by Bob Thomas
I awoke early one morning on a small Belizean caye. The air was fresh, the sun was just rising, and I was very comfortable in my nicely screened tent. I stepped outside to stretch, and immediately felt unbearable itchy-stingy sensations on every exposed portion of my body. I was being accosted by zillions of sand flies.
Seconds later, I found my only relief – I was underwater.
Sandflies, also called no-see-ums or punkies, are common along the Gulf coast. Since they are so small – only 1/16th of an inch long, they became known as No-see-ums because the bite is obviously unpleasant and there appears to be no culprit.
There are many species, some thriving in salt marshes, others in fresh systems. Their larvae live in wet situations, and metamorphose into adults that often swarm during windless periods.
Like mosquitoes, only the females bite humans for the sole purpose of getting a blood protein boost for egg production. They are strong biters that can thoroughly annoy anyone.
There are two predictors of their activity: 1) they tend to be more active with less air movement and 2) they appear to be attracted to body heat. This means that working in the yard, or playing sports, on calm afternoons can be so uncomfortable that one has to vacate the premises. Knowing this, however, means that relaxing on a screened porch with a fan blowing may be a workable reprieve.
Normal insect repellents rarely work well. For years, knowledgeable locals knew that only Avon’s Skin-so-soft worked to ward of the pesky insects. All coastal sportsmen have experienced those sultry, windless days on the water when unprotected fishers are slapping their skin and fussing while others are calmly casting, but smelling very, very sweet!
Now there’s a new sheriff in town – Victoria Secret’s Amber Romance spray. It is a non-oily solution. It’s fun to go into one of their stores dressed in dirty camouflage and ask, “Do you have any of that stuff for no-see-ums?” The salesperson, without a blink, always takes you directly to the Amber Romance shelf.
By the way, I’ve never been back to that heinous caye.