Turn away now if you are eating your lunch. I’m sorry to inflict my horrid, pasty white legs on you but you should know what vicious little bastards live in Oxford. And I’m not talking about some people I’ve met over the last year of living here. I’m talking about sandflies. New Zealanders who cross the ditch to live in Australia panic over snakes and spiders. What they fail to mention is that New Zealand has its very own nasty little critter that is practically invisible. If you’re thinking of moving to or visiting NZ, make sure you are prepared to go into battle with these fierce bastards.

Last week, I noticed bites on my legs. Ruling out the possibility of thirsty vampires in Oxford, I initially thought that maybe I was allergic to a horse I’d been riding. But that didn’t really make sense as I’m around horses all the time. A few days later, whilst out on the arena with one of my horses – I spotted a teensy weensy fly-like thing and then….this little bastard bit me on the hand. Imagine the hubris of it all!

I looked around the arena and noticed a lot of little flying bastards. After some discussion with locals I was told “oh yeah, welcome to New Zealand. You’ve been bitten by sandflies”. What the? Apparently, the sandfly is really a small black fly-like insect and it’s only the females that bite. Beeeeatches! I reckon these beeeeatches could carry off a beefy NZ All-Black. They like to be near flowing water and we have a small stream that is close to the arena so that probably explains their presence.

I’ve spent the last week in itchy hell. The bites can often turn into large, raised red welts that itch. And the idea is not to scratch them because you could cause an infection. Yeah, well try coping with hideously itchy legs at 3.00am. I’ve had to resort to taking antihistamines to calm the itching. I’ve also been using Lavender essential oil to calm the heat of the bites down and dragged out of a packing box Greenridge’s Chickweed Gel (brought across from Oz).

Mosquito bites are kindergarten in comparison. They only last a few hours or so. Sandfly bites are far itchier than mozzie bites and last longer too. The insects are about 3mm in length and their real talent is how they can bite without you actually knowing. It’s only hours or days later that you start noticing (and feeling) large red itchy lumps.

I’m now looking into how to nuke these little bastards. Failing this possibility, I’m researching into how to avoid being bitten. Obviously, one can step outdoors bathed in a cloud of insect repellent but I don’t like using chemicals. I’ve read that eating Vegemite repels them because they don’t like Vitamin B. Well, I’m an Aussie and I eat Vegemite all the time so looks like the sandflies failed to get this message. I suppose Brewer’s Yeast could work as it contains high levels of Vitamin B. Must try this. I’ve also read that an effective repellent is equal parts of Baby Oil, Dettol and an aromatic oil such as citronella or lavender.

The good news (if there can be any good news out of this) is that your first round with the little bastards is the worst. You suffer. But your body builds up internal resistance to the toxin the sandflies inject, so your next tussle with these little creatures isn’t so bad. Guess this is how locals spot the newcomers – newcomers are covered in large, red welts. One local farmer looked at me sternly and said “walk“. He told me that sandflies are slow-moving insects and can’t keep up with you if you’re constantly on the move. And I was also told to wear light colours because darker colours are an attractor.

As far as I’m concerned, this is WAR. It’s me or the sandflies and I can tell you who’s going to win this battle – and it ‘aint some puny blood-sucking little beeeeatch!

One of my pasty white legs covered in hideous large red ITCHY welts - courtesy of NZ sandflies.

This chickweed gel for itchy red inflamed skin has really been helping relieve the itching frenzy.