No… not fornicating – get your mind out of the gutter! That’s an “m” there, not an “n.”

What in the world does formicating mean then? you may be asking. Well, it isn’t nearly as exciting as you may have initially thought – though it is quite relevant to island life. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “an abnormal sensation resembling that made by insects creeping in or on the skin.”

Before moving to my rock, I knew there would be creeping creatures that I hadn’t come across in my life elsewhere. I was prepared. I had researched several different bug sprays and armed myself with what I thought would be best.

Fast forward to our first island excursion as a little family (my husband and two boys) to a lovely little beach. It was a bright sunny Caribbean day. I had on my big floppy sun hat. I had a beach blanket. I had lathered on the sunscreen. I was ready. Or so I thought.

While I had armed myself for island life in general with the aforementioned array of bug sprays, for some reason, spraying myself with them didn’t fall under my “getting ready for the beach” prep work. I was going to be lounging on the beach, not hiking in the jungle after all. In all of my researching, I had read about no-see-ums/sand fleas but had yet to encounter them, and thus I had not thought of them prior to venturing to the beach. Instead, I spent the day sitting with my feet and legs in the sand and got into the water a couple of times.

We left the beach in a daze of Caribbean bliss. I was patting myself on the back for all of the hard work I had done to get my family 3,000 miles from Utah to live in paradise. But sadly, the bliss wore off fast. Later that night, I was in agony. I awoke in the middle of the night to intense itching and burning on my legs. I found that I had over 50 bites on my left leg and more than 40 on my right. The only relief I had (because everyone moves to a tropical location without any sort of itch relief options, right?) was some prescription-strength topical lotion I had been using to combat dry skin back in Utah.  I slathered that stuff on thick and heavy and was able to get enough relief to make it through the night.

The discomfort from the bites lasted for an annoying amount of time – about a week and a half. After that experience, I went to a local store and asked them what bug spray they used. Locals know, right? I walked out with 2 new bottles of bug spray with the hopes that I would survive my new island life. They worked for about half of the night and then I would end up with more new bites by the morning. We got new windows in our home and one night there was a small opening into our room. I awoke the next morning with 23 new bites!

At that point, I decided I should be the new poster-woman for bug sprays. I would say to the bug spray companies, “I am delicious to all of the biting bugs in the Caribbean – let me try out your bug spray and I will tell you if it works!” My husband would ask me to stay in the same room with him at all times so the bugs would eat me instead of him. Women at church would see my legs and offer me their favorite options. Everyone was trying to help me. Finally, one woman offered me some wipes that she said would last the whole night. I just wiped myself down before I went to bed, and I woke up without any new bites – HALLELUJAH! It was a Caribbean miracle!

Once I had figured out the bug bite issue, I had to address the other bug issues in my new island life. Since arriving on my rock, I had some unpleasant experiences with bugs including but not limited to: No-see-ums (obviously), ants, mosquitoes, ants, cockroaches, ants, millipedes, ants, centipedes, and finally ANTS!!

These little reddish brown ants that I have decided, through dutiful Google research, are Pharaoh ants. They are marching all over my house (especially the kitchen) as if pursuing the Israelites in their flight from Egypt. Unfortunately I haven’t found the proverbial Red Sea to kill these little Pharaoh ants yet.

Because they are everywhere, I often will feel a tickle on my hand, arm, foot, or leg. Occasionally there is an ant there, but most of the time it is just my overactive brain formicating. It has gotten so bad that I may or may not have been found smacking myself in the head due to the sensation of a bug in my hair! Unfortunately this abnormal sensation has become fairly normal for me.

Now, I’m pleased to report that I’ve found some solutions to my bug problems. For the beach – stay IN the water. For the house – get new windows, screens, and doors. For bite prevention – use wipes that last. And lastly, to eradicate the ants – call on the heavens and Terro Ant Bait to exterminate the pesky little guys.

When I tell most people that “I’m formicating in the Caribbean,” it always gets a raised eyebrow. Though I’m hoping that if I can stop seeing bugs, I might be able to finally stop feeling them all over my skin. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here enjoying the view and mindlessly itching away the ants that may or may not be crawling all over my feet.

Has anyone else been formicating on their rock too?

Written By:

Sarah Shelley

Current Rock of Residence:

St Croix, USVI

Island Girl Since:

June 2017

Originally Hails From:

Utah

Sarah has always wanted to travel. Having been born and raised in Utah and having lived there all her life, she wanted to see the world. When she and her husband decided that their life was “too much” and they wanted a slower pace of life, where else would they look besides an island? They were led to St. Croix, USVI. Having never been to the island, she took a leap of faith. She sent her husband to buy a home. She then packed up their home of 12 years and shipped everything – including a car – to St. Croix. Then she and her 2 boys (ages 9 and 7) boarded a plane and headed off to a place they had only ever seen in pictures. She has been on her “rock” for 2 months now and loves everything (well mostly everything) and has found the slower pace they desired. You can read more about Sarah’s life on St. Croix, USVI on her personal blog, Our Innovative Life.

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