Insects Costa Rica

I am well acquainted with two insects in particular: chiggers (coloradillas-colo-rah-DEE-lyahs) and ticks (garrapatas-gahr-rah- PAH-tahs). Chiggers are actually mite larvae and live in grassy, bushy areas waiting to climb up the legs of passersby, they usually stop at the line of the underwear and get in. Their bites itch like crazy, and the red bumps get worse if you scratch them. To discourage chiggers, dust sulfur powder on socks, feet, ankles, and lower calves before you walk in the grass. Put some on your pant legs. Mosquito repellents are not effective. For bites, Caladryl or Eurax cream helps; some people take an antihistamine for severe itching. The effect of the bites can last for weeks. the best way to get rid of them is it to apply alcohol on the bit with cotton, it will die in two minutes.

Ticks hang out especially where horses and cattle are found. You may notice some itching, but you also may feel nothing and then discover their reddish-black bodies under your skin when you undress. Be careful not to leave the biting end embedded because it can fester and cause infection. Apply alcohol, gasoline, or kerosene to the bite or hold a lighted match close to the tick to encourage it to come out. Squeeze gently to help it along. Ticks can carry disease, so if you get a fever after being bitten, see a doctor.

In an area where mosquitoes are bothersome, use repellent and wear protective clothing. (A tip: don't forget to apply repellent on your hands and, when wearing sandals, on the arches of your feet.) Some places provide mosquito netting for beds; if not, inexpensive mosquito coils help. Find them in grocery stores.

Ants in a wonderful assortment of sizes and colors can bite or sting. Try not to stand still without first checking out the area. Sounds easy, but the advice is hard to remember when you freeze in place to observe a great green macaw or a coati. Be alert in innocent-looking grass. A group of us waiting for a plane on a grassy airfield were bitten by ferocious fire ants, and when we landed back in San Jose, we had to do battle again with the swarms that had infiltrated the luggage. For hikes and trail rides, hats and longheaded shirts give some protection against ants that live in trees you might brush against.

If you are bitten by no-see-ums, the gnats known as purrujas in Costa Rica, use an antibiotic salve. You will not only be in more agony if you scratch the bites but also risk infection. No-see-ums live near the coast, preferring areas near salt marshes. Repellents are not too effective; protective clothing works best.

African (killer) bees arrived in Costa Rica in 1982, and you would do well to assume that all bee colonies are now Africanized. Keep your distance from hives or swarms. The stings of Africanized bees are no more venomous than those of your garden-variety bee, but these insects are aggressive and attack with less provocation. The cumulative effect of many bee stings is dangerous. If you're attacked, move in a zigzag motion; you can probably outrun them. Head for water if any is nearby, and cover your head. If someone with you is attacked and cannot move, cover both of you with something light in color and get the person to safety. Remove stingers with a knife or fingernails, being careful not to squeeze more of the stinger's venom into the bite. Apply ice or cold water, and, if badly bitten, see a doctor.

I routinely shake out boots or shoes before I put them on, and shake and inspect my clothes. Having once been stung by a scorpion when I did not, I rarely forget. None of the scorpion species in Costa Rica has fatal poison, but the sting can cause intense pain, itching, numbness of tongue and mouth, vomiting, and fever. Wash the bite with soap and water and disinfect it with alcohol. Anyone with allergies should seek medical help if the bite provokes breathing problems.

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