Insects Rule

In wet, humid tropical climates, bugs absolutely rule. I typically go to Panama in January or February, which is dry season, when the insect load is more manageable. Plus the rental properties in Buenaventura are heavily sprayed inside and out by professional exterminators. If we see anything, we’re likely to find dead or dying large cockroaches near the floorboards, where the wall meets the floor. That’s the area that gets really doused with spray. I wouldn’t want to have a crawling baby on those floors.

Bedbugs, though, are an issue. One year a guest emerged from his night’s sleep with a pattern of unfamiliar bites, which he was sure were bedbugs. Another guest had grown up in the Caribbean, and she knew what to look for. She stripped the bed, closely examined the piping around the edge of the mattress, and looked carefully all over for telltale pinpricks of blood or insect fecal matter across the surface of the white mattress cover. Not finding any, she said “No bedbugs. Maybe chiggers.” Chiggers give nasty itchy bites, but they don’t evoke the horror of bedbugs feasting on you while you sleep.

During the Peace Corps years I shared an outhouse with Minga and her family. The outhouse was tolerable if stinky, especially after I committed to buying toilet paper for us all. But the outhouse was unusable after dark, because cockroaches came streaming out of the depths, clattered down the seat, where they congregated inches deep on the floor. Honestly, it was awful. I went in the bushes if I had to. At one point I decided to buy a big can of bug spray in Panama City, and take the cockroaches on. I went out every half hour to spray between dark and going to bed. In the morning there were hundreds of dead roaches to be swept out of the small space. That night, the cockroaches came up again in force, as if there were no end to their numbers. I gave up and returned to the bushes.

Insects rule.

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