The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
you wear repellent and socks--and watch where you sit and
walk, Caribbean insects are rarely a problem.
one exception: Mosquitoes, which tend to
be pesky only at lower altitudes around water.
much of the best rainforest walking and hiking is at
altitude, where mosquitoes are scarce.
Greatly feared because of its hairy looks and reputation,
its bite usually is no worse than that of a bee sting. Tarantulas
are often found near banana groves. Some forage at night,
others during the day.
Weavers: Beautifully colored spiders that
weave some of the larger webs, usually hanging between trees.
This includes the famed black widow. So is the golden silk spider,
which weaves webs as much as 2-3 feet across. The strength of their silk webs
is so great that it's actually been used in the manufacture of fabrics.
These feed on spiders and other insects, usually at
night. Human contact usually occurs when the scorpion, sleeping in
a boot or under some rotted wood, is disturbed.
As distinguished from the harmless, worm-like millipede,
the centipede legs are large with only one pair per segment.
It is only the larger, foot-long centipede (Scolopendra dromorpha)
that give a truly mean bite. The jaws of all centipedes have
poison to paralyze their prey.
bees: Found only in Trinidad and Tobago ,
islands closest to the South American continent. Far from true killers, this
species which escaped from an experimental laboratory in Brazil is simply
more aggressive and therefore more likely to sting
than the domestic honey bee. Unless you are messing about
with a bee's nest, you should have nothing to worry about.
Dragonflies: Most common are the skimmers
found near water. These are differentiated from damselflies according to how
they hold their wings when at rest. Dragonflies hold theirs horizontal; damselflies do it vertically, to the rear.
Termites: Most but not all Caribbean termites construct huge spherical
nests in trees or on stumps and do not live on the ground. Termites
usually forage at night, so the chance of seeing them at work is slim.
Leaf-cutting Parasol Ants: You'll probably see
lots of these. They're constant workers, cutting bits of
small leaves and carrying them back to their nest like a parasol. The leaves
are not eaten by the ants but chewed up as a food for a fungus
that grows in the underground chambers, which the ants feed on.
Army Ants: You can't mistake the mass of them streaming by. Just step out of the way and they won't bother you. One islander
told me how army ants were kind enough to come and exterminate his
house almost annually. He says the ants suddenly show up and, starting
from the roof down, kill or chase away every bug in his house. The fellow leaves his home for a couple of hours, lets the army ants do their
work, then returns to a clean, orderly house. The only problem:
the cleaning schedule is erratic, and not always at the best
of times, especially if he has company.
Wasps: If you see something running on the ground flicking
its wings, don't bother it. It's probably a spider wasp out looking for another tarantula with which to adorn its nest. Spider wasps
can grow quite large, with a wing span of up to 3 inches.
Beetles: Like fireflies, they are bioluminescent,
with two light producing organs on the sides of their thorax. They are called
click beetles because of the sound they make to turn themselves
right side up when overturned. Click beetles have the remarkable ability to snap a fingerlike spine on their thorax, something other
beetles cannot do. Once on its back, a click beetle will keep trying until
it finally rights itself. The beetles are sometimes captured and used for
decorations at parties.
Butterflies: Beautiful ones, big ones, in pairs and flying alone,
often surprise you on a rain forest path. Hundreds of different species
of butterflies thrive throughout the Caribbean . Some are bright
and colorful, others camouflaged. On a hike, they are always
a joy to see. These butterflies may be darker and more vivid
than what you are accustomed to.
To Caribbean Plants and Animals Homepage