Bugs

Especially in the wet season you may run across no see ums.  Around dusk and after dark seem their favorite time: midday is probably too hot. Various kinds are found all the way into Alaska and they are all equally annoying. They will be all over Southwest Florida, not just on the beach, but they seem to really like the islands.

Avon’s ” Skin-So-Soft” keeps them away.  No kidding.  So does an insect repellent with DEET. Sunscreen with insect repellent in it might also be a good choice.

We’ll not spend a lot of time on mosquitoes in this section because they are mentioned elsewhere when we think you might have a problem with them. In general, mosquitoes aren’t much of a nuisance on the beaches as long as the breeze is onshore (coming off the gulf). When the wind shifts and blows from an inland direction, mosquitoes may come along.  Spraying programs do a pretty good job of controlling them in town. As you’ll see, out in the Everglades or other swampy areas away from beaches and towns,  mosquitoes can be a problem. Keep a supply of repellent containing DEET  with you.

Palmetto bugs are a Florida phenomena. If you go to the link, you might observe, “Why, these things look just like roaches.” Well, yes, they do.  Because they are.  The picture in the link is about actual size. They look a lot bigger when you see them in the dead of night after turning a light on. Palmetto bugs take their name from their habit of living in the dead palm fronds of certain palm trees (until we came along with our houses full of good stuff to eat). Or so the story goes.

The tourist industry thinks “palmetto bug” sounds so much nicer than “really big roach.” That’s where I’d put my money as to the derivation of the name.

You may run across them pretty much anywhere. They are mostly harmless but, like all roaches, can carry disease.  Insecticides specific to roaches control them. They also make good bass bait.

Fire ants are also everywhere in the south where the winters don’t freeze the ground very deeply. They’re in my yard and yours, too, if you live down here. They really do want to be left alone and would stay on vacant lots as long as they had enough food.  As it is, the ant colony will outgrow a given location, move elsewhere, and aggressively colonize the new area (like a pasture or somebody’s yard).

In spite of the stories you may have heard about them killing people, it is unlikely. Some people, of course, are allergic to the venom in the fire ant sting and should take precautions to avoid them. Fire ants can torment pasture animals, where the infestation is large enough and the animals can’t get away, to the point  that the animals become too stressed to eat, lose weight and might even die. Fire ants aggressively defend their mound by swarming the intruder and both biting and stinging. This really does feel like a tiny fire repeated  a hundred times and can get your attention in a hurry.  They want you to get the hell off their mound.  When you get far enough away they will back off.

If you find yourself in this predicament, move away, take your shoes and socks off, and run the hose over your legs.  This will take care of the ants that didn’t get the word to “back off.” I then wash the area of the bites with alcohol. The stings will often form pustules that can last several days and itch like crazy. A benadryl spray helps some. You could try an ammonia or baking soda solution to reduce swelling but mostly you’re going to just have to wait it out.

Various poisons will kill them or repel them so that they at least  go someplace else.  I know of no natural remedy for them. They left whatever natural predators they had in South America.

We have the usual assortment of other insects and spiders but nothing  you wouldn’t see in about the same numbers elsewhere in the south. Problem crawly critters include black widow and brown recluse spiders, silverfish, roaches, and termites ( We”ll deal with termites a bit more in the real estate section under “houses”). Usually, you’re better off having a professional pest control company deal with a serious infestation involving any of these bugs and spiders. Neither the black widow nor the brown recluse nor other predatory animals will hang around unless their prey is present. Their eradication, therefore, involves elimination of the prey.

Prevention mostly entails keeping the house clean (especially the kitchen), not leaving food scraps in the sink or on the tables or counters, and using a covered garbage can.  Moth crystals in the garbage can will deter most of these bugs from using it as a dining room.