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caligirl56 Jul 5th, 2012 09:25 AM

sand flies in February
So after several years of waiting, we've finally booked our trip to New Zealand for next February/March. Yay!!

Now I have a question about sand flies. People obviously love to visit New Zealand, so these flies must not be as obnoxious as they sound. Or I hope so anyway.

I had thought they were mainly on the west coast, but now it sounds like they're everywhere!!!

Here's a list of where we're going--just how much misery are we likely to run into from these little fellows?

Otago Peninsula
Milford Track (I'd expected lots of sand flies here!)
Mt. Cook
Arthur's Pass
Mapua/Abel Tasman/Golden Bay area


longhorn55 Jul 5th, 2012 11:37 AM

To me, dealing with sandflies is a lot like dealing with childbirth. You forget all the horrible parts because the end result is so fabulous. The scenery and adventures you encounter in the sandfly areas are fabulous, but sandfly bites are horrible.

The only place that we encountered the flies was around Milford Sound. (We did the Hollyford Track). My daughter and I were bitten a LOT; my husband and son were hardly bitten at all. I would recommend that you stop by a pharmacy (chemists) before you head out on the Milford Track and purchase the strongest insect repellant you can buy along with a strong antihistimine to suppress the itch when you do get bitten. Once we got back to Te Anau, we also got some packets of bathing oatmeal products (at the suggestion of the chemist) to relieve some of the itch.

mlgb Jul 5th, 2012 11:49 AM

They are worst in Fiordland, so bring supplies for the track. They are also pretty bad on the west coast beaches, not sure about Golden Bay. I don't remember a tremendous problem in Abel Tasman, but perhaps it's the "childbirth" effect. Around Queenstown you'll probably only encounter them if you go to some of the river banks such as the Dart. They don't seem to bite through clothing, thankfully, although can fly up a pant leg. Not likely to be an issue in the cities.

I had a horrible allergic reaction when I took off my socks to wring the water out along the Milford Track, and actually did not realize I'd been attacked. So don't take the socks off, unless you're armed with DEET or other insecticide. Bring some antihistamine tabs along with you on the hike (Benadryl or Zyrtec/Cetirizine) just in case you react. And no matter how much they itch, "don't scratch the tops off" as they say in NZ!

It's possible longhorn55, that you all were bitten, but only two had the awful allergy reaction.

Melnq8 Jul 5th, 2012 03:53 PM

I recall some at Abel Tasman, but they weren't horrible. We ran into a swarm on a beach in Golden Bay, but otherwise no issues there. Milford - definitely.

Your other locations shouldn't be a problem.

It helps to limit your time on beaches or near rivers, etc...hiding in the forest is a godsend, but not always possible. We've found that there's usually a 30 second reprieve before the sandflies find us after we've stopped moving, so we try to keep on the move when in sandfly country.

We always take 100% DEET (bought in the US) with us, but we didn't use it on our most recent visit last month. Sandflies are alot slower in the winter months and there are fewer of them, thank goodness. We both got bites on our feet (I have no idea how as we were covered up while hiking) and Bill got several on his hands, but they seem to like him more than me for some reason.

Sandfly bites itch like the devil. Not scratching is the best thing you can do (but also the hardest).

I've heard that they're attracted to dark clothing, but unfortunately, they're also attracted to co2.

ThomasW Jul 5th, 2012 04:55 PM

You are likely to find sandflies (or sandflies find you) anywhere near natural bush and water. They are very rare in farmland and more urban areas.

Some years there are more then in other years, they do not like the wind. The worst I have seen was in Nelson Lake national park, Bruce Bay and Haast a close second.

caligirl56 Jul 5th, 2012 05:07 PM

Thank you all. I am somewhat encouraged by your responses, as it sounds like we'll be fine for part of the time at least. Mt. Cook and Arthur's Pass found "safe". Any word, specifically on the Otago Peninsula?

Sounds like tucking the pants into the socks would be a good idea on the Milford Track. I don't like using insect repellents, but obviously we will have to!!

ThomasW Jul 5th, 2012 07:49 PM

Long pants and long sleeves keeps most of them away. If you keep moving they do not follow, although I had one follow me for 4km offshore while I was kayaking once. Kinda felt sorry for the little fellow being so far from land.

They would be around the Otago Peninsula but do not believe they are a problem, although I have not been there while it was calm.

I kind of like the little buggers now, they remind me of a clean enviroment. Although I have killed thousands of them, often in quite sadistic ways.

Melnq8 Jul 5th, 2012 07:53 PM

Yeah, definitely protect your ankles. They loooove ankles.

Don't remember any sandflies on the Otago Peninsula, but it's been years since I was there.

Although, the peninsula does have a Sandfly Bay, so read into that what you will.

aussiefive Jul 5th, 2012 08:59 PM

You will definitely get Sandlies on the Milford Track. You may be lucky in thoer places but you can expect them when you are lower down and near water.
I am easily bitten and react badly to mosquitoes but whilst I felt myself being bitten by sandlies I did not come up in welts later. I would not say that ANY of the sprays/lotions really work but if it makes you feel better by all means use them. What does work as others have said is:

1. keep moving - so if they are around walk,run, jump, swim anything to keep airflow moving around you.
2. Cover up - helps (but not a complete gurantee
3. DO NOT SCRATCH - at all. Count to 10 or more if need be and resist the temptation to scratch. The itch will pass.

mlgb Jul 5th, 2012 09:08 PM

I don't remember a problem on the Otago Peninsula but then isn't it always windy???

In general I don't remember them around the coastal areas on the east side of the South Island, eg Moeraki, Oamaru, Akaroa, Kaikoura, etc nor very much around Arthur's Pass or Mt Cook. Maybe the higher altitude/colder nights?

Funny story about that poor bugger that followed you out to sea, ThomasW

One oldtime told me that when he used to go out to the west coast to fish you could hold a piece of bread out and they would form a black layer like Vegemite. Probably he was exaggerating a bit.

Diamantina Jul 6th, 2012 02:21 AM

In more than two years of being here in Dunedin (and going out to the peninsula about once a week), my husband and I have never had a problem with sand flies. I don't think I have even seen one here, though surely there must be some. Twice I have been out on a wildlife cruise around Tairoa Head (the tip of the Otago Peninsula), and I didn't see them on the water, either.

Like mlgb, I have never seen them in Moeraki or Oamaru. I have only been to Akaroa once, but didn't see any on land or on the dolphin cruise. I have never seen them down on the Catlins Coast, though I have only been down there three times. Normally I am a bug magnet, but, miraculously, I didn't even see them when I went out on an overnight cruise on Milford Sound (where they are usually omnipresent), but I think this was due to the weather, which was extremely foggy and cold. I have seen plenty of them on New Zealand's West Coast.

Sand Fly Bay on the Otago Peninsula gets its name from the fact that when it is windy the "sand flies." It is quite beautiful, so don't miss it. Don't worry at all about sand flies on the Otago Peninsula or on Dunedin's beautiful Tunnel Beach trek. Best to visit Sand Fly Bay in the afternoon when you might see the Yellow Eyed Penguins come in. Hooker's Sea Lions often can be seen lazing about during the summer (these are much bigger than the more common NZ fur seals which you can also see around Dunedin).

It's a great time for wildlife viewing here in coastal Otago, Blue Penguin numbers rise, the Royal Spoonbills return for the summer, the young Royal Albatrosses are still in their nests, the White Fronted Terns are nesting.

Diamantina Jul 6th, 2012 02:32 AM

You asked about Wellington and Auckland, too. No, don't worry about sand flies in Wellington or Auckland.

I have been to Rotorua twice and never noticed a sand fly and I stayed on a lake. The sulphur scented air did bother me, though.

caligirl56 Jul 6th, 2012 08:14 AM

Wow! Thank you all so much. I'm so glad that covering up with clothes helps--that just leaves the hands and face. I know if there is anything out there to bite me, that I will get bitten. Insects love me! Ha!

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