Sand Flea Control in Your Home or Business
Beachgoers commonly blame “sand fleas” for small bites they find on their legs after beach visits. The term is used as a cover-all that applies to many species of small, biting pests that reside in sandy environments.
For residents of New England, actual fleas are not the cause of bites that occur while at the beach. Some terms also used to describe beach pests that jump include:
- Sand hopper
- Beach flea
- Beach hopper
The Chigoe flea (Tunga penetrans) is the type of flea most commonly referred to as the sand flea. The chigoe flea is found in tropical environments like South America and Africa. In the United States, the chigoe flea has only been found as far north as Southern Florida and poses no concern to residents of New England.
New England beachgoers may experience bites from a sand-dwelling crustacean officially known as Orchestia agilis. Though not actually a flea, the crustacean is often unofficially called the common beach flea.
Similar to actual fleas, Orchestia agilis can use its strong legs to leap onto hosts. These insect-like crustaceans are active at dusk and dawn and are known to feed on blood from humans and animals.
Sand Flea Bites
Sand flea bites appearing in Maine, Massachusetts, or other New England areas most commonly come from creatures that are not actually fleas or insects at all. The main culprit is Orchestia agilis, a sand-dwelling crustacean that is dark brown or gray in color and about three-eighths of an inch in length.
Often referred to as the common sand flea, Orchestia agilis is known to bite humans on the ankles and lower legs, similar to actual fleas. Sharing a number similarities with insects, the crustacean may be deterred by insect repellant.
What Do Bites Look Like?
Orchestia agilis bites show up as itchy, raised, red bumps, resembling flea bites. Sand flea bites do not pose a serious health risk to humans, but:
- Victims are advised not to scratch wounds
- Further irritation may prolong the healing process or lead to infection
- Ice or cold packs may be used to try to reduce swelling of bites
For some victims, bites may develop into rashes. Victims that experience severe swelling should visit a medical professional. Pets are also susceptible to bites from the small amphipods, and owners should consult veterinarians before considering potential pet repellents or treatments.