Blood-sucking flies common around beaches

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SARASOTA, FLA. - Tiny, uninvited guests descended on Siesta Key Beach Monday afternoon.

“Bugs. Little, black, they kind of look like ants and they’ve got wings on them,” said Dominic McIntyre.

Descriptions of the biting invaders varied from person to person.

“Some people starting getting up and batting what they thought were flying ants or fleas,” said Judith Grampp.

“I didn’t actually see them until, if you looked down on the sand, they would be in there but I didn’t really see them when they were biting me,” explained Francesca Peck.

The stinging raiders were enough of a nuisance to drive some people off the beach.

“They are just kind of really biting you and they are all over making you itch,” said McIntyre.

“They are very irritating. We were going to stay to sunset but we can stay any longer” said another beachgoer.

ABC 7 went to New College of Florida and talked with Dr. Elzie McCord Jr., Professor of Biology for some answers as to what could be biting at the beach. He says the Suncoast has a couple of resident blood-sucking insects that could be the culprits.

“At a beach setting, sand flies are probably the most common flies that will bite on the beach but then there are no-see-ums too. The sand flies belong to the Phlebotominae flies and the no-see-ums belong to the Ceratopogonidae flies but they are all a blood-sucking flies.

McCord says the bite of both types of flies can leave whelps on the skin and be very painful.

“People have a lot of common names for these small biting flies. They call them punkies and sand flies and sand fleas and all those kind of things but the true name is called sand flies,” explained McCord.

He says if you do experience biting insects during a beach trip, the same sprays that protect us from mosquitoes can also help protect us from biting flies.

Siesta Key Beach is one of the best beaches in the world and folks who talked with ABC 7 said it would take more than a few biting insects to keep them away from such a beautiful beach.