War in Panama: attack of the sandflies

Yes, these are my legs. Yes, they have seen better days. I woke up a couple of nights ago and counted 85 sandfly bites on my left calf alone. I don’t understand why I don’t see anyone else chewed to pieces. Why do they love me so much?

Last week, I spent trekking through the Corcovadorainforest in Costa Rica and didn’t get a single bite. I was ready to fight mosquitoes in Panama’s Bocas del Toro, but I wasn’t prepared for sandflies! They have mosquito nets here but those pose no problem for sandflies. The sandfly is basically invisible, doesn’t make a noise, is about a quarter of the size of a mosquito and much faster. By the time you feel them biting you, they are gone. If there is a definition of irregular warfare, this must be damn close.

I brought repellent (40% DEET) and have been using it religiously during my hikes through the jungle. I should have been better about putting it on at night, I guess. That’s when sandflies attack. Apparently, most sandflies are harmless (except for the really itchy bites) but some carry the parasite Leishmaniasis, which can result in ugly sores, scars and if left untreated, death.* That does not sound like fun. Meanwhile, I am putting all my energy into NOT scratching.

* I find that 5 to 6 bottles of Panama beer makes one forget about the imminent death by tropical parasites.