Hairy and brown with probing long legs and alien-like eyes, sandflies may seem relatively harmless at first sight. As one buzzes past, v-shaped wings atwitter and looking docile, you might notice.
You yawn, scratch your arm in general apathy. Then you scratch your arm again, a burning, tingling sensation ensues, urging you to rub up against the nearest tree like a bear. Soon enough, you’ll realize that in this very moment, that inconspicuous sandfly’s buddies were swooping in to sate their vapid thirst for blood. Before you know it, you’re under a full-fledged attack. Your itching has multiplied by about thirty and red splotches appear sooner than your two claw-like hands can grasp at them. Itchy, scabby lesions soon appear only to drive you mad for days. You’re deep in the bush and deep into sandfly territory.
This is not the scenario of happy camping that you may have imagined, but it’s one that is more than likely when tramping the bush. How can you escape the onslaught of these pesky buggers? Here’s what to do to protect yourself and how to treat those few inevitable bites.
Protect Your Territory
Knowledge is power when it comes to evading sandfly bombardment. These tiny, vampire-like creatures love to hang out in moist, still areas like the woods and the beach. The most effective and most natural way to avoid bites is to avoid lingering in these areas during the early morning or late afternoon when these bugs are the most active.
Because forests and beaches might happen to be exactly where you desire to stay, there are a few ways to protect yourself while in enemy territory.
- Keeping the windows and doors of your campervan screened or closed will help to keep them out, but since they are so small, sandflies can sometimes even get in through mesh screens. A layer spray repellent of your choice could help to keep them at bay.
- Candles or an oil lamp with citronella, eucalyptus, lavender, orange peel or lemon oils could also be a good addition to your campervan if you have the space.
Keep Your Skin Bite-Free
Everyone reacts differently to bug bites and to different kinds of repellents, so this list of possible treatments includes a variety of options. Try one or a few to see what’s effective for you.
- Cover Your Skin: The easiest way to prevent bites is to cover up exposed skin. Trade in your tank tops and shorts for some lightweight long sleeves and pants.
- Baby Oil: Generous applications of baby oil can help reduce sandfly bites. Mix a bit with Dettol (or another soap/disinfectant) and a few drops of lavender oil.
- Vinegar: Vinegar is a handy cleaning ingredient to have around the camper, and it’s also a great agent against bugs like sandflies. Sprinkle a little on your clothes, making sure to avoid sensitive areas like your eyes.
- Essential Oils: Eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree oils can all help. Simply sprinkle some onto your clothes or even rub a bit on your neck, wrists, and ankles.
- Banana Peel: If you’re stuck in the woods without the aid of a health store to pick up some of these natural oils, a handy sandfly hack is to rub the inside of a banana peel on your hands, legs and other exposed areas of skin.
DEET Insect Repellent: Admittedly, DEET is a toxic chemical that shouldn’t be ingested or even applied to the skin in high concentrations or high frequency. However, it is one of the most effective ways to avoid bug bites, and it just might be a good last resort if none of the natural solutions listed above are effective. Choose a repellent that is 10 to 30 percent concentrated, then feel free to dilute even further if desired. Make sure to keep it away from your face and mouth, and wash it off thoroughly before going to bed.
Treat Your Bites
Even with these precautions, a few bites are probably inevitable. Here are some tips to treat and soothe itchy and painful bites.
- Take a Dip: Cool water can help provide some relief to itchy bites. Making a stop by the sea for a quick dip or a long sit in the water is great.
- Tea Tree Oil: This oil can not only help soothe pain and itch but also further the healing process so that you can forget about the bites altogether.
- See a Doctor: For acute reactions or infections, make sure to stop by the doctor for more powerful treatment.
One last helpful tip is to just accept that you may get a handful of these itchy bites. It’s a way of life in the bush, and one that many people endure everyday. Unfortunately complaining won’t help, so keep your head up and concentrate on the beauty that surrounds you!