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Sand flies
Temporal range: Barremian[1]–Recent
Phlebotomus papatasi
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
Family: Psychodidae
Subfamily: Phlebotominae
Rondani, 1840

The Phlebotominae are a subfamily of the family Psychodidae. In several countries, their common name is sandfly, but that name is also applied to other flies. The Phlebotominae include many genera of blood-feeding (hematophagous) flies, including the primary vectors of leishmaniasis, bartonellosis and pappataci fever.

Sand flies are small; a body size of about 3 mm in length is typical for many species, which aids them in escaping notice. Their bite is not always felt, but leaves a small round, reddish bump that starts itching hours or days later. Use of insect repellent is recommended in areas where sand flies are present.

Diet and reproduction[edit]

Phlebotomine sandflies have a diet that includes both blood and plant-derived sugar meals. Phlebotomine females, and only females, suck blood from various mammals, reptiles and birds, while both sexes consume sugary substances like nectar, honeydew, and phloem sap from plants.[2]

Some species are selective about their hosts, whereas others bite any suitable host they find. Some species can produce one clutch of eggs before their first blood meal; such females are said to practise autogenous or partly autogenous reproduction. Other species need a blood meal before they can produce any eggs at all; they are said to practise anautogenous reproduction. As far as is known, all species need a blood meal for every following clutch of eggs. Proteins and other nutrients in the blood they eat enable the female to produce the proteins and fats necessary for them to produce eggs after using up their bodily food stores.[3] In feeding on blood, the flies use their mouthparts to initiate bleeding from the host. They then suck up the exposed blood. Like practically all blood-feeding parasites, they inject biochemicals that inhibit blood clotting, plus some that stimulate host mast cells to produce histamine; this distends capillary vessels, thereby promoting blood flow.

One blood meal can support the production of about 100 eggs. Females lay their eggs in humid soil rich in organic matter. Laboratory colonies of various phlebotomine sand fly species have been established for experimental study.[4]

A 2018 study showed that several sandfly species in different parts of the world displayed a notable preference for Cannabis sativa as part of their plant-derived diet, suggesting it might be highly attractive to them.[2]

Health concerns[edit]

Lutzomyia longipalpis feeding on human blood.

As sand fly females suck blood from vertebrates, including humans, they can transmit leishmaniasis, arboviruses and bartonellosis.[2] In the New World, leishmaniasis is spread by sand flies in the genus Lutzomyia, which commonly live in caves, where their main hosts are bats.[citation needed] In the Old World, sand flies in the genus Phlebotomus spread leishmaniasis.[citation needed]


Phlebotomine sand flies can be found between the latitudes 50°N and 40°S, but are absent from New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.[5]


Gallery: anatomy of Phlebotominae[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Azar, Nel, Solignac, Paicheler, Bouchet. "New genera and species of psychodoid flies from the Lower Cretaceous amber of Lebanon". Palaeontology.
  2. ^ a b c Abbasi, Ibrahim; Trancoso Lopo de Queiroz, Artur; Kirstein, Oscar David; Nasereddin, Abdelmajeed; Horwitz, Ben Zion; Hailu, Asrat; Salah, Ikram; Mota, Tiago Feitosa; Fraga, Deborah Bittencourt Mothé (13 November 2018). "Plant-feeding phlebotomine sand flies, vectors of leishmaniasis, prefer Cannabis sativa". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115 (46): 11790–11795. Bibcode:2018PNAS..11511790A. doi:10.1073/pnas.1810435115. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 6243281. PMID 30373823.
  3. ^ Braverman, Y. Nematocera (Ceratopogonidae, Psychodidae, Simuliidae and Culicidae) and control methods Rev. sci. tech. Off. int. Epiz., 1994,13(4), 1175-1199
  4. ^ Lawyer, Phillip; Killick-Kendrick, Mireille; Rowland, Tobin; Rowton, Edgar; Volf, Petr (2017). "Laboratory colonization and mass rearing of phlebotomine sand flies (Diptera, Psychodidae)". Parasite. 24: 42. doi:10.1051/parasite/2017041. PMC 5687099. PMID 29139377. Open access icon
  5. ^ Killick-Kendrick R. (1999). "The biology and control of Phlebotomine sand flies". Clinics in Dermatology. 17 (3): 279–89. doi:10.1016/S0738-081X(99)00046-2. PMID 10384867.
  6. ^ a b c d e Galati, E.A.B. (1995). "Phylogenetic systematics of Phlebotominae (Diptera) with emphasis on American groups". Boletín de Dirección de Malariologia y Ssaneamiento Ambiental. 35 (Suplemento 1): 133–142.
  7. ^ Mangabeira, O. (1941). "3a contribuição ao estudo dos Flebotomus. Evandromyia n. subg. (Diptera: Psychodidae)". Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 36: 215–233. doi:10.1590/S0074-02761941000200003.
  8. ^ Azar, D.; Nel, A.; Solignac, M.; Paicheler, J.-C.; Bouchet, F. (1999). "New genera and species of psychodoid flies from the Lower Cretaceous amber of Lebanon". Palaeontology. 42 (6): 1101–1136. doi:10.1111/1475-4983.00112. S2CID 84535813.
  9. ^ a b c d e Barretto, M.P. (1962). "Novos subgeneros de Lutzomyia Franca, 1924 (Diptera, Psychodidae, subfamilia Phlebotominae)". Revista do Instituto de Medicina Tropical de São Paulo. 4: 91–100.
  10. ^ Poinar Jr, George. "Palaeomyia burmitis gen. n., sp. n.(Phlebotominidae: Diptera) a new genus of Cretaceous sandflies with evidence of blood sucking habits". Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington.
  11. ^ Mangabeira, O. (1941). "4a contribuição ao estudo dos Flebotomus. Psychodopygus n. subg. (Diptera: Psychodidae)". Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 36 (3): 237–250. doi:10.1590/S0074-02761941000300001.
  12. ^ Mangabeira, O. (1941). "5a contribuição ao estudo dos Flebotomus. Viannamyia n. subg. (Diptera: Psychodidae)". Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz. 36 (251–262).

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