This is one of three sand fly species that are feared by kiwis and tourists alike and considered as the most bloody annoying animal in Aotearoa. Their tiny size makes them invisible, and their overwhelming numbers invincible. Legend says that they attack people because Tūmatauenga, the Atua of war and people, had killed Namuiria, the former leader of the sand flies – Namu, for stealing his hā.
While the other two species are either solely found on the South Island or both islands, A. australense is our special North Island species.
There are actually 19 species of sand flies endemic to New Zealand, but be assured that apart from those three man-biters, all the others prefer bird blood. Those three species have probably feasted on seals, hence they are adapted to mammal blood. Knowing this, it makes sense that we are often attacked by sandflies at the beach.
When Captain James Cook visited Fiordland in 1773, he was troubled by these tiny beasts unknown to him and named them sand flies, although members of this family are commonly called blackflies.
Similarly to mosquitoes, only the females draw blood, because they need the protein for their eggs.
The larvae are aquatic and can withstand very strong currents by attaching themselves to rocks. You can spot them in streambeds waving in the water flow like seaweed.
Check these links for more info on the Sand Fly in NZ
iNaturalist.nz: Observations of Austrosimulium australense
Wikipedia: Information on Austrosimulium (black flies)
Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand: Sandflies: New Zealand’s blackflies
Click on the image to visit the official iNaturalist.nz observation.