sand gnat is the one that bites and thus feeds blood as well. It is also important as they good protein from blood which helps them in producing eggs.
It is nice to know that male sand gnat does not bite. Otherwise, it would have increased our tension.
The life cycle of sand gnat starts in a humid environment at a dry area. The dry area is crucial as it protects the eggs from dryness. The environment should be mild as if it is too cold it will not let eggs to develop. The life cycle of a sand gnat is all about 20 to 40 days. Following is the step by step process of the life cycle of a sand gnat:
- Laying eggs: At the breeding stage, female sand fly gives almost 30 to 70 eggs. As stated above humid weather and dry area is imperative for them to lay eggs than other places.
- Hatching eggs: It takes 1 to 2 weeks for eggs to hatch after the female gnat lays eggs and after hatching the sand gnats turn into worm-like creatures – larvae.
- Larvae: Larvae have a very different head with almost 12 segments. They have caudal setae at the end which is committed to them till pupa stage and highly covered in dense hair. Their length can range from 1 to 3mm depends on the food intake and temperature.
- Pupae: Pupa takes 05 to 10 days to develop.
- Adult: Before the dawn adults develop from pupae after 5 to 10 days of pupae development.
Here we will discuss the damages sand gnat can cause and how they do. First, we will discuss how sand gnats bite before considering the damages. The saliva containing anti-coagulant goes in the human body when female sand flies bites. It is not easy for biting midges to suck blood because of coagulating property of the human body. Therefore saliva is the one which makes it easier to excerpt blood because of its anticoagulant nature.
Other than anti-coagulant nature of saliva, it can cause big red itchy welts because of its allergy. The damage it causes varies from person to person depending upon the immunity but below is the list of common damages:
- Itchy red rough cuts (sometimes with pain)
- Oroya Fever
- Carrison’s disease
- Sadly Fever Virus
- Toscana Virus
- Chagres Virus
- Punta Toro Virus
Sand Gnat Bites
Though they are minuscule in size, it can cause serious problems for the skin. They will bite on areas which are close to the ground like legs, feet, and ankles. There is very less chance that thy can bite on the upper portion as they can only jump up to 20-40 cm. They will bite you in the evening, night or dawn as this is the time when they are very active. Therefore be very careful if you are in beach regions sand flies can bite you during this time.
There are two types of bites; one is normal mosquito bite in which its sucks your blood and then passes on to someone else. However, it inoculates saliva so there may be allergic reactions. The other one is very bad as the breeding female sand gnat warrens into skin till their eggs hatch. You can identify breeding ground of a sand gnat if the area swells and there is a black spot in the middle.
How to Get Rid of Sand Flies
There are many approaches to get rid of sand gnats, but it mainly depends on influx area and your needs. They are different for indoor and outdoor infested area.
Method 1: Infested Area – Indoors
If sand gnat has affected your house, office or a pet house then take the following steps for prevention:
Vacuuming – Do vacuum every corner of your house especially under and above the carpets. If there are some cracks in the walls, windows, floors, ceiling it is better to vacuum them as a sand fly can easily hide inside. It has shown that by proper vacuuming you can get rid of adult gnats and their eggs. According to Beaufort County Library article ‘Sand Flies’ salt dries these sand gnat, therefore, it is good to put salt on carpet 24 hours before vacuuming.
- Steam Cleaning – This is the prevailing way to get rid of eggs, larvae, pupae and buffalo gnats. The steam cleaning increases the temperature to 1030 degrees and sand flies simply eradicate as they cannot stand at such high temperature.
- Closing Cracks and Gaps– If there are cracks or gaps in the walls, windows, floors, ceiling, garage door or main door then you need to close them first right after vacuuming; this will stop eye gnats for further invasion as they love to hide in this high-risk
- DEET Insect Repellent –DEET Insect Repellent is excellent in getting rid of salt marshes after cleaning the house correctly. You can find them from any supermarket nearby. In this regard, bug spray is also very helpful.
- Insecticides – Insecticides containing d-limonene’ and ‘linalool’ are also very effective in eliminating sand flies. You can use them inside as well as outside of the house; however, it is important to read the instructions before as you have to keep kids and pets out of the house for some hours.
- Citronella Candles or Oil Lamp – Citronella is very effective in getting rid of adult fungus gnats. You just need to light up citronella candle or oil lamp to keep the sand gnat away.
- Orange Peel Extracts – This is a very easy and homemade medication to keep the male and female buffalo gnats away. You just have to keep orange peel extracts at entry and exit of your house like windows, doors, balcony and terrace.
- Lemon, Lime or any other Citrus Juice – This is also very effective in getting rid of big throbbing welts caused by sand flies. You just have to spray it inside the house for two times a day.
Method 2: Infested Area – Outdoors
Fungus gnats and others can also affect your outdoor such as lawn, garden; garbage can, therefore, it is important to take the following steps.
- Boric Acid–Boric acid because of its strong property is effective in eliminating sand flies from your garbage can or human-made pond.
- Diatomaceous Earth– You can sprinkle diatomaceous earth if the area is moist, sand or soil area. However if it rain or shower you need to sprinkle again.
- Insecticides–– Insecticides containing d-limonene’ and ‘linalool’ are also very effective in eliminating sand flies from your lawn or garden. You can use them inside as well as outside of the house; however, it is important to read the instructions before as you have to keep kids and pets out of the sprayed area for some hours.
Sand Gnats Prevention
However, if you are going for a walk in areas where there is the presence of grass carp flies or any other flies, it is best to apply clear baby oil all over the body and wear long Sleeves and long pants. It is also important to wear light color dresses as sand flies will not be attracted.
There are many types of gnats such as fungus gnat, eye gnat, and buffalo gnats and you can find them all near water. However, the sand gnat is the only one which is in the dry area and under ideal environmental conditions. They all are similar in the sense that they bite and can drive you crazy. Therefore it is important to prevent them entering your house or outside the house. You can also use vanilla air freshener spray to keep these flies away as they do not like the smell of vanilla at all.