Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (2023)

Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (1)

You’ve waited for that perfect beach vacation to come. You packed your swimsuit, beach towels and have the perfect day planned. But, once you get set up in the sand, you start feeling little bites on your legs. You look down and can’t see anything. You have no idea what bit you. These beach bugs that bite can be called a variety of things: sand fleas, sea lice, sandflies and no see ums, just to name a few possible culprits.

In this post, we’ll explore what kind of critters dwell in the sand and which ones might nibble on us, how long sand flea bites last, the difference between sand flea bites and bed bug bites and answer the common question, “What are no see ums?”

Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (2)

Sand Dwellers

There are a number of creatures that live in beach sand, most of which don’t bite humans. These sand dwellers include several species of crustaceans, such as sand crabs, roly polies, beach hoppers, sand fleas and sand flies.

However, there are some creatures that can bite us and which often do, which can definitely make our time on the beach less pleasurable. Sand fleas are one of the most common biting sand dwellers. If you develop welt-like bites that are similar to mosquito bites, they are most likely from a sand flea. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, these pests “feed on their hosts’ blood, leaving painful, itchy welts and sometimes spreading parasites and disease.”

The most common sand flea species found at the beach is the Orchestia agilis, also known as the common sand flea. These animals are crustaceans and do not bite people. The chigoe flea is the type of sand flea that bites people and animals. This species lives in soil and in the sand. The females can burrow into your skin until they release their eggs about two weeks later. You can tell if a chigoe flea has burrowed under your skin by looking for a small black speck in the middle of the swollen bite. These biting bugs typically attack your feet and ankles because they can’t jump very high. However, if you lie down on the beach where they happen to be, they can bite you anywhere.

The University of Southern California has a Chigoe Flea Eradication project which seeks to eliminate infestations of the pest in the third world. According to the researchers, infections from Tungiasis cause a debilitating condition which impacts the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people all over the world. This skin infestation is mostly found in the poorest countries where there is limited access to medical care.

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Some people refer to sand fleas as sea lice. However, sea lice are “tiny crustaceans that live in the ocean and feed on certain types of fish, but don’t bother humans at all.” What most people refer to as sea lice are actually something quite different: jellyfish larvae. These small particles float together in groups in the oceans. Although they are quite small, these larvae still have nematocysts, which are stinging cells more commonly associated with the adult jellyfish.

If sea lice get caught inside of your bathing suit while you are in the water, they can become trapped, which results in a stinging sensation. In rare cases, a person who has been stung can experience intense itching and burning or a rash made up of small, raised blisters. These rashes typically go away on their own anywhere between two days and two weeks, although a cortisone-based cream and Benadryl can minimize discomfort. Along the Gulf Coast, sea lice are prevalent from April until August each year.

Sand wasps will sting you, but they aren’t aggressive like other wasps. They rarely sting people and only usually if their nest has been disturbed.

Sand flies are often also called “no see ums” or biting midges. These insects can bite you a lot like a mosquito would.

Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (3)

How Long Do Sand Flea Bites Last?

We’ve already established that true sand fleas are more commonly found in impoverished countries. That said, you can be bitten by a number of other animals commonly called “sand fleas”, including biting flies, midges and even dog and cat fleas. After you are bitten by a flea, a wheal reaction occurs. This skin irritation is characterized by “an area of elevated skin that’s sometimes surrounded by reddening. The reaction is slightly itchy…and the inflammation peaks within a few hours, and is completely gone 12 hours later.”

However, you aren’t out of the woods once the swelling goes down. “A papule replaces the wheal 12 to 24 hours after the bite.” Now, the site of the bite becomes a hard, raised, red itchy bumpy surface that can swell. This stage can last anywhere from two days to two weeks. If you are one of the unfortunate people who are allergic, blisters may also form after a flea bite.

Like most bites, secondary infections can occur if you rub, scratch or do anything that causes the wound to reopen. The bite site may also develop into a boil which can last four to six weeks.

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In very rare cases, for people who are highly allergic, flea bites can last up to two years.

To minimize the long-term impact of a flea bite, refrain from scratching the affected area. Use calamine lotion to alleviate the itching sensation. You can also take ibuprofen, Tylenol or Benedryl to reduce the pain and swelling. Aloe vera has also been known to minimize discomfort after flea bites. Check for the little black spots to see if you have been bitten by a true breeding sand flea if you are traveling in Latin America, the Caribbean and in parts of Africa. If you develop fever, nausea, significant swelling or a rapid heartbeat after a bite, you should seek medical treatment.

Getting bit by a flea is not a pleasant experience. Since these creatures are so tiny, bites can sometimes be mistaken for other, similar small creatures.

Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (4)

Sand Flea Bites vs. Bed Bug Bites

If you are traveling, you may wonder if the scratching and irritation you are experiencing is from sand flea bites or bed bug bites—or from something completely different. There are a few ways you can tell the difference between these bites.

Sand fleasare most active when it’s cool and moist. Usually, you are more likely to be bitten if it has been raining or in the morning or evening when these pests are most active. Bites from sand fleas tend to be more on your feet and legs because you usually walk through their territory. However, if you’ve been lying or sitting on the beach, as we mentioned earlier, they can and will bite you anywhere.

If you are bitten by a breeding female sand flea, you will usually see a black spot in the center of the bite. These biting creatures burrow under your skin until their eggs hatch.

Sand fleas can also enter your home and feed on you and your pets, which can eventually cause your animals to become sick.

(Video) How to protect yourself against "no-see-um" bugs

Bed bug bites also look like mosquito bites, but tend to be in linear rows. Bites from bed bugs can be found anywhere on the body. Bed bug bites also often turn into blisters. Bed bugs and the evidence of them are typically easier to spot or rule out.

To try to check if you have bed bugs, the first thing you’ll want to do is to inspect your sheets. Do you have blood stains or dark or rust-colored spots on your sheets? That may be an indicator of bed bug activity. If you smell a musty odor, bed bugs may be to blame. Bed bugs are“small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed.”

If you inspect your sheets and can’t find any evidence of these creatures, take a close look at your mattress, box springs and other hidden places around your bed. If you find an infestation, then you will know that your bites are most likely caused by bed bugs and not sand fleas.

Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (5)

What Are No See Ums?

The University of Florida’s Entomology Department refers to no see ums as biting midges, although these bothersome bugs are also sometimes also incorrectly referred to as sand flies. These annoying insects live all over the world, but the Leptoconops species live in tropical and subtropical climates and in coastal areas. There are more than “4,000 species of biting midges in the Ceratopogonidae family” and they live all over the world.

These creatures are incredibly tiny, hence the common name “no see ums.” Adults are gray and less than ⅛ inch long and look like a teeny tiny fly when viewed under a microscope.

The bites from no see ums can be painful and can cause lesions if someone is allergic. Some species carry viruses that can cause diseases in people and animals. Some of the viruses biting midges transmit have been known to be lethal to animals.

Normally, the males and females midges feed on nectar. However, since females need blood for their eggs, they sometimes bite people and animals so that their eggs have the needed nutrients to develop.

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Beach Bugs That Bite: Protecting Yourself From These Pests (6)

How to Protect Yourself From Beach Bugs

The most effective measure to protect yourself from biting beach insect is to spray yourself with DEET when going outside. Avoid the beach when it has been raining to protect yourself from a higher concentration of sand fleas. Cover your skin, especially when sitting or lying on the beach, to put a physical barrier between you and the sand fleas.

Insecticides have proved effective when treating no see ums, sand flies and bedbugs.

If you have bed bug bites, treatment should be different. First of all, you’ll need to wash all bedding, blankets, towels, comforters, curtains and clothing in hot water toeliminate bed bugs in your home. Anything that can’t (or shouldn’t) go through the washer, like shoes, can be placed in a bag and placed in the dryer on high for at least 30 minutes to kill any lingering livebugs.

WebMD recommends scrubbing your mattress and boxsprings with a stiff brush to remove bedbugs and eggs. Then, you will need to vacuum your mattress, box springs and the surrounding floor. When you are done, place the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the garbage outside.

You can purchase a zipper cover for your mattress to keep bedbugs enclosed. These pesky pests can live up to a year on your mattress, so keep it covered to protect yourself against bed bugs making their way out.

Truly getting rid of bedbugs usually requires the help of a professional pest control company.

If you have a sand flea infestation, a deep cleaning of your home and steam cleaning your carpet often proves effective at controlling the problem. You will want to treat your yard as well to ensure these pests don’t have a way to get back sindie your home.

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Banish Beach Bugs From Your Home

No one wants their time at home disrupted by the annoyance of biting pests. Homeowners can count on ABC to accurately diagnose the source of your problem and to recommend measures to address any potential infestation. With ABC’s help, you can handle fleas, bed bugs, mosquitoes and other common household pests whose bites can be a nuisance and a potential health risk. Schedule a service today to get an experienced pest control technician to help you with your pest control problem.


What was biting me at the beach? ›

Sand fleas tend to be the most active around dawn and dusk, which means you're the most likely to be bitten if visiting the beach during these times of day. Sand flea bites look much like common flea bites. They often present as small, red, raised bumps on the skin, generally located below the knee.

What keeps bugs from biting you? ›

How to prevent and treat bug bites
  • Use insect repellent. To protect against mosquitoes, ticks and other bugs, use insect repellent that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET on exposed skin and clothing. ...
  • Wear appropriate clothing. ...
  • Use bed nets. ...
  • Pay attention to outbreaks.

How do you prevent sandfly bites on the beach? ›

Wear long pants during those times as well. Apply some heavy duty bug lotion or spray from the knees down (regular "OFF" will not work). Take some "after bite" lotion with you as well. These insects are seasonal so hopefully you arrive when they are not an issue.

What is the best way to protect yourself from mosquitoes? ›

Protecting Yourself

Wear shoes, socks, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt to avoid mosquito bites. Clothing should be made of tightly woven materials to keep mosquitoes away from the skin. Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or indoors where mosquitoes may be present.

What's the best way to protect yourself from mosquitoes? ›

Keep mosquitoes away from exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and socks. Tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks to cover gaps in your clothing where mosquitoes can get to your skin. Stay indoors when possible, especially if there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect.

What bugs bite you in the ocean? ›

Causes include bites or stings from various types of marine life, including:
  • Jellyfish.
  • Portuguese man-of-war.
  • Stingray.
  • Stonefish.
  • Scorpion fish.
  • Catfish.
  • Sea urchins.
  • Sea anemone.

What do Noseeums look like? ›

No-see-um bites look like clusters of little red dots on your skin. While they can stay small, they often swell, enlarging to one to two inches in diameter, and can become painful and tender.

What are the tiny black bugs at the beach? ›

You may hear them be called beach fleas, sand hoppers, or beach hoppers. They're actually likely referred to as sand fleas because they jump around in a similar fashion as regular 'ole fleas. Sand fleas are very small, ranging from about a quarter of an inch to an inch in length.

What is biting me in my sleep? ›

bed bugs, fleas, and mosquitoes are the most common insects to bite people while they're asleep. In addition to that, there are some critters that might, and even are likely, to crawl in bed with you, like cockroaches, but are unlikely to bite you (cockroaches don't bite).”

What's good for bugs? ›

Bugs Be Gone: 7 Natural Ways to Kill Bugs
  • Basil Keeps the Flies Away. Flies are definitely on the list of pesky bugs. ...
  • Dish Soap Will Get Rid of Ants. ...
  • Spiders Don't Like Citrus. ...
  • Cooking Oil & Syrup Concoction for Cockroaches. ...
  • Baking Soda for the Bed Bugs. ...
  • Salt the Fleas Away. ...
  • Neem Oil Kills Many Bugs.

How do you know what bite me? ›

Flea bites leave an itchy welt on the skin, often on the ankles and legs. Mosquitoes leave a raised, itchy pink skin bump or in rare cases a severe allergic reaction. Spider bites cause minor symptoms like red skin, swelling, and pain at the site or very serious symptoms that need emergency care.

How do you stop sandfly bites from itching? ›

Treatment. Symptomatic treatment, including application of an ice pack and use of an antihistamine, may offer relief from painful bites. Secondary bacterial infection may require the application of antiseptic cream or the use of antibiotics. In severe cases medical advice may be required.

How do you stop sand flies from itching? ›

Antihistamine tablets or creams can help. Some people also experience relief by applying ice to the bite. Bites should never be scratched as this increases the chance of the wound becoming infected. Perhaps the best treatment is to avoid getting bitten in the first place.

How do you get rid of sand fleas on your body? ›

Treatment. In endemic areas, the standard treatment is surgical extraction of burrowed sand fleas, which is usually done by the patients themselves or a caregiver. Embedded parasites are removed under non-sterile conditions using instruments such as sticks, hair pins, sewing needles or scissors.

What can I put on my skin to keep mosquitoes from biting me? ›

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil is a natural insecticide and a mosquito repellent, according to the American College of Healthcare Sciences, based in Portland, Oregon. You can mix this oil with other scents, like lemon, and rub them onto your skin for a minty scent.

What happens when a mosquito bites you? ›

When a mosquito bites you, it pierces the skin using a special mouthpart (proboscis) to suck up blood. As the mosquito is feeding, it injects saliva into your skin. Your body reacts to the saliva resulting in a bump and itching. Some people have only a mild reaction to a bite or bites.

How do I protect my face from mosquito bites? ›

How to safely apply insect repellent:
  1. Put on sunscreen first.
  2. Don't apply repellents under your clothes.
  3. Don't spray directly onto face; instead, spray your hands and rub repellent on your face.
  4. Avoid your eyes and mouth.
  5. Don't apply on injured or irritated skin.
  6. Don't allow children to apply repellent themselves.
26 Feb 2019

What smells do mosquitoes not like? ›

Certain Natural Scents

Mosquitoes are turned off by several natural scents: cinnamon, peppermint, cedar, citronella, lemongrass, patchouli, catnip, lavender, and more. Find a favorite, and use it when you want to spend time outside.

Why do I get so many mosquito bites on my legs? ›

Some mosquito species are leg and ankle biters; they cue into the stinky smell of bacteria on your feet. Other species prefer the head, neck and arms perhaps because of the warmth, smells emitted by your skin, and closeness to carbon dioxide released by your mouth.

What lotion keeps mosquitoes away? ›

3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion

Another top-selling mosquito repellent lotion is Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion from 3M. This lotion contains about 34% DEET to repel not only mosquitoes, but biting flies, chiggers, deer flies, ticks, gnats, and fleas.

Why are there bugs at the beach? ›

Mosquitoes love the water, especially standing water in which they need to breed. So you are likely to find them at the beach where there are probably ample sources of fresh standing water. To help prevent itchy bites from bringing down your vacation, use an insect repellent, but be sure to choose the right one.

What stings in the sand at the beach? ›

Common throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast U.S., Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, stingrays often swim within a few yards of shore, where they prey on tiny fish and shellfish. They are known to lie on the bottom and cover themselves with sand, which is how most people get stung.

What are the little red bugs at the beach? ›

If you've ever noticed tiny red bugs crawling in or around your window chances are they are Clover Mites. Clover Mites are a close relative to ticks and spiders but they are true mites, not insects.

What does a chigger bite look like? ›

Chigger bites are itchy red bumps that can look like pimples, blisters, or small hives. They are usually found around the waist, ankles, or in warm skin folds. They get bigger and itchier over several days, and often appear in groups.

What is a chigger look like? ›

Larval chiggers are red and have 6 legs. A cluster of them can sometimes be seen on your skin because of their reddish color. Chiggers are red, but not from dining on blood as many people think. After a blood meal, chiggers look yellowish.

Why do no-see-ums hurt? ›

You feel pain with every bite because they inject saliva into your skin, and don't follow-up with a pain-numbing substance like mosquitoes. Eliminating no-see-ums often feels like fighting an invisible enemy, but you can take steps to reduce their numbers.

What are the very tiny black bugs that bite? ›

If you've been outside you've probably felt the tiny black bugs with a big bite. These insects are called minute pirate bugs, sometimes called insidious flower bugs or “no-see-ums” because of how small they are. They are only about ⅛ of an inch in size.

What are the tiny flying black bugs that bite? ›

In addition to black gnats, people also refer to biting midges as no-see-ums, sand flies, or punkies. These pests may look like just a dark speck to the naked eye, but their bites create a noticeable burning sensation. Biting midges may leave behind itchy welts on skin.

Do sand fleas bite humans? ›

Sand fleas are not dangerous but often are thought to be since many people confuse sand fleas with biting gnats and biting midges in coastal areas. The bites from these gnats and midges leave welts on the skin. Sand fleas are predators of small marine animals, but they do not bite humans or pets.

What is biting me that I can't see? ›

Occasionally people are aware of small insects flying around them, but do not actually see them biting. These bites may be from small biting midges, often called “no-see-ums”. They are also known as punkies or sand flies.

What bug bite leaves a hard lump? ›

Bites from midges, mosquitoes and gnats often cause small papules (lumps) to form on your skin that are usually very itchy.

What smell do ants hate? ›

Peppermint is a natural insect repellant. You can plant mint around your home or use the essential oil of peppermint as a natural remedy for control of ants. Ants hate the smell, and your home will smell minty fresh! Plant mint around entryways and the perimeter of your home.

What soap keeps bugs away? ›

This viral Facebook post reveals that a strong-smelling bar of soap, like Irish Spring, will keep bugs away with its strong scent. Irish Spring is known for its classic “invigorating” scent, and there are plenty of success stories on the internet from people using it to banish flies.

What smell do bugs hate? ›

Those most closely associated with repellency are citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, and catnip oil, but others include clove oil, patchouli, peppermint, and geranium.

How long do bug bites last? ›

Most insect bites are itchy for several days. Any pinkness or redness usually lasts 3 days. The swelling may last 7 days.

How long do sandfly bites last? ›

For those who are not overly 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 and aggravates the skin irritation. Meaning, it often takes longer to heal and you may end up with scars.

What bug bite has two holes? ›

What they look like: If you've got two tiny puncture marks on your skin (or see a spider crawling away), you are probably dealing with a spider bite.

What can I put on my skin to keep mosquitoes from biting me? ›

Use insect repellent
  • DEET.
  • Picaridin (known as KBR 3023 and icaridin outside the US)
  • IR3535.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE)
  • Para-menthane-diol (PMD)
  • 2-undecanone.

What tablets can I take to prevent mosquito bites? ›

Many dermatologists now recommend that the skin can be made much less attractive to biting insects by taking Vitamin B supplements whilst at risk. So, we recommend that Vitamin B complex, 2 tablets twice a day, or Vitamin B-1, 100 mg daily, is a good way of helping to reduce the risk of being bitten.

Why am I getting bitten and no one else is? ›

If no pests can be found and the irritation doesn't seem to match any of the most common bug bite pictures, you may be experiencing a skin reaction to a household product or environmental irritant. Consider the location of the rash. If it's on the hands and arms, think about what you've come in contact with recently.

What smell mosquitoes hate? ›

Here are the natural scents that help repel the mosquitoes:
  • Citronella.
  • Clove.
  • Cedarwood.
  • Lavender.
  • Eucalyptus.
  • Peppermint.
  • Rosemary.
  • Lemongrass.
4 Sept 2020

Does white vinegar keep mosquitoes away? ›

Acetic acid makes vinegar an excellent tool for pest control, repelling some of the most common backyard nuisances and even killing weaker insects. It's most effective against ants, spiders, and mosquitos. You can keep spiders from entering your home by spraying vinegar around your property's perimeter and entryways.

What lotion keeps mosquitoes away? ›

3M Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion

Another top-selling mosquito repellent lotion is Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion from 3M. This lotion contains about 34% DEET to repel not only mosquitoes, but biting flies, chiggers, deer flies, ticks, gnats, and fleas.

Does garlic stop mosquito bites? ›

Can natural remedies protect against mosquito bites? There is no evidence to support claims that garlic or vitamin B work as effective mosquito repellents.

Does garlic keep mosquitoes away? ›

Garlic makes a powerful natural insect repellent. Garlic can be used to repel a variety of crawling and flying insects, including mosquitoes,” according to Patrick Parker , SavATree Plant Health Care Program Director. One treatment with garlic is effective for 2 weeks and can repel insects for up to one month.

What is biting me that I can't see? ›

Occasionally people are aware of small insects flying around them, but do not actually see them biting. These bites may be from small biting midges, often called “no-see-ums”. They are also known as punkies or sand flies.

Why do I feel invisible bugs on me? ›

Formication is the sensation of having insects crawling on or under the skin. The name comes from the Latin word “formica,” which means ant. Formication is a tactile hallucination, which means a person feels a physical sensation, but there is no physical cause.

What do Noseeums look like? ›

No-see-um bites look like clusters of little red dots on your skin. While they can stay small, they often swell, enlarging to one to two inches in diameter, and can become painful and tender.

What are little black bugs burrowing into skin? ›

Scabies is caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. Scabies is an itchy skin rash caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. Intense itching occurs in the area where the mite burrows.

Which Avon cream for mosquitoes? ›

skin so soft Avon SKIN SO SOFT ORIGINAL Insect Mosquito Mosi Repellent Properties Dry Oil Body Spray & Shower Gel with jojoba oil 150ml, 2 Piece Set.

Does Jungle Formula expire? ›

Patel explains that this CDC-approved additive never goes bad, but it can become less effective over time. "If the product doesn't smell as potent as it normally does, or if the product looks damaged, it's possibly expired," she says.

What's a natural bug repellent? ›

Botanical repellents, which often have “natural” on the label, can include any number of plant-based chemicals. Some common ones are lemongrass, citronella, peppermint, geraniol, soybean, and rosemary.


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