This guide contains everything you need to know about biting insects in New Zealand and natural insect repellents.
How do you avoid getting bitten by sandflies in New Zealand? Which natural ingredients and essential oils are most effective at repelling sandflies and mosquitoes? Which natural remedies soothe itchy insect bites?
At Tui Balms we’ve been on a mission to find highly effective, natural alternatives which benefit people and our planet. Based in the Abel Tasman National Park since 1984, we pride ourselves on living happily alongside sandflies and mosquitoes! We are happy to share with you what we’ve learnt so far.
And what DO our natural insect repellents contain?
- Active ingredients proven to be effective on NZ sandflies and mosquitoes
- All ingredients sourced from whole natural substances
- Safe options for sensitive skin and children from 6 months of age
- Option of dual purpose repellent and soothing balm for already bitten skin
Other essential oils
While they didn’t make our short-list, homemade insect repellent recipes for sandflies, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas can also include:
- Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)
- Thyme (Thymus)
- Rose geranium – especially for ticks (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
- Orange oil – including Mandarin (Citrus reticulata), Chinese wild mandarin (C. reticulata chinase Blanco) and Sweet orange (C. sinensis Osbeck)
Natural remedies to soothe insect bites and stings
Some people who react strongly to insect bites choose to take antihistamine tablets or apply hydrocortisone cream.
If you’d like to try some natural alternatives, here are some ideas…
Coconut oil is versatile and soothing. Many people claim it repels insects, too!
Aloe vera is particularly soothing and super hydrating. We love aloe butter.
Vitamin E promotes healing. Rich in antioxidants, it helps preserve essential oils too.
Beeswax is packed with healing, protective properties. We use certified organic beeswax from Canterbury.
Chamomile tea can be applied topically to calm the skin after being bitten.
Ice cubes give short-term relief if your bites are bad and you’re not out in the bush.
Maori Legend about the Sandfly
According to Maori legend, on seeing the natural beauty of the Southern Sounds, one of the gods feared that humans would want to live there forever.
So, to remind people of their frailty and mortality, she released the sandflies (namu) and commanded them to fly into the Sounds. They’ve been doing a fantastic job ever since… especially around Milford Sound!
“I have had an entire year to test the Tui Bug Spray in some of the highest density sandfly areas in the South Island, including Fjordland, South Westland and and the Kahurangi National Park. In these areas, combating the “flying teeth” can make or break a day in our wilderness adventures.
I’ve had a 30 year search for an answer to this problem, and in 2016, I finally found it, Tui Bug Spray! I recommend it to anyone I meet in the field and would not send a client into the bush without it. Try it, or regret it, it’s that simple.”
Jules Evans, NZPFGA fishing guide
Sandflies vs Mosquitoes
What do you need to know about mosquitoes versus sandflies?
- Mosquitoes are most active during the evening and at night. Consider sleeping under a mosquito net if need be. You can even spray the net with Tui Bug Spray during the daytime and it will keep mosquitoes away even better at night.
- Mozzies can bite through thicker fabrics than sandflies. Leggings/tights might not suffice to protect you. Consider wearing thick or baggy clothes. Applying natural repellent to clothing works, too – though if you’re worried about damage, always test a small, discrete patch first!
- Mozzies love stagnant water like ponds and lakes. Watch out for forgotten buckets of water in the garden, as these might be breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
What about the Mount Mauler?
Mount Mauler are tiny midges found on the North Island beaches near Mt Maunganui. They’re known to leave people with nasty red spots that can take ages to heal. We’re delighted to hear that Tui Extreme Bug Spray works on them too. Bring on the beach!
South Island vs North Island
As a rough guide, sandflies are more prevalent in the South Island and mosquitoes are more common in the North Island. Plus, of the three sandfly species that bite, arguably the worst biter (Austrosimulium ungulatum) is only found on the South Island.
Hotspots include the Westcoast, Fjordland, Milford Sound and Stewart Island – including Great Walks like the Milford Track, the Kepler and the Heaphy.
Here in the Abel Tasman, the home of Tui Balms, it’s warm and mild enough to attract both mozzies and sandflies – lucky us! Fortunately our repellents work on both, plus bed bugs, midges, leaches and horse flies.