Sandflies In Thailand Rss feed Twitter button Facebook button

Sandflies are tiny insects that are about one-third the size of a mosquito. They can be found in sandy or marshy areas and at high altitudes. There are many kinds of sandflies, depending on where you are in the world.

Common names for sandflies include biting midge, greenhead, sandflea, sand gnat, punky, chitra and granny nipper. They are really small so it’s difficult to see them. Therefore, they are often called no-see-um.

In Thai, sandflies are called pung, rin talay and khon talay. The word talay means sea. The sandflies in Thailand are black with either black or white wings, and are only about 2-4 millimeters long. The ones with white wings usually cause more allergic reaction.

A sandfly sitting on a leaf in the sand, in Thailand.
A sandfly on a morning glory leaf at a sandy beach, in Thailand.

Why Do Sandflies Bite?

Sandflies are similar to mosquitoes since the female sandflies need blood from mammals, reptiles or birds to make their eggs. As a result, you may be bitten while strolling or sunbathing on the beach.


When female sandflies bite, they inject saliva that contains allergens which trigger the body’s immune system to create allergic reactions. This includes skin irritation, persistent itching, red bumps and swelling.

Normally, the symptoms don’t show up right away, it can take many hours. When it starts, you will feel itchy and become aware of the red bumps.

The severity of the symptoms vary from person to person, depending on your immune system. For those who are not allergic to sandfly bites, the bumps will disappear by themselves after 3-5 days, as long as you don't scratch.

Scratching intensifies the itching, aggravates the skin irritation and can causes blisters. More importantly, it often takes longer to heal and you may end up with scars.

In general, you can find sandflies any time of the year. However, there is a higher concentration of them towards the end of the rainy season, around October and November.

How To Keep Sandflies Away

Mosquito repellents at a pharmacy in Thailand.
Mosquito repellents can also be used for sandflies.
Chose among liquid, lotion, patch and powder products.

Here are a number of ways, from all around the world, to avoid getting bitten by sandflies. Since each individual reacts differently to various repellents, you should find out what works best for you.

- Apply a mosquito repellent that contains a high concentration of DEET. Make sure to reapply it every 2 hours.

- Smoke from mosquito coils also helps.

- Generally, avoid going to the beach in the mornings and in the late afternoons, which are the feeding times for sandflies.

- While on the beach, try to stay where there is sunshine and a breeze, since sandflies don't like sunny and windy areas.

- Apply coconut oil on your skin.

- Apply a mix of eucalyptus oil and lemon juice on your skin.

- Apply a mix of Dettol and baby oil on your skin. Be aware that this formula has a hospital-like smell.

- Apply a mix of tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil on your skin.

How To Cure Sandfly Bites

Although it can be extremely itchy around the bites, a rule of thumb is to avoid scratching. Rinse the area with clean water. It’s also a good idea to stop using any soap on the affected area while curing the bites.

Run hot water, as warm as you can bear, on the bites to reduce the itching. Be careful not to scald yourself.

It’s best to see a physician for advice. Normally, they prescribe antihistamine cream with steroids, which comes in different strengths.

In Thailand, many pharmacies sell these creams without a prescription.

For those of you who don’t want to use a cream with steroids, try Fenistil Gel. However, in my experience, it’s not that effective on sandfly bites.

If you have an inflammation, you may need to take antibiotics in addition to the cream.

When the bites have healed, you can apply Herudoid cream to get rid of any dark spots on your skin.

Avoid eating any food that stimulate or intensify the allergic reaction. This includes seafood, bamboo shoots and pickled or fermented food, such as fresh rice noodles called khanom jeen and wide rice noodles.

Let's take a look at some natural remedies used by Thais that live in rural areas.

Morning Glory Leafs

Morning glory with purple flowers on the beach, in Thailand.
Morning glory grows wild on the beaches of Thailand.

The liquid from morning glory leafs can be applied to the skin, which reduces the itching and the allergic reaction.

Here are some brief instructions on how to extract the liquid from the leafs:

Rinse and crush the freshly picked leafs until you see some green liquid. Most Thais use a mortar and pestle. Apply both the liquid and the smashed leafs on the bites in the morning and evening. The drawbacks of this natural remedy is that it is messy, has a green smell and may stain your clothes.

In some rural parts of Thailand, the liquid is used as a repellent. It keeps the sandflies away for about 30 minutes.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a medicinal plant that is cultivated in many parts of the world. It is well-known for its ability to heal cuts and burns. It can also be used to cure sandfly bites. Slices of fresh aloe vera meat can be placed on the skin twice a day, in the morning and in the evening.

Additional Tips

If you are allergic to insect bites, you can take antihistamine tablets before going to the beach. Consult your physician or pharmacist for advice. If you get bitten by sandflies, the medicine will keep your allergic reaction to a minimum.

Long pants and long sleeves effectively prevent sandfly bites.

Don’t bring your beach towel back to your room, since there may be sandflies on it.

Here is a site with a lot of information about sandfly bites and prevention.

Suggested Reading:   Geckos In Thailand   Stray Dogs

Thailand Breeze > Plants & Animals > Sandflies In Thailand

All Rights Reserved ©2009-2016

Design by OS Templates