The term sand flea is used to describe many species of animals. Most people describe sand fleas as very small animals which bite people, leaving welts similar to that of a flea. These welts can be caused by a multitude of animals near sandy or coastal areas. There are also sand flies which bite people and are found in sandy areas including desert areas. Sand flies also leave itchy welts. In order to properly determine the pest and the threat, it is important to have the culprit identified, so it is best to collect the animal (insect or other) and have it identified. Besides fleas and flies, there are biting gnats and midges which may leave welts, so there are multiple possibilities.
Cat and dog fleas are commonly blamed for “sand flea” bites from small biting flies found in coastal areas. There are many creatures called “sand fleas” by people at the beach. However, true sand fleas are present in sandy areas such as beaches and marshes and are crustaceans, not insects and are not harmful.
Although the real sand fleas can prove deadly to their small marine prey, they do not live within human homes and will not infest pets.
If you or your pets are exhibiting symptoms of flea bites, your home may be infested with cat or dog fleas. Contact your veterinarian for treatment options and call a pest control professional to discuss extermination methods.
Chigoe (Tunga penetrans) is a type of insect found in tropical areas. This too is sometimes incorrectly called a sand flea. Tungiasis is the skin disorder caused by these fleas. Reports of individuals in North America are from tourists to other areas of the world. The adults burrow into the host’s skin, usually the feet.