Sand fleas in Belize

Well, here on Ambergris Caye, sand fleas have abated somewhat in the heavily populated village area.

The expedient used is raking the beach daily. I'm told this lets the sun fry their tiny little eggs and keeps their numbers down. More humans, fewer sand fleas. Preferences vary.

The repellent for mosquitoes is DEET. This does not work for sand fleas. For sand fleas you must use Skin Fantastic in the turquoise bottle.

In days of yore in Placencia, a pioneering resortist named Jim Gavigan ran a grid of perforated plastic piping under his beach sand and daily pumped in coconut husk smoke by putting the intake of an air compressor close to a husk smudge fire. Said it worked. Some. Citronella ought to work better. Anything to keep from having to watch your guests disintegrate before your eyes.

Their favorite diet is fresh, pale tourist. White skin is the thinnest. Both salt water and sunlight thicken the epidermis, making it harder for them to get lunch. During my commuting years, I learned to proceed quickly from airplane to ocean and marinate before doing anything else. Also, at night, to remove whatever was serving as dust cover or top linen from the bed, take it outside and shake it, put it in another room during the night, and replace it, same side up as before. Little devils seem able to hitchhike on blowing dust and show up wherever it settles.

They and temperate zone redbugs also host a virus that causes a big rough dark skin blotch many people mistake for an early skin cancer. For all I know, it may be precancerous. I sport a bunch of'em.

If infested with those, I'd recommend consulting Alexandra Nicholson, A doctor's daughter, she pioneered Maruba and made a specialty of skin conditions. Her potions do some amazing things. Her combination sunscreen and insect repellent is the only thing commonly accredited to deter sand fleas, and she probably knows a way to get rid of those big freckles, too. Keep meaning to ask her.

She lives on, of course, (ahem) Ambergris Caye.

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For a household solution after visiting, go to the grocery store and buy what comically passes for a papaya in Gringolia. Cut it open, smear goo on itch. Papaya contains the enzyme PAPAIN, a sort of mild vegetable hydrogen peroxide that attacks all necrotic (dead) tissue. Breaks down protein compounds. Most insect bites, stings, itchogenics are protein compounds. While at the store, save a buck by buying some thin, tough beef cuts. Sandwich the rest of the papaya, in slices, between'em. Leave in the refrigerator 24-48 hours, depending on thickness or the toughness of the meat. Don't forget, or you end up with beef butter. Remove the papaya and cook the meat: tender!

The greener the papaya, the stronger the enzyme. For skin application, don't get one too green or it will put a little burn on you. Strong stuff! Will eventually melt warts! Will burn, but not break up, living tissue. Papain is an ingredient in many commercial meat tenderizers.

And the Maya eat ripe papayas to polish the intestinal tract. Sweeps clean and puts a shine on the poop pipes. Megadosing papaya injects beaucoup beta carotene, an anti-carcinogen, and respectable levels of ascorbic acid. Also improves cardiovascular capacity due to sprints required by the gastrointestinal benefits.

sand fleas?
Well, you take your sandfly and put him on the surface of one hard green papaya. Smash mightily with second hard green papaya. Repeat process until all sand fleas have been eliminated. Guaranteed 100% effective. If papaya supply runs low, hardwood blocks are a suitable substitute. Perfectly eco-friendly: all components and sandfly remnants biodegradable. Not responsible for environmental impact of metallic tweezers or magnifying glass.

Plebotomine Sand Fly Control Using Bait-Fed Adults to Carry the Larvicide Bacillus sphaericus to the Larval Habitat

Leon L. Robert, Michael J. Perich, Yosef Schlein, Raymond L. Jacobson, Robert A. Wirtz, Phillip G. Lawyer, and John I. Githure. AMCA Journal 1997, 13(2), 140-144.


Sugar meals of plant origin are an important component of the sand fly diet. We show that sugar solution baits have potential as vehicles for phlebotomine sand fly control. In the laboratory, adult Phlebotomus duboscqi Neveu-Lemaire and Sergentomyia schwetzi (Adler, Theodor and Parrot) that have consumed an aqueous sucrose solution containing Bacillus sphaericus Neide toxins, and are subsequently eaten by larvae, produce significant larval death (P<0.01). In the field, when vegetation near animal burrows and eroded termite mounds was sprayed with sucrose solution, with or without incorporation of the larval toxicant B. sphaericus, 40% of female sand flies fed in situ. Dispersing B. sphaericus-carrier sand fleas caused significant larval mortality (P<0.01) in resting and breeding sites in animal burrows 10-30 meters from the sprayed vegetation for 2-12 weeks post-treatment. Also, adult sand fly populations breeding and resting inside animal burrows were significantly reduced (P<0.01) following direct application of the sucrose/B. sphaericus solution to the burrow entrances. This control effect lasted 4-10 weeks post-treatment. The effect was not seen for sand fly populations breeding and resting inside eroded termite mounds. This approach may be useful for the application of biological control agents against phlebotomine sand fleas in biotypes where larvae and adults utilize the same habitats.

John Lankford

From a visitor to Belize....
Let me start by saying that, whenever I travel to Belize, the sandflies and mosquitos all get together and throw a big parade. I'm one of those "pale, white tourists" most susceptible to their wrath. A few years back, I had a particularly bad case of ugly red welts all over my legs during a visit to Placencia. During a tour of the Monkey River, our local guide noticed my "affliction", chopped a small peice of bark from a gumbo limbo tree (the "tourist tree" -- has peeling red bark) and told me to rub some of the sap on my legs. Being the Human Guinea Pig that I am, I rubbed the sap on only ONE leg. By that evening, the welts on the treated leg had noticeably faded, while the untreated leg remained, well, pretty much the same. Has anybody else heard of this remedy?

Gumbo Limbo sap also used to treat Poison Wood burns, must be applied within about 20 minutes to be effective. Not difficult if you know about it as Gumbo Limbo always grows within 20 feet of the Poison Wood. Also has same remedy on fire coral burns, but unless you are carrying Gumbo Limbo bark with you on the sea you better find something else. Good news/bad news story; I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to have been burned by GL the afternoon before the fire coral and had taken GL bark on the trip , "just in case". Fresh Aloe Vera aids healing radiator steam burns also.

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