Bugs that Bite in Belize

I hope this does not come as a shock to anyone but Belize is in the tropics and…the secret is out!  We have bugs that bite or sting or just suck a bit of your blood.

We also have about 1000 reasons TO VISIT but I have addressed those in about 3000 posts – check out my Bucket List to start.

The BelizeBucket List (1)

Or maybe Why Belize?

For much of the year (the dry, breezy season – usually December thru about now) – I hardly notice them at all.  The mosquitoes aren’t around – they wait for standing fresh water to lay their demon seed, the pesky sand flies are whisked away by the wind…

But since June 1st was the beginning of the official hurricane season – and rain is more possible (we had our first real drizzle – all 10 minutes of it today – since February 1st), a bit of a guide to Belize insects might be in order.

Let me start by saying that I DESPISE insects -sting or not.  Sure, only the very strange LIKE them but even a housefly in my bedroom has me stalking it for an hour before bed time.   God forbid I hear the hissing of a mosquito with the lights out.  Just the thought of it gives me a cold shiver.

Fly close up from Colourbox.com - RETCH
Fly close up from Colourbox.com – RETCH

My paranoia runs high when it comes to blood sucking pests so here is my guide to BITING BUGS IN BELIZE.

Note:  I know many of you are going to tell me that DEET is the devil’s work.  Or try to sway me with natural remedies –  tucking a citronella flower in your button hole,  a dab of lavender oil or a dryer sheet in your pocket.  I don’t like to mess around when it comes to itch (or involuntary blood letting) .  Feel free to suggest anything you like.  But I’m sticking with the real deal…things that will keep me safe and itch free.

Also note:  I am not a medical doctor or a scientist – this is my experience in 9 years.  I can not be sued for your bites 🙂

Let’s start with the animals that kills more people per year than any other…

THE MOSQUITO: You can start with a short trivia test to see what you REALLY know about mossie.  And here is a super interesting article about the History of Humanity’s Bloody War Against the Mosquito in Wired.

Mosquito pic from Wired.com
Mosquito pic from Wired.com

Only Greenland, Iceland and Antarctica are considered to be the places in the world “relatively free” from this dreaded monster.  So it is my guess that you already know how to deal with them.

Warm climates are their favorite spots.  They also need fresh water to breed.  So during the summer and fall, we do have mosquitoes in Belize.  Some parts of Belize, like certain areas of Cayo, less so, since water does not pool in the limestone rock…in other parts, densely jungled areas, they can get quite annoying.

They are worst in the early morning and in the evening and during those times, spray is a must.  Those containing light DEET or picardin work best for me.   If headed into a mosquito-rich area, try some of the heavier sprays – ones that have a bit more oilyness to them.

They tend to last longer when sweating and help protect against other nippers.

SANDFLIES:  Sandflies are tiny little nothings…also called no-see-ums, midges and sandfleas that REALLY irritate some…and hardly bother others.  For me, I feel the light sting but don’t get a raised bump.  For others, they can be the bane of their existence.

Biting_sandfly

They are common on or near sand where these fiends lay their eggs.  For beaches that are common raked or heavily used, there are less sandflies.  On Ambergris Caye, you will find less as you get closer to town.  In more remote areas, they can be annoying.  Especially as the sun sets and the wind is low.

An oily barrier works best from protecting your tender skin from these little jerks.  They are so small that it prevents them from biting.  I like a nice oily bug repellent that leaves them choking and drowning, it does double duty but coconut oil or baby oil seems to do the trick.

BOTLASS OR “BATTLE ASS” FLIES:  These tiny black flies are TOTAL ASSHOLES.  I have encountered them only on the mainland and can find no reason for their locations.  You don’t even notice them…tiny…black…you don’t even feel them biting but you notice a droplet of blood on your legs.

At this point, you can prepare yourself for a bite that is SO itchy that by evening, you will want to rip your own ankles off.  These types of cowards always seem to go for the ankles.  They turn red, almost purple and itch uncontrollably.  At this point, Benadryl and lots of it (and the sweet slumber that it brings) is your only remedy.

Or the type of willpower that only Sisyphus is know for.

AVOID THESE BITES by having shoes and socks ready and using lots and lots of heavy oily bug spray at the sign of the first fly.  Again, they are so small, that this oily layer works wonders.  I wouldn’t even mess around with baby oil or the like – these fearsome bites are not worth it.  GO DEET.

DOCTOR FLIES:  I have no idea where they got their names…they are one of the world’s most dim-witted insects.  They are aggressive about following you about but oh so easy to kill.  These yellow bellied flies are a bit larger than your average housefly and have more of a pointed abdomen.

doctor fly

They seem to come around when flowers and fruits are blooming (late spring/early summer).

Abra2 (1)I am sorry to say but I know NO way to prevent their sting.  Please help me on this one!  A sting that startles me and allows me to slap and kill the slow poke fly.    Some people are highly allergic..,this article makes them sound much worse than I actually find them to be.

In San Pedro town and it’s vicinity, I have only encountered one ONCE – probably due to the higher population/less blossoming trees.

FIRE ANTS:  All previous beasts described bite to get blood to make their babies.  Though I don’t like it, there is a reason.  These ANTS just bite for the hell of it.  Like bees, they sting just to be mean…protect themselves….whatever.

If you are on the beach, no problem.  But if you are in a forested area…wear closed shoes.  Problem solved.  They also live in sandy areas – often near the roots of trees or the foundation of a house.  If you look down and there is a red ant on your foot…KILL IT QUICK!  If you feel a burning sting, RUN and make sure to simultaneously swat the others off your feet.

You may have stepped near or on their nest.

The sting 1.  hurts and 2.  itches for DAYS.

My suggestions for these nuisances when visiting Belize:

  • Don’t freak out about the bugs in Belize – they can be manageable or non-existent depending on where you are or the time of the year
  • Come prepared.  Repellent is EXPENSIVE here.  Bring some with you.  Or maybe even two kinds – find what works for you.
  • Bring some anti-itch cream and some Benadryl just in case…no one likes an itchy vacation.  I like the Benadryl gel or the little stipple pen.  Hemp oil, which you can buy down here, also works remarkably well for me.
  • Bring proper medication if you are HIGHLY allergic to bites.  Better safe than sorry.
  • I have not addressed disease in this post.  Zika has been reported (two cases, I believe right now, in Belize City – for information, I would check the CDC website).




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  • FJL

    Good article. My trip in February resulted in 4 or 5 different types of bites, including at least one type of spider. I’m not happy about where I stayed as I concluded with some advice from a doctor I likely got some bed bug bites. Also, whatever got my left ankle near the arch, there is still a mark and slight itch! Mean bug. I should note that I am O+ with a Mediterranean backround and I sweat a lot. I used 2 types of natural oils combinations and I believe lemon eucalyptus works well, but REAPPLY and carry it with you as Belikins and rum make you tend to forget and numb (among other things) your initial bites. Note- I’ve stayed at 5 places in San Pedro and they were safe and clean, I only had bad luck on this trip at a place that will be refurbished. And don’t be afraid to ask a restaurant to make a little paste out of baking soda and water or soda and apply it to an itch/bite.

    • SPmQQse

      spill the beans ….where didn’t you like staying…[bedbugs]….?

      • FJL

        Rebecca knows… Didn’t want to put it out there publicly

  • Miranda

    The smell of DEET makes me want to vomit. I’m going with the Skin .so .soft spray body oil.

    • SPmQQse

      geszzzzz krice…..Miranda…..you totally , just put me off my, cheese cake.

    • The smell is foul…that’s why I like the lighter ones the “family sprays” – they work for me vs. mosquitos. Also Cutter in a blue can smells almost pepperminty – I don’t mind it at all.

  • SPmQQse

    i suggest buying ”fish” brand bug spray…spray it directly on forearms and below the knee.. twice a day, for 3 wks….that will keep them away for at least 3 to 5 months…..[it also kills weeds]
    …….
    even on the beach, near palm tree roots.. you may find fire-ants.
    …….
    burning dried coconut husks.. does actually work for repelling mozzies.

    • This is true. I got bit by fire ants on the foot and hand at Aji, right up the beach from Grand Caribe. Bad luck, I guess, but I am super allergic, and the bites swell and itch like the devil incarnate!

    • I don’t think FISH is meant for skin…that makes me nervous for sure. Burning coconut husks smells nice and does a great job. I mentioned those roots!

  • Jim

    Luckily these guys don’t bother me very much but my wife…….. It has been my experience that people like my wife take several trips to Belize before they build up some resistance to the bites. I’ve seen tourist with hundreds of swollen bites that looked very uncomfortable. One young girl in Placida was so bad she was crying, I felt so bad for her. I don’t know what happened? Did she fall asleep or something and they had supper on her?
    The Hemp Oil (Itch Away) works real well and is the best remedy I’ve seen. You can buy it in most of the supermarkets. I have only have used it once on some type of skin bite or poison I had just to see how it worked and it was great. My wife thinks it is the best thing since sliced bread.
    Overall these bugs are usually a small inconvenience in 99% of cases in my opinion.

    • I am SUCH a fan of that hemp oil…it does REALLY work, smells mild…it’s just when I have many bites (which is not that often) or a new kind that I need the Benadryl. Went to Caye caulker a few weeks ago and got 15-20 REALLY insanely itchy sandfly bites. But here on AC, they don’t bother me at all. I’m a believer in your immunity theory.

      • Sea of Tranquility

        Indeed boost your immune system before visiting the tropics and too much sugar
        in the blood will attract insects ( correct me if wrong).
        Peppermint oil works very well, but if you don’t want to smell like a tube of
        toothpaste then add a stronger fragranced more pleasant oil.
        And of course long sleeved linen clothes at the time of day when the little blighters
        are hungry. Also drink plenty of water.

    • SPmQQse

      HAHAHAHAHAAAAA

  • Marty

    The July 2016 edition of Consumer Reports Magazine contains the results of a study of insect repellents. The article includes a discussion about repellents that are safe for pregnant women and mentions those repellents that work best against Aedes mosquitoes.

    • Good to know…I need to take a look and confirm my theory: Deet is best! Lemme look…

  • Charlotte

    Very timely post. I will be there in two weeks. What oil based repellent would you suggest? I scratch very badly from mosquitos and sand flies. In Trinidad I was attacked by sand flies on maracas beach. I scratched my skin so badly it got infected and was so raw and red. I still have the scars on my legs from three years ago. I don’t want bugs to deter my visits to the tropics as I love it there, but my reaction is BAD to these pests.
    Btw…the sound of the buzzing in my ear at night freaks me out too!