What are sand fleas?
The sand flea, also called the "no-see-um" or the "hop-along", is an annoying flea-like creature who packs a mean bite. Its bite is actually a sting and they group by the hundred, typically causing a lot of bites when they attack.
The European species is only one tenth of an inch long and resembles a small mosquito, whereas the long-horned sand flea, commonly found on the American east coast, has antennae up to one inch longer than its white waxy body.
Sand fleas feed in the wee morning hours and late dusk. Since the larva of the sand flea eats tiny aquatic animals, you will typically run into this insect when you are at the beach. The sand flea resembles an insect but is actually a crustacean and lays its eggs in rotting seaweed, on which it feeds, when not preying upon pasty white beachgoers. Paler skin is thinner and therefore, easier for the flea to penetrate.
These sand fleas live in the sand and will attack anything within ten inches of the ground. That is why the beachgoer will find a cluster of bites around his or her ankles if they've been out seashell hunting. That is, only when the weather in warm. In the winter they move with the ocean towards warmer waters.
Their swarms will produce a high pitched wine so if you are on the beach ad hear something similar, beware. Their stings can cause welts and lesions lasting hours on end, along with pain and itching. The sand flea is not a pleasant animal but can be avoided with the use of an everyday insect repellant.