Sand fleas are probably one of the most significant downsides to sunny days spent enjoying the beach.
That said, preventing sand fleas, and treating sand flea bites don’t have to be such a thorn in your side with the right information.
We’ve put together a complete guide on everything you need to know about sand fleas including how to identify them and treat their bites as well as to prevent them.
What Are Sand Fleas
Depending on the region of the world that you live in sand fleas may be known by one of several common names; beach fleas, sand flies, sand gnats, biting mites, sand fleas, no-see-ums and hop-a-longs.
As you’ve probably guessed, these names are mainly derived from their extremely small size. Sand fleas, regardless of their name, are not an actual insect. Rather, a large variety of other tiny pests commonly found on the beach makes up the sand fleas category, such as crustaceans and tiny biting mites.
During the sunnier and warmer days of the year, spending time on the beach comes with the risk of gathering clusters of sand flea bites on your arms, ankles, and back.
Strolling along the beach isn’t such a problem as sitting or laying due to the fact that sand fleas can’t jump or fly more than a couple of feet from ground-level. That said, sand fleas are also found in deserts and marshy areas around the world as well.
When you’ve been bitten from sand fleas you’ll know it by the large size of the welt that it leaves. Also, an irritating skin rash (commonly known as hives) may persist to affect the bitten area for several days afterward.
As hard as it may be, avoid scratching the affected areas at all costs. Failure to do so will not only extend the length of the condition but may also cause infection to set up.
Identifying Sand Fleas
The genus Emerita, also known as sand fleas, is made up of 10 species. The smallest of the sand fleas are microscopic, the largest grow to be slightly more than an inch.
They tend to have 10 legs, appear similar to a micro-sized shrimp or crustaceans, and have a set of antennas. Most species are found along the North American coasts as well as Africa’s western coast.
They wash in with the shore and bury themselves in the sand in barely over a second. If you happen to catch a glance though, they range from tan (adults) to various shades of brown and black (juveniles). Even more, depending on the exact species of sand fleas, they may additionally be beige, completely transparent, or white shades.
Sand fleas have an uncanny ability to blend in with their habitats. Detecting them and identifying them can be a pretty challenging task. Studies on one particular species of sand flea indicate that they might even be able to change colors to fit their environments perfectly (no matter where they go).
Needless to say, some species of sand fleas may be virtually impossible to positively identify with the naked eye. Hence, nicknames such as no-see-ums and hop-a-longs.
However, regardless of how hard some sand fleas may be able to see and identify, their bites, welts, and the rash, that they cause are unquestionably easy to recognize.
Treating Sand Flea Bites
Identifying and treating sand flea bites is a straightforward process. Similar to many common bug bites such as mosquitos, ticks, and fleas, antihistamines help ease the irritation and itching. Likewise, ibuprofen helps to reduce inflammation and pain.
Hydrocortisone, calamine, and aloe vera creams will also help. If you’re traveling to the beach, or live in a marshy or desert region, you should make a habit of keeping a few of these remedies on hand. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially if kids and pets are involved.
Preventing Sand Fleas
The prevention of sand fleas, and their bites, is also fairly simple with the right information. That said, for optimal prevention, you’ll need to take multiple steps.
Here are a few pointers on how to best prevent sand fleas:
- Apply DEET insect repellent to feet, ankles, and back
- Stick to the beach on the warmest times of the day (when sand fleas are less active)
- Stay moving while on the beach (sitting and laying attract the most sand fleas)
- Keep your body covered as much as possible (especially feet and ankles)
- If vacationing on the beach, keep doors and windows closed at night (screens don’t always keep sand fleas out)
How To Get Rid of Sand Fleas From Your Home
If you happen to live near a sandy beach or have a home in the desert or marshland, sand fleas can get into your house and wreak havoc. Identifying them (as described above) and getting rid of them as soon as possible is your best bet to avoid the miserable rashes their bites cause.
Here are some quick and easy steps to getting rid of sand fleas from your home:
1. Thoroughly Inspect Your Home
To best treat sand fleas in your home, you need to have a good idea of the size and location of the infestation. Begin by carefully checking the areas of your home and property that are most likely to show signs of a sand flea infestation.
The most common areas to find sand fleas outside of the home include cracks in sidewalks and other foundations, as well as in the yard space itself. Inside the home, carpets are the most typical hiding place for sand fleas, particularly in high traffic areas such as living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms in the home.
2. Close Off Access To Your Home
Once you know what you’re up against, before moving on to applying a pesticide or some other form of treatment, first you’ll want to close up all the little cracks and crevices creating insect-size entryways into your home.
To do so, simply block of all visible entry points, especially where the most visible signs of sand fleas are found. Again, this is why step number one, thoroughly inspecting your home is so important. You should now not only know where a big portion of your sand flea problem lies, but where all of the foundation cracks, structural holes, damaged screens and other areas that allow the sand fleas to get inside are as well.
Many times a small bag of quick-mix concrete and possibly a screen or two for a living room or bedroom window will do the trick. In other cases, such as when dealing with large foundational holes, more drastic measures may be required. At any rate, closing off access to your home is crucial in preventing sand fleas from continuing to invade your home.
3. Use Salt or Pest Control Products
After you’ve patched up all known entryways, and have a good idea of where the largest concentrations of sand fleas are (inside and outside your home), it’s time to take a more direct approach; using salt, or your preferred pest control product to exterminate the sand fleas.
Probably the easiest way to treat infested areas is by applying copious amounts of salt anywhere that you’ve identified the sand fleas, inside and outside. The salt will dehydrate the fleas. However, keep in mind that it’s recommended to leave the salt for at least 24-48 hours before cleaning it up.
Salt is popular because it’s safe to use around children and pets in comparison to harsh pesticides (and works just as well). But, in case you prefer a more chemical-based approach, there are plenty of pest control products available that can also be applied in and out of your home as well.
4. Vigorously Clean Your Home
The dead is done. You’ve inspected, reinforced, and treated your home for sand fleas. But, you’re not done just yet. Once you’ve completed steps one through three, there are still two more steps to successfully get rid of sand fleas in your home (for good). Step four, vigorously cleaning your home from top to bottom.
You will literally need to clean up the entire house. This will ensure that no no-see-ums are hiding away anywhere and waiting to spring the next wave of infestation. Start by dusting the walls and furniture (at least a few feet off the ground-level) and then follow up by sweeping and vacuuming the furniture, floors, and again, a few feet up the walls.
5. Practice Prevention
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In this case, truer words couldn’t be spoken. Taking action to prevent sand fleas from re-infesting your home or property is quick and easy. Besides, you’ve already done all the hard work by this point.
One of the best methods for preventing any more sand flea infestations is by using diatomaceous earth as a defensive-offense. Simply scatter gracious amounts of diatomaceous earth in your yard and all around your property. In most cases, it’s that easy. However, if your sand flea infestation was a real doozy, considering to apply a full-blown pesticide product on your property isn’t a bad way to practice prevention either.
Sand fleas are horrible. The pain and agitation caused by their bites are ridiculous coming from such tiny little creatures. The best recommendation we can give you to avoid these pesky critters at the beach?
Use a DEET repellent liberally and reapply often. At home, the steps listed above will help you get rid of sand fleas and keep them out.