Some of the bugs that make beach sand their homes include antlions, sand wasps and sand fleas. However, the term “sand flea” is applied to various species of creatures – some of which are not bugs. While parasitic varieties bite to consume blood for food, others bite as a defensive mechanism against unwitting intruders.
Antlions are insect members of the scientific order Neuroptera, family Myrmeleontidae. While antlions are not parasites, their larvae are highly predatory of ants and other insects. Generally, antlion larvae dig funnel-like pits in the sand and bury themselves inside with jaws projecting out of the pit to capture prey. Because they do not consume human blood or other matter, people that are bitten by antlions are accidental victims. Upon maturity, adult antlions do not eat food, but are sustained by the nourishment consumed as larvae. In the United States, a common name for antlion larvae is 'doodlebug.'
Sand wasps are members of the Crabronidae family, subfamily Bembicinae. Many sand wasps look like yellow-jackets, but can be distinguished by their beak-like upper lip. Sand wasps make their burrows in the sand and place their larvae inside. They do not consume human matter. Adults feed on nectar while larvae eat insects captured by their parents.
Sand Flea - Emerita, Talitrus and Orchestia
'Sand flea' is the common name for several species of crustaceans that live in the sand. According to Orkin Pest Control, these crustaceans are “true sand fleas,” even though they are not actually insects. These crustaceans include members of the genuses/genera Emerita, Talitrus and Orchestia. Emerita sand fleas are also called mole crabs and are used as prize bait by fisherman. Talitrus sand fleas are nocturnal. Orchestia sand fleas are multi-colored and prefer moist sand. These creatures do not consume human blood, but instead, all eat other types of organic debris.
Sand Flea - Chigoe
The term sand flea is also applied to insect members of the genus Tunga. These bugs -- also called chigoe, pigue, jjigger and nigua -- are primarily distributed in tropical regions, where they live in beach sand and dry soil. They are highly parasitic, choosing many different warm-blooded hosts, including humans, cats, dogs, pigs, rats, cattle, horses and other wild animals. Chigoe sand fleas usually burrow into the feet of their hosts.
According to Mayo Clinic.com, bite treatment is determined in part by the symptomatic reaction to the bite. While some symptoms are mild, only consisting of itching or slight irritation, other symptoms can be more serious including nausea, swelling, rapid heartbeat and anaphylactic shock. In addition to the general range of reactions to sand animal and bug bites, chigoe sand fleas cause the health condition Tungiasis. Depending on the symptoms or associated health conditions, treatments for bug bites include the removal of the bug (if applicable), hydrocortisone cream, antihistamines and antibiotics.