Sand Fleas

What are Sand Fleas?

Sand Fleas, also known as beach hoppers, hop-along, beach fly or sand hopper, are any of several terrestrial crustaceans from the family Talitridae (Amphipoda). Sand fleas are often mistaken for insects because of their extremely small size. Sand fleas are extremely small crustaceans that are difficult to see with the naked eye. If you look closely at an image of a sand flea, they almost resemble a shrimp. You will often have to stare at an area of the sand for a period of time before you can start seeing the fleas jumping around

How to Identify a Sand Flea

A common sand flea that is found in North America is the long horned sand flea (T. Longicornis). These sand fleas are often found on the Atlantic coast of North America. Being approximately 1 inch long, the long horn gets its name from its long length. The European sand flea (Talitrus salator) is approximately .6 inches long and can be found near beaches when the tide is high. These crustaceans will remain buried in the sand during the day and often forage for organic debris at night. The Sand Flea larvae feed on tiny aquatic animals as well and can be immediately spotted at the beach. Its structure is that of a crustacean that lays its eggs in rotting seaweed. This rotting seaweed is also their meal when not able to feed on humans as they feed on all organic and rotting plants.

When you notice seaweed being washed onto shore, you’ll find a cluster of Sand Fleas around it. It is noticed that they normally feed on paler skinned people as the skin is thinner making it easier for fleas to pierce through. These Sand Fleas reside in the sand during the warm weather, attacking anything that would be 10 inches of the ground such as a beach goer’s legs. A beach goer can spot a bunch of bites around their ankles while looking for seashells. The groups of Sand Fleas can also produce a whine so high pitched that you can hear it, so when you hear a similar sound on the beach, it would be best to get a move on or get bitten. Their stings on the other hand can induce endless welts and lesions with severe pain and itching.

When the weather is cold, Sand Fleas move along with the ocean towards warmer waters to live in. They normally stay by their breeding ground not straying away for more than 350 feet or 100 meters. Sand Fleas are quite persistent in their goal to bite and suck blood that they jump onto the feet, ankles and legs just to bite. The female bites in order to get the protein from the blood she needs for her egg laying.As the flea pierces the skin, they inject their saliva that allows them to draw out the blood thinly making it easier for them. However, this saliva can trigger the human’s body
system to react.

This video is a great example of what sand fleas look like in the sand:

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4 thoughts on “Sand Fleas

  1. Lisa Ann Kelly

    It would be helpful in this article if you would specify at the outset which beaches in the world tend to have sand fleas. I am a Santa Barbara native (California) and have spent years on local beaches, in all kinds of weather. I have yet to be bitten—-ever—-by the critters we call “sand fleas” here. I have corrected many people over the years when they have talked about biting sand fleas existing on Santa Barbara beaches.
    I am the first person in the room to be bitten by dog/cat fleas or mosquitoes. But I cannot believe what you have written about sand fleas living in peoples’ homes. Where is this occurring? Beach homes? Your article smells like a hoax to me. Please enlighten me.

    Reply
    1. Jennie Rose

      Hello Lisa, I live north of Santa Barbara near Pescardero, CA, and this past Monday, my boyfriend and myself went to Table Rock Beach and the beach was fuuuulllll of sand fleas!! My goodness I was in amazement. We both were astonished and have never seen anything like them before. He mentioned they could be sand fleas (avid surfer who knows the beach well, yet very rare does he see these creatures), and I laughed in disbelief of the possibility of these being real. Came to my attention only when I googled sand fleas, did I find this blog article. I could not agree any more with you on the fact that these critters mainly stay on sand and out of peoples’ homes, but on the rare occasion one sticks, they can be bothersome. Howver, in my experience, the sand fleas covered the dry area of sand from land to ocean, but as soon as the water hits the shore they burrow underground into their holes. Luckily, we were able to walk on the wet part without being taken out into the waves, but man those little suckers sure jump and they certainly do hop high and often!! Interestingly enough, sand fleas are so real. Really like fleas. Go figure!

      Reply
  2. ca mcdaniel

    never heard of sand flea referred to as “no see um’s”. two different creatures, they are not midges, they are crabs.

    Reply

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