Summer Fun

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Small sand creature, big bite

The benefits of warm weather are numerous. More hours of sunlight and higher temperatures translate into plenty of hours of enjoying the great outdoors. People flock to the coastline come summertime, all in an effort to soak up the sun and stroll down the beach.

Perhaps nothing can turn a great beach day into a run for cover more than an unexpected storm that rolls up the coast. But short of a powerful storm, the small animals that call the sand their home can make a day at the beach uncomfortable, causing discomfort when all a beachgoer wants to do is relax. Sand fleas are often to blame when beachgoers notice their bodies have been bitten. Although they resemble an insect, sand fleas are fleas in name only. They are actually a shrimp-like crustacean. Also referred to asĀ  sand flies, hop-a-longs or biting midges, sand fleas are less than 1/8 inch in size and have bodies that blend into the coloring of the sand, which makes them very difficult to see.

Although sand fleas feed on decaying matter and seaweed that collects on the beach, the females are known to bite to draw blood. They do this in order to stock up on protein to lay eggs.

The saliva from the sand fleas can cause an allergic reaction similar to other bug bites. Despite being so small, sand fleas can pack a wallop and their bites are quite painful. In addition to pain, a welt or rash may appear on the skin where the bite was made, and that rash can last several days. Sand fleas cannot jump very high, so bites will be concentrated around the feet and ankles if you are not lying down on the sand.

Sand fleas tend to feed in the early morning hours and then again at dusk. Avoiding beaches during these times can cut down on bites. When sand fleas cluster they produce a high-pitched whining sound. If you hear this on the beach, be aware that sand fleas are likely nearby. Sand fleas may be repelled with a standard insect repellent.

Gadsden Times