Sand flies belong to the insect order Diptera, suborder Nematocera. Within this suborder, the family Psychodidae includes biting sand flies in diverse genera. The subfamily Phlebotominae consists of about 700 phlebotomine species. 

Sand flies are small insects, approximately 1.2-3.7 mm in length (Perfiliev, 1968), and possess a hairy appearance. Fossil phlebotomines are about 120 million years old (Mehlhorn, 2001).

Among the existing phlebotomine genera, two have been proven as vectors of one of the main zoonotic pathogens worldwide, the protozoan parasite Leishmania. These two genera are Phlebotomus in the Old World and Lutzomyia in the New World.

Scanning electron microscopical image of adult sand fly (Phlebotomus spp.), frontal view 


Sand flies belong to the class of Insecta. Among other characteristics, three body sections are typical of this class.

As mosquitoes, sand flies are members of the suborder Nematocera. Both members can be recognized by their many segmented antennae, which are usually long. Most of the nematocerans are small, slender and long-legged, usually midge- or mosquito-like in appearance. Within the suborder Nematocera, many flies are of economic importance, as pests or even disease vectors. 

The suborder Nematocera is including midges, sand flies, black flies, mothflies, harlequin-flies and mosquitoes. Within this suborder, the family Phlebotominae/Psychodidae includes biting sand flies in diverse genera and non-biting owl-midges or mothflies in the genus Psychoda. The psychodids are small to minute, usually very hairy, moth-like flies that hold their wings roof-like over the body when resting. The adults occur in moist, shady places. Their larvae occur in decaying vegetable matter, mud, moss, or water.

Of the about 700 phlebotomine sand fly species, only about 70 are anthropophagous. Phlebotomines are able to transmit viral, bacterial and parasite diseases (Mehlhorn, 2001). 

The number of genera within the subfamily Phlebotominae is depending on the hierarchical classification adopted, but only sand flies in the genera Phlebotomus (Old World) and Lutzomyia (New World) are proven vectors of Leishmania, though in other genera man-biting flies also occur. Diverse subgenera within the different genera exist.  

Classification of sand flies 

Phylum: Arthropoda 
Class: Insectea (= Insecta, Hexapoda) 
Order: Dipterida (i.e. two-winged insects) 
Suborder: Nematocera 
Family: Phlebotomidae / Psychodidae 
Subfamily: Phlebotominae 
Genus: e.g., Phlebotomus, Lutzomyia 




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