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Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
524 posts
50 reviews
59 helpful votes
Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I have a quick question regarding summer insects in Tofino. My 10 year old daughter is completely phobic about biting insects (mosquitos, wasps, etc) and five years ago, while visiting Tofino, she was bitten on the feet by little bugs in the surf. Not sure if they were sand fleas or what, but they were almost see through and were in the water right at the tide line. I have been to Tofino many times and never encountered them before. Anyone have any idea what they could have been? Are there biting insects in the ocean or on the sand? We are planning to visit Tofino this July and when we told the kids she told me she didn't want to go because of the biting bugs (she remembers after five years). Since then, we have enjoyed the beach in California, Oregon, Maui and Parksville without encountering anything like this.

Just curious what these could have been.

Vancouver Island...
Destination Expert
for Victoria
Level Contributor
1,227 posts
10 reviews
4 helpful votes
1. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

Most likely sand fleas (aka sand flies, noseeums etc.) Just use bug spray like you would for mosquitoes.

Port McNeill
Level Contributor
562 posts
1 review
2. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I know of the "bugs" you are speaking of, they are more closely related to crabs than to mosquitoes. They definitely bite me if I am standing barefoot in water that is less than 6 inches deep on a sandy beach. Most people do not seem to notice them, don't know if they have thicker skin or don't taste as good as me. About the only way to stop these guys is to either not stand still in the shallow water or get a pair of neoprene booties that they can't bite through.

Edited: 13 years ago
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
524 posts
50 reviews
59 helpful votes
3. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

Thanks so much for your replies.

I guess we will have to bring bug repellent for the flying critters and water shoes for the swimming pests!

Thanks, KingfisherKay, for your explanation. That is exactly what was happening. My kids were making sandcastles and digging moats, etc ,and my daughter was standing in the water filled moats and trenches literally yelping. We filled a bucket with water and let it settle and you could see the little things swimming around. We have never had this happen anywhere else, and noone could tell us what they were (we'd get these looks like we were just crazy city people).

Now I can tell my daughter that they are sea creatures and not bugs and will make sure to pack the little pink water shoes.

Denver, Colorado
1 post
4. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I experienced these little biting critters last year and everyone thought I was losing my mind. It took my 6 year old daughter to be bit this year for everyone to believe me. We caught one. It looks like a fleshy colored little crablike creature with two legs on top and two on the bottom. They hurt!! My older daughter and I are both O+ blood types and we get bit. My 4 year old is B+ and they leave her alone. Does this make any sense? What are these things??

Portland, Oregon
1 post
5. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I'm having the same issue. Here (Yachats, OR,) it's not sand fleas. Those stay JUST above the tide line (right where the sand is dry,) and leave me alone as I stand among them.) The biting ones are just IN the water, right where it stays 1-3" deep. And unlike sand fleas, these little bugs are darker (greenish?) and seem to hurt ANYONE who stays stationary in the 1-3" deep water.

Hong Kong, China
Level Contributor
107 posts
118 reviews
75 helpful votes
6. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

Journeywizard- I would love to read an update on the "bug" issue when you return. We are headed there the end of July beginning of August and my youngest is terrified of bugs and will scream if she feels or sees them while my two oldest will risk it and pay later. Would love to hear what worked for you/ which area beaches are more prone to them etc. We are aware of tips just from other parts of Florida and Carribean, but would appreciate your first hand advice!! Wondering if it is worth to haul our wet suits instead of just renting for surfing since they could be used just to walk around beach or are the "water" shoes/sock enough? Plus I hate to put Deet on my youngest (but will-to prevent the alternative)does Deet really work when standing in water? Thanks and hope you have a great trip!!

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
4,470 posts
108 reviews
215 helpful votes
7. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

Hey KingfisherKay,

When is the cup coming to Port MacNeil??

Port McNeill
Level Contributor
562 posts
1 review
8. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I heard a rumour of mid-August. But I have been out of touch in Gwaii Haanas for over a week, so things may have changed.

Canada
Level Contributor
1,876 posts
8 reviews
6 helpful votes
9. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I am here....NO Bugs !!!

BC
1 post
10. Re: Bug in ocean/on sand which bite ? - 10yo has bug phobia

I am a Tofino resident, guide, tour company operator, and surfer and have spent considerable time with my feet in the water on our local beaches. I have also been nibbled at by these little creatures. After checking in a few of my marine encycopedias, it's likely that the creature we're speaking of is "Cirolana Harfordi" aka: scavenging isopod, harford's isopod and other names.

These little isopods keep the beach clean! They eat, or attempt to eat, anything they come across in the intertidal zone. My tour company used to do salmon barbeques on the beach, and after we were done, we would put the salmon bones, tails etc into the water, and these isopods would gather in large numbers to eat our leftovers. They would of course, also try to nibble on my feet if I stood in the water long enough, but they never broke the skin. I imagine if you stood there long enough they might, but I didn't do the experiment. Their mouthparts are quite small of course, so a pair of aquasocks or neoprene booties would certainly stop you from feeling them, and they likely wouldn't try to bite the neoprene anyways.

In the instances that they've nibbled on my feet, I've never had the type of reaction that is typical as a result of a mosquito or blackfly bite. The "bite" appears to leave no mark, and results in no swelling, but it is mildly painful, perhaps akin to gently pressing on your skin with a pin, without breaking the skin.

No deet required! I sort of doubt deet would even work for very long after being submersed in sea water. It would probably wash off fairly quickly. It should also be noted that these isopods are not present at all beaches, all the time. They seem to be around only some of the time, and then gone. Your chances of being at the spot where they are are relatively low I would say.

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