Ok, so I should have done this research before I went on my trip, but I hadn’t realized that Stewart Island was prime sandfly territory, and only remembered that they were a complete nuisance in the Abel Tasman. Live and learn. There are a number of great sandfly resources online which is mind-boggling. To name just a couple: Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand has a great article on sandflies including historical accounts of them.

If you don’t think that some little fly can cause havoc, consider the following:

While surveying Doubtful Sound in the summer of 1851, Captain John Lort Stokes of the Acheron was tempted but resisted putting the names Venom Point, Sandfly Bay and Bloodsuckers Sound on the map, after encounters with the biting insects. (Source)

There is also a Sandfly Nuissance Map, and Goodbye Sandfly, a company that specializes in offering non-toxic sandfly repellent, offers an interactive sandfly map of New Zealand where people can create sandfly reports.

Māori legend has it that sandflies were created to stop people admiring the stunning landscape of the Fjordland and keep moving (Source).

Things I already knew

  • Keep moving.
  • Apply sandfly repellent regularly (though I am happy that rancid bacon and camphorated lard from the 19th century did not become the remedies of choice).
  • Do not scratch (very hard!).
  • Cover up.

Things I learned

There are a few things I can keep in mind for next time when I’m in sandfly territory:

  • Wear light-colored clothing instead of dark clothes as sandflies are more attracted to dark / warm colors.
  • Sandflies are found closer to the ground. Thus, worry about feet and legs first and stand up.
  • Certain repellent may have to be applied every hour to be effective.
  • Check a sandfly map to determine the severity.
  • There are 13 species of sandflies and of those only two bite.
  • Only female sandflies bite (but how would you know when you see them?).

Product idea

Since it will not be possible to eradicate sandflies in some of the most scenic areas of New Zealand (just look at the map!), I think it would be great if manufacturers looked into producing sunscreen that is also an effective sandfly repellent (and to market internationally, has sister products for mosquitoes etc.). That way, you solve two problems at once and the luggage of the poor tramper is lightened as well. If that combination were non-sticky so you don’t end up with a heavy coat of cream / oil everywhere and can’t touch a camera anymore, I’d be in heaven.

If you want to read more about my vacation on Stewart Island, check out the following posts:

CC BY-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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