The Pernicious Pests Of Paradise

The cay we live on is truly a beautiful place. Our little bungalow overlooks the gentle Sea of Abaco. Our north shore shoulders the cobalt Atlantic. Colorful reefs fringe our iron shore. There are swaths of bright green, grassy pastures in between, stippled with mini orchards of sea grape trees, buttonwood, and palms.

From the moment we arrived here, we were captivated by the wildlife that called this rock a permanent or transient home. Yellow-crowned night herons stalk ghost crabs across the beach. Bottlenose dolphins have cavorted offshore, swimming around our mooring ball, yards from our knee caps as we stood in the shallows, utterly entranced. We have even had the epic privilege of being visited by a mother loggerhead turtle that heaved her huge bulk out of the ocean to cross our island and lay 36 eggs in a burrow she painstakingly dug out with her hind flippers.

Truly Paradise.

However, Mother Nature is a multi-faceted jewel, and living off the grid, with much of our time spent in the grand outdoors for work and play, we also endure the less appealing creatures nature has to offer. Allow me to introduce you to my Top 4 Public Enemies in Paradise:

Paradise Enemy #1: No See Ums

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Minuscule, near invisible, blood sucking midges. I am positive they are the insect version of the evil Harpies of Greek Mythology with their microscopic talons and fangs. As I sit on the shoreline, sipping wine on a rare, utterly still evening, they light me on fire. Peace is impossible. I can hardly see these wee vampires, never mind swat them to death. Instead, I squirm and spill wine until I can take it no longer and run up the beach to the comforts of the indoors, making sure to close doors and windows behind me, because these little devils can sail through mosquito mesh with room for aerobatics. Oddly enough, they either have a very strict curfew or poor night vision because as soon as light fails, they disappear. And we are always grateful for the reprieve.

Paradise Enemy #2: Doctor Flies

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On the other end of the size spectrum, these beasts are the Goliath version of the blood suckers we encounter in Paradise. With empirical evidence being my own blood and tears, I am convinced that these brutes enjoy a healthy dose of salt with their meal. I am more often than not happily lolling in the cushion of the sea’s positive buoyancy when I hear their loathsome buzz. Immediately my eyes roll into their sockets as I frantically scan every inch of the sky trying to spot the winged fiend. When the intruder finally finds a piece of flesh above water, I must then endure the angst of letting it settle comfortably on my skin, sharpening its mouth shears preparing to puncture, before I can deliver a felling blow. I think science should research the resilience of the exoskeleton of the doctor fly, because I am constantly amazed that upon delivery of a giant Muhammad Ali-sized punch, the little horror, upside down on the water’s surface, will right itself, and with an annoyed buzz, fly off to plan another assault. Great, now it’s pissed. Where’s my towel?

Paradise Enemy #3: Hermit Crabs

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At first these odd creatures were considered friend not foe. I delighted in their lumbering travels across the lawn, dragging their cumbersome bedrooms with them wherever they went. If I thought I had their intended travel plans right, I would pick them up and roll them where I assumed they were headed. I figured this saved them days of travel time. My visiting niece was treated to cheerful mornings applying puffy stickers and paint to bling out their shells. Hermit crabs need new homes as they grow, and I was fascinated with their uncanny ability to find the real estate they needed, on a cay where the inventoryΒ could not have met the housing demand. I never saw a naked hermit crab.

But their initial charm soon wore off as I began to observe a slightly more insidious quality to their nature. They can smell a plate of dog food an acre away. Upon detecting this delectable dish, they would begin their recon mission en masse. What looked like innocent sea grape leaves covering the ground, would suddenly become a heaving mass of hairy legs and claws, slouching towards the odiferous dish like the beast in WB Yeats’ The Second Coming. Horrible. More then once I have heard one of my puppies hollering, and I would dash outside to see what was amiss. Hanging determinedly off a bottom lip, or delicate belly skin, was one of these little terrors. My hard-earned garden was considered a gift made in their honour. Time after time, I visit this formally happy place only to find the entrails of my tomatoes and peppers, hanging off severed stalks. This was war.

The game of “who can collect the most hermit crabs” began. The largest were left alone out of respect for elders. The others were plucked up by the bucketfuls. Getting rid of them after collection was an interesting challenge. I thought it would suffice to dump them off our 200 ft long dock. But days later, a drenched line of somewhat miffed-looking hermit crabs could be seen hauling themselves out of the surf. I recognized them by their bling. Next time, I will take them out a little further – like the mainland, to become someone else’s nightmare.

Paradise Enemy #4: Plant-eating Caterpillars

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Living on a rock, I soon came to appreciate the investment involved in landscaping. The cost of desirable plants from mainland nurseries is astronomical. What I have spent in an hour of flora indulgence I am certain that somewhere else, I could have bought an acre of land to grow them myself. After swallowing this unpalatable purchase pill and transporting them back to the cay, I then must plunge them into the salt-drenched dirt that covers my rock and pray they survive the salt infusion. After many weeks of balancing my water hoarding tendencies with my need to keep my plants alive, I am blessed with a pink and white skirt of oleanders around my bungalow. Happy times!

Then one day I see it: perched prettily on their branches, a bright orange caterpillar. Then four, then a dozen. I delight in the anticipation of beautiful butterflies soon to be floating across the cay. That is, until I take a closer look and notice the cookie cutter nibbles being taken out of my precious wards. My oleanders were getting a daily crew cut! Google, here I come!

I am introduced to the Spotted Oleander Caterpillar Moth. No longer do I have visions of dancing butterflies in my head. This moth and its destructive larvae have come to top my list of Island Invaders. After trying a selection of natural pesticides, I find that nothing seems to stop this munching army. So I resort to a more direct approach. Beheading. Armed with kitchen scissors and protective clothing, I dive into the leafy arms of my plants, set on an apocalyptic mission. After reading that both the milk and the caterpillars themselves can be severe irritants, I am careful with my snips. Some still manage to fall into my hair and shirt, so I must temporarily abandon my efforts to jump and squeal and fluff them out of my hair and bosom. With furry orange carcasses littered about, my job for that day is done. But the caterpillar plague is an ongoing battle. I have become much more desensitized in my culling. Nowadays I am quite comfortable with marching around the perimeter of my bungalow in a bikini sans scissors and simply reaching in and popping the fat little critters with my fingers. Caterpillar body fluids in the eyeball are indeed an irritant, but worth the discomfort for the satisfaction.

– Β  – Β  –

Yes, it might be time again to get off the rock if this is my new ceiling in entertainment.

What Pests of Paradise to you consider your top enemies?

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Ange Dovel

About Ange Dovel

Ange grew up in Nassau and has lived most of her life in the mostly sunny Bahamas, with a short, somewhat bewildering detour to a Canada as a teenager. As soon as she reached an age of autonomy, she skipped out of that winter wonderland and headed back to her island home.

Swimsuit fashion shows and mixing cocktails led to some memorable adventures on the rock as a young adult. Maturing into a slightly more responsible woman, she started working with dolphins as a trainer, then a medley of critters such as meerkats, lemurs, boas, and flamingos at the local zoo.

Somehow, The Fates led her Texan husband and her to care-taking a small, private island in the Abacos. Moving from a rock to a pebble was actually a bigger adjustment than she expected. Social interaction, such as wining and dining and getting together with the girls, had been a vital element of island life in Nassau. This has since wound down to a quiet glass of wine (or three) on the porch for sunsets, just she and her husband. Dining is a daily struggle to achieve creative culinary genius when every meal, every day, three times a day has to be made by one of the two of them. Since hubby doesn't speak Girl Talk, one way chit chats with her potcakes, chickens, and the tame curly tails on her porch has become a tepid replacement for time with her gal pals.

But the life of a hermit is one she loves and although their human visitors are few and far between, their home is Grand Central Station for pelicans, pilchers, lemon sharks, and the occasional mama turtle, looking for a safe place to stash her eggs. Even an orphaned raccoon by the name of Wally spent some unforgettable months with them (thankfully not at the same time as the turtle eggs). Currently, their fur/feathered family on the rock consists of three potcakes, seventeen chickens, and a revolving door of foster puppies rescued from the little fishing towns of Abaco.

Between cay duties, she spends her free time on a rescue organization they started called, North Abaco Potcake Rescue. She is currently co-producing a documentary highlighting these rescues called, "It's a Potcake Life!" with Vaccaro Creative Productions. The rest of her free time is spent traversing the cay from one end to the other, from chicken coop to puppy pen, as bearer of meals, love, and the aforementioned riveting island sip sip.

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24 thoughts on “The Pernicious Pests Of Paradise

    • I hear you! And to drench yourself in those pungent repellents just not an option.. gorgeous sunset, glassy ocean and nice wine mingled with the distinct scent of Off up the nose, just doesn’t work for me! πŸ™‚

      • Have you tried the Lutra recipe of extra Vitamin B yet? Seems to ward off the worst of them, anyway πŸ˜‰ … loved this entry.

        • Vit B? No first time hearing of it! Is it in wine? If so I am fully loaded!~ Wouldn’t hurt to try and thank you! πŸ™‚

      • Have you tried the extra Vitamin B route as yet, which works pretty well on ‘lutra? Loved this entry, gyal πŸ˜‰

  1. There are quite a few critters I got to hate in Antigua. There are the mosquitoes that come out finally when it is cool enough to sit outside. The sandflies that come trough the window meshes. The cockroaches, mice and ants that we are fighting constantly. The bedbugs and mites that bite our bottoms at night. And of course if you are busy in your garden, collect plants or walk in the grass after rain there are the tarantulas. The poisonous frogs give our dogs warts and the snails are feasting on my flowers and garden plants. πŸ™

    • Yes! Those buggers! Not sure what hell they are spawned from! Cockroaches can make me an Olympic high jumper in a millisecond.. thankfully none of those of the other beasties on the cay!! There is that Barracuda the size of me under the dock though… πŸ˜›

  2. Crabs / Hermit crabs are my enemies in my garden, they have no mercy on my seedlings.
    On a more interesting note. I read somewhere – true or myth – that having bird feeders which attract wild birds, also keeps mosquitoes away ( by the birds ). Since I have a flock of little Island birds hovering over my bird feeders, I seem to have a lot lot less mosquitoes buzzing about.

    • They decimate our garden no matter how inventive I get to prevent this.. and don’t let me start with the chicken house..the floor moves.. ugh! And they consume more chicken food then the chickens do! Hey I do have bird feeders… and no mozzies! Will have to google! Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Hey, Ange, I smiled my way through that, enjoying the wonderful & amusing scenarios you conjured up. Then came the bursts of laughing out loud! You have a very real gift for making humerous descriptions out of everyday life on your rock. Keep it up please, in between all your hard work with the Potcakes, the chickens, etc.!!! Ever thought about keeping a diary/ journal & writing a book? You’ve definitely got the talent for it!
    Thanks for this. I look forward to the next one! xx

    • Awww thank you Chris, love connecting with you thru this blog.. this is my life! πŸ™‚ And thank you that made me smile from ear to ear.. lovely to hear this!! XXOOOOO!!!

  4. I find that the annoying “critters” are seasonal, weather dependent, site specific and most issues with them are preventable. My family has a small home on Eleuthera, next door to Abaco. Some years, rats are the problem, we always have in house scorpions(though less than ever now), flies have been out of control up and down the island for a few years now, noseeums always at dusk and dawn, and mosquitoes after the rains. No one mentioned the cute lizard poop trails which annoy me no end. My house guests seem concerned the gaulding herons sit on the gutters and do business going to the cistern water. Also, for some reason, many of us are fighting tiny ants like never before. Other than that, we are blisfully happy. We often wash the stuff off of the plants with dish soap! Such minor irritants are meaningless to the overwhelming stunning beauty that brings the desirable peace we all seem to cherish! Oh-just loved this post!

    • We had a problem with mozzies before Sandy blew them to New York! So yes for sure weather dependent and we have a lot less of the pests then the mainland! We love Eluethera! And SO remember the scorpions waiting in the tub! πŸ™‚ And the ground spiders blending in with the screened windows (not) and yes absolutely they do not take away from how lucky we are to be living on our island paradise! Cannot have one without the other in Nature and we would never do with out our wildlife! πŸ™‚

  5. You have to be quick with the Doc flies, when they are lying upside-down on the water you have to slap them with your open hand and drive them under the water. If they surface again, repeat. I have been fortunate all my life that most flying bugs are not that attracted to me. Eating a steady diet of garlic might help, I am told. Luckily my new location has no mosquitoes or sand flies or roaches, heaven. We do have spiders, house flies and fruit flies, but none of those bother me.

    • That is the Double Tap that someone mentioned on the post! Will practice and perfect! πŸ™‚ I do like garlic and how many people can I offend on my wee rock? I count one! Our mozzies are gone (thankful) and we have never had roaches (hallelujah!) sand flies yes I can live with too.. have you tried those fly bags that you hang up and the flies walk into it but cannot get out? I have no idea what fetid concoction they put in this but just add water, stay up wind and get ready for a horror show of a bag of drowned flies.. full to the brim!

      • Sandflies are worse than mosquitoes! They are a nightmare! They are not really flies but a type of flea! They bite harder, get through anywhere, itch longer and more intensive.

        • I think I do have actual nightmares about sandflies.. wake up itching! And YES they do! And they LOVE fresh meat! Had some friends from Canada come down and they had a shmorgesborg! That delicate white skin must have been a white flag waving.. . they had the welts for weeks!

  6. I had to laugh at the no see ums . Last year while vacationing on Stocking Island in July, I was literally attacked one day. This lovely resort- maybe the only one on the island has no pool; so I spent my days by the water and sand, two days into vacation I was itching like crazy and my legs; as well as my forearms were polka dotted with angry red bites. It took a month after getting back to the states for them to go away. Not only will I abstain from visiting in July I will come armed with plenty of oily bug spray

    • Isn’t it crazy how long the welts stay for!? Some of my friends were convinced that they carried them back with them burrowed in their skin, munching away long after leaving the islands! I was like um not likely.. but yes the still summer months can be a wee bit brutal with them around!

    • OMG can I tell you that your nightmare brought the memories of My Worst Cockroach Moment scuttling back and I am twitching and shuddering from it, even though it was decades ago.. I can still feel the spiky legs against my skin UGH!! Bloody good story in your blog btw.. I did the same thing.. screamed my lungs flat whilst frantically flinging clothing off in utter terror.. Horrible!!! We are so durn lucky we do NOT have them here on the island, I think I might have to make to the Antarctic rather then relive a Cockroach Close Encounter..

      • I’m sorry for inspiring flashbacks! Any kind of buggahs with multiple legs on the skin are just bad, but the roaches get the screaming and flailing for sure. You may not have cockroaches, but you’ve got the hermit crabs and Doctor Flies which would wig me out. It’s all a trade-off, yeah? Glad you enjoyed (?) my story!

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