Thursday, January 28, 2010

The ABC's of Island Living

ABC - Ants, Bugs, Critters!

I am sure that I have mentioned in some of my various blogs the abundance of insects on thisisland. When anyone asks me what should they bring when they come here, the first word is INSECT REPELLENT!

We have sand flies, no-seeums (both of which I firmly believe are the same nasty invisible bug), bottle flies, mosquitos, "ankle bugs" (or, for those from the South - something akin to Red Bugs), and then there are your wasps, bees and nasty white and black caterpillars that drop from the Almond Trees and deliver a nasty sting!
This is a partial photo of the caterpillar that drops from the Almond Tree. You DON'T want to be under when he hits you as the sting is powerful and almost paralyzing.

Our friendly mosquito - carrier of Malaria, Dinghy and itchy areas!

This is a photo I found of a no-seeum, but I'm afraid this one is a big monster!

Photo of a bottle fly, but this is not the one I'm talking about. They are almost invisible and leave a large hole with a small red, swollen area around the hole. So, while everyone refers to them as "bottle flies", I doubt that is their real name. Although we have plenty of flies around too.

In the U.S. State and/or County officials load up tanks of spray and go through neighborhoods periodically spraying for bugs. They spray orange, cane, wheat and corn fields by hand and by plane. They spray for flies and mosquitoes and anything that proves to be damaging to crops or an irritant to people. Well, here, we are on our own. You can spray and spray and spray, rake the beach and keep your property trimmed so as to discourage pests, but they will always be there. I often told my husband that if humans were ever wiped out, insects would take over because they seem to tolerate anything!

Right now we are battling ants! Ok, ok, maybe they can't do what is pictured here, but they are strong, energy packed and have a mean bite. The ants, however, that we are fighting now are teeny, tiny sugar ants that have, after 12 3/4 years, invaded our house.

Up to now we had have no ants in the house and maybe, on a rare occasion, a roach. It seems that the little geckos take care of a anything that happens to sneak into the house, which is fine with me. The only thing I have to deal with concerning them, is the excrement they leave behind - and they leave plenty.

Anyway, back to the ants. We were invaded early last year and my husband got the poison powder out and sprinkled it under the house, at every support beam, every step bottom, every hole that might look like it was home to the ant. Well, it seemed to work and we were, basically, ant-free again.

I have small ant mounds in the backyard and of all the bites I get, I hate ant bites the most. They sting and itch and if the right one bites you, a small pustule forms and is there for days! I will be hanging clothes on the line and invariably they go for the spot between my third and fourth toe, just where I have my surgical scar. I don't know why they love that spot so much, but they hurt like the dickens when they bite. I don't even have to stand in one spot for very long before they will be covering my foot. And, it is worse when I walk into areas of the yard that are not "fully developed" shall we say. Man, you step into one of their almost invisible mounds and you've had it.

Unfortunately, the recent rain must have driven these little suckers back into my house and, in spite of the poison, which has now washed away, they are back and in greater numbers than before. Every morning, before I do up dishes, I rinse all the dishes and they sit on the counter awaiting the final cleaning. Before I know that, especially when my back is turned, they are all over the dishes, even though there is no evidence of food in them!

So, lately, I have been tearing cabinets apart and countertops, cleaning with bleach and vinegar where possible, and putting down more ant powder where I can. I know that the bleach or vinegar won't kill them, but it makes me feel better and, temporarily, seems to wipe out their trail scent. Now, I know some of you are going to say - kill them with "natural" ingredients. Sorry, on this island, there is little of any of the things you all will bother to mention if you post a comment! The people on this island have depended on chemicals for effective slaughter of insects and are not interested in "natural" stuff. Oh, I could put down borax but THEY DO NOT HAVE IT HERE! When I do use chemicals, I make sure that my pets do not have access to it and it is in a container so as not to contaminate my food.

I have an on-going battle with the termites who have decided to dig under my sidewalk leading up to the house. They haven't exactly dug under the sidewalk, more to the edge and then start building their long tunnels overnight across the walkway. Every morning I come out and destroy the work from the night before. And it continues on this way until the rain comes. The rain seems to discourage them from building and, for now I have had a reprieve. I put down poison designed specifically for termites and it has no effect on them - too many I guess.

I also find that bugs are subborn. Just today, after soaking some dirty rugs overnight and then putting them through the wash/rinse cycle in the washing machine, I unloaded the rugs into my basket and went outside to hang them up. Lo and behold as I picked up one bath rug there was a huge black scorpion clinging to it and still alive! I shook and shook the rug to make him lose his hold and finally had to hit him off with a stick and then, yes, I stepped on him (I had a shoe on my foot). It is amazing that not only scorpions but other bugs have managed to live through the wash/rinse cycle of my washing machine. They must hold the world record for holding their breath!

There are scorpions in our bodega which my husband has found loaded with babies all over their back. He calmly scoots them into a container (a man thing), and then takes photos of them for his blog! He then releases them somewhere on the adjoining property. He does not kill them, nor does he kill any tarantula that he happens to find because they eat scorpions. But they sure are doing a poor job of it in my bodega!

Then we have nests of wasps which build homes under the eaves of our house or in many of the bushes surrounding our home. Many times my worker has been stung by a wasp while trimming back the hibiscus bushes!

We have beetles, snakes, huge green horn caterpillars that destroy tomato plants, san po po ants that can literally clean a bush of all its leaves overnight. We have mice, possum-like critters, stick bugs and spiders of every size.

So, Paradise is not the lovely place you see in the movies, or the jungles that people travel through totally un-bothered by any biting insects. No, in the movies that depict "Paradise" or "Jungles", those people are being eaten alive by insects that are so small you cannot see them.

So, come prepared and informed! They are here and out to get you!


  1. I really like "The ABC's of Island Living" because I know what you are talking about! When I'm down there, I come back with welts all over my body from the no-see-'ums! I HATE those little bugs. Yea, I was going to suggest Borax because it really, really does work wonders. I think that Mike needs to start importing it to sell. He could make a million easily. I hope to get down there to visit before the heat of summer sets in. I enjoy your blogs.


  2. Some pretty horrifying photos!
    My major issue is the "amigas" those teeny tiny ant like creatures that come out of pin holes in the tile grout at the kitchen counter.
    Yes, I use borax -too mild! I've resorted to liquid ant killer at the cook stove table and quite frankly have absolutely no shame about stragetic use of Raid around the stripped bare kitchen when I'm leaving for the day.
    Thankfully, I've adapted to different standards in Honduras and no longer care about correct-ness. You are right - this is all out war! giggling, Stephanie

  3. I'm getting itchy reading this post! :-)