Suffering sandflies

Right now, it’s hot and humid on the island of Utila, the smallest of the Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea and just off the coast of Honduras – do read my Travel Guide to Utila Honduras – but I’m itching and scratching and quite miserable.

I’m literally covered in hundreds of bites from tiny biting sandflies, or as everyone on this island calls them, No-See-‘Um’s.

They spoil what would otherwise be an idyllic and perfect way of life here.

This post is to give you expert (me!) tips and advice on how to avoid being attacked by biting flies and No-See-‘Ums!

An empty beach…. but is it really?

I’ve encountered biting beasties in several places around the world. In Scotland, during damp summers, we suffered from the pesky midge making walking or camping a trial. Here, in the heat and humidity of the tropics, we have plenty of mosquitoes and also the dreaded yellow fly that everyone calls the ‘Doctor Fly’ – but at least they are large enough to be seen.

The No-See-‘Ums, like the Scottish midge, are so tiny that, well um, you can’t see them. Unless they are swarming and by then it’s too late and they are all over you and you are also breathing them in.

I have hundreds of raised red welts all over my body. They are painful and as itchy-as-hell.

Although sandflies are non-venomous, and they can carry disease in certain areas, their bites are mostly harmless although highly irritating as I’ve found out. They can be found in many places around the world and of course, being practically invisible, they can turn what looks like a paradise into a nightmare.

I wasn’t even aware that I was so badly bitten until several hours later and it will no doubt take several days to recover. Until then I’ll walk around attracting sympathy while looking like I have the plague.

One thing that a No-See-‘Um has in common with a mosquito is that they are often more prevalent just before rainfall and afterwards and it’s only the females that bite. This is because they need blood proteins so they can produce eggs and more pesky sandflies! And, not only are they almost impossible to see, they are annoyingly hard to avoid or repel.

Tips to avoid being attacked by No-See-‘Ums

Although preventative measures can and should be taken to avoid being bitten these can include:

1) Staying indoors with all doors and windows closed and the air-con on cold. Not fun or practical!

2) Covering up. The second-best way to avoid being bitten by any biting flies but, like staying indoors all summer, who wants to be covered up from head to foot in the heat and sun of the tropics?

3). Wearing a repellent. This works to a degree against mosquitoes but frustratingly it doesn’t seem to work against the No-See-‘Ums. Who knows, maybe they don’t have a sense of smell?

Interestingly, it seems to me that there are three types of people in this world.

1) There are those that get bitten by sandflies and go around looking like they have the plague and with a look of misery about them and most of their body parts covered in big round angry itchy welts.

2) Then there are the rare lucky ones who for some reason don’t seem to ever get bitten.

3) Then there is the third type. The type of person that gets bitten but is totally immune.

Ninety-nine percent of the tourists I see here fall into type one. I believe type two must be practicing voodoo, taste really sour, or have skin like leather. All the locals living on the island are typically a type three. This means there is hope. It means it is possible for most people – given time – to become a type three because the body will finally start producing a natural antihistamine against the bites.

I’ve been here for almost a month now, but two years ago, I lived on this island for many months – see My Secret Place In The Caribbean and indeed after about three months, I started to notice that I was still getting bitten by the sandflies – their bites feel like tiny painful pinpricks – but I was no longer reacting to them. I was not getting the swollen red welts and the bites didn’t itch. And, if the bite didn’t itch and I didn’t scratch then it wasn’t an issue anymore. I had finally joined those immune types and paradise had indeed been found.

But, as it has been two years, I’m apparently back to being type number one.

And of course, that’s no help at if you are here on holiday/vacation for just a week or two.

Tips to avoid being attacked by No-See-‘Ums

So what can you do in the meantime to avoid being attacked by No-See-‘Ums?

1) It seems that sandflies can’t bite you in a breeze so try to sit next to a fan or any stream of moving air.

2) I’ve heard some people advocate eating marmite. I’ve not tried this. I would try this, but being on an island where a boat brings supplies on a Tuesday and a Friday, no one I know has marmite.

3) I do know that sandflies can’t seem to bite you if you are wearing oil on your skin. Any oil might work but I advocate wearing plenty of coconut oil. The little devils might get stuck on you but they aren’t able to get their teeth in so easily.

I advocate wearing plenty of coconut oil to stop the No-See-‘Ums biting you.

Have you ever had your holiday/vacation or your summer spoiled by those pesky No-See-‘Ums?

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Kay -

Such little buggers aren’t they?! We’ve got ’em by the bucketful in the West African jungle. It’s interesting how people react differently to the bites. For me they burn like crazy for about 20 minutes then go away. As long as there is no scratching they tend to disappear.
Oil is DEFINITELY the greatest thing for it. We’ve got a thicker, dark palm nut oil that helps sooth irritated bites and prevents them from biting more. I love it so much. “Have fun getting that on your wings ya buggers!!”


Hi Kay – thanks for reading and for your reply – I absolutely agree that a natural oil is the best deterrent against the no-see-‘ums!

Astrid -

Hi Janice,
So glad I found this article. I currently live in San Pedro Sula, here from the States for hubby’s work. Went hiking up the Coca-Cola trail, stopped to have a wonderful coconut and got bitten up. Sitting here trying not to scratch as I write this. Absolutely miserable! We’ve been to Roatan (never got bitten btw) and now looking to visit Utila. Would love to hear your thoughts as to where to stay on the island and good eats. Will visit your Instagram.
Great article, thank you.


Hi Astrid – I’m so happy that you found my article on biting flies helpful – I’m also a victim of bites and stings at the moment and so taking my own advice lol! Utila is a wonderful island and would recommend the Utila Guide to you while planning your trip.
There are several spots on the island I love – the public beach at Chepes and Bando Beach at the Point and my favourite beach spot is Coral Beach and Neptune’s restaurant and bar there. There are many great places to eat on the island. I love Mango Tango for fine food and cocktails with a sunset view and RJ’s for BBQ (fish meat & veggies) and Mango Inn for pizza oven pizza’s. Will you be diving? I can recommend Tank’d Pro Dive Shop at Odyssey Resort.

Nick Bennett -

Hi Janice, know what you mean about noseeums We lived in the Caribbean on various island for about 5 years – the last few up north in the Virgin Islands. While we were there we experimented with all sorts of repellents and then eventually created our own which in turn led to the setting up of our company – The Solid Bar Company – we then moved to Florida and then eventually back to the UK – but we still ship our repellents out to the US and the Caribbean and mote recently set up a distribution point in the USA again – you might want to take a look – good luck and it was great to read about your travels anyway!


Hi Nick. Thanks for the visit and for your comment about those no-see-ums! I love the sound of your solid bar products and I’ll be checking out your website and social media channels.

Samantha Burris -

So much that can be done to stop sandflies from biting you. I’ve heard so many raves about Avon’s Skin So Soft Body Oil but haven’t really tried it myself, but consumers reports actually shows that it’s useful for about 2 hours. You will need to keep applying consistent for a more potent and long-lasting effect.

Repellents are actually good too, especially if you choose to hang out on the beach.

Would I look weird if I actually bought a portable citronella candle and lounge on the sand? Anything to get rid of no see ums, right?

Would love for you to check out a recent post I wrote on the subject about how to prevent no see ums from biting. I really think your readers could benefit from it, too. We have them a lot here in Jamaica.

Source >>


Thanks Samantha – I’ve tried Avon Skin So Soft and it smells nice and feels great but it’s a heavier oil like coconut oil that works best I feel. Thanks for your link – I will take a look. Sending best wishes to you in Jamaica!

Callum -

Firstly ten out of ten for uprooting from your comfort zone and discovering the world outside Scotland . As a fifty six year old Male I started travelling around six years ago. China, Cambodia , Malaysia and Thailand were just some of the countries visited , North Korea remains a definite ‘maybe’. I could probably write a book from my current life as well as my previous when I was an Edinburgh publican for over thirty years !
I look forward to further updates / blogs and wish you both good health and happy travels .


Hi Callum and thanks so much for your message about your travels. I do think more people should get out of their comfort zone to travel and explore the places you have mentioned. We loved travelling in Asia and will certainly go back. Don’t think I want to go to North Korea – in its current state – but South Korea we have been on many occasion as we have family living there. I think you should consider writing that book!


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