Sand Flies are the only real pest you will find in the New Zealand mountains. There are no snakes, leaches, dangerous spiders or any other creepy crawlies that our unfortunate neighbours in Australia have. Sand Flies are smaller than a mosquito and are plentiful in most wilderness areas below 900m (about 3000ft). They are present year round but do not come out when temperatures are freezing. They prefer shady forest out of the hot sun and anyone who has experienced them will attest to their particular talent for driving you mad. Their bites cause a slight welt similar to a mosquito bite which will itch for a day or so. Some people (not many) have very bad reactions to the bites which swell and are very uncomfortable.
Luckily for us, sand flies have several weaknesses.
1. They are slow - even at a slow walking pace they can not keep up and you will not notice them. Like wise when it is windy they can not cope and will retreat to the grass or sheltered forest. If you stop for a break, endeavour to stay out in the open where there is enough wind to keep them away.
2. They go away at night - as soon as it gets dark the sand flies will disappear, only to return at first light. In the early summer when it is light until nearly 10:00pm it can be a trial to wait for them to go away, but there is always relief ahead if you are able to wait until dark.
There are many different ointments and insecticides to keep sand flies away but in my experience the only thing that really works is to cover up. Long pants, socks, hat amd gloves are all essential if you are forced to sit still when in sand fly territory. If you think you will really be bothered by sandflies, a light head net can also be a good idea. Rain coats and pants are often used to fight these flying pests. Once you are on the move they will not be a problem and you can strip back down to more comfortable tramping clothing.
For those people who believe they maybe prone to an allergic reaction to a bite, it is worthwhile to carry some anti-histamine medication in your personal first aid kit.
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