Sand Flies are members of the Phlebotominae subfamily, which includes many genera of blood-feeding flies. They can be found in a wide range of habitats between latitude 50°N and 40°S (excluding New Zealand and the Pacific Islands), varying by species. They are often confused with other types of biting flies because the common name "sand fly" is also used generically when referring to other genera of biting flies. Sand Flies are small (2-3mm in length) and brownish in colour in the daylight, but their bodies are densely covered in oily hairs which give the insects a whitish, moth-like appearance when illuminated. The most distinctive feature of the sand fly is that they hold their wings in a raised 'V' while at rest, their wings are never closed or laid flat across the body.
Sand Flies are nocturnal feeders, with only the female responsible for biting and then sucking the blood of their host. The bites from a sand fly are painful and leave large itchy bumps. They tend to last longer than and are often several times itchier, than mosquito bites. They find shelter during the day in dark, humid places such as tree holes or under rocks. Sand Flies have very weak direct flight abilities, so they do not hover around their host, thereby reducing the perceived nuisance of the species. Of the 700 species of sand fly, 70 are considered to be vectors of diseases including leishmaniasis, bartonellosis and pappataci fever.