The body of a sandfly is divided into head, thorax and abdomen
Head: The head bears a pair of long, slender and hairy antennae, palpi and a proboscis. Only the females bite, the males live on vegetable juices.
Thorax: The thorax bears a pair of wings and three pairs of legs. The wings are upright, lanceolate in shape and densely hairy. The second longitudinal vein on the wings branches twice, the first branching takes place in the middle of the wing. This is a characteristic feature of the genus, Phlebotomus. The legs are long and slender and out of proportion to the size of the body.
Abdomen: The abdomen has 10 segments and is covered’ with hair. In the female, the tip of the abdomen is rounded; in the male, there are claspers, which are conspicuous and attached to the last abdominal segment.
Sandflies may be distinguished from mosquitoes by the following characteristics
Size: Sandflies are smaller than mosquitoes.
Wings: The wings of the sandfly are up–right and lanceolate in shape, the second longitudinal vein branches twice, the first branching taking place in the middle of the wing
Legs: The legs of the sandfly are longer compared with the size of the ‘body’
Hairs: Sandfly is a hairy
Hopping: Sandflies hop about, and do not fly by choice.
The life history of the sandfly is characterised by complete metamorphosis, having four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
The eggs are laid in damp dark places in the vicinity of cattle sheds and poultry. The eggs are comparatively large, and torpedo–shaped with longitudinal wavy lines on the outside. The eggs hatch within 7 days.
The larvae are hairy maggots with a distinct head, thorax and abdomen. The last abdominal segment carries two pairs of long stout hairs; one pair is remarkably long. The larva feeds on decaying organic matter and becomes a pupa in about 2 weeks.
The pupal stage lasts for about 1 week.
The average life of a sandfly is about 2 weeks.