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Bugs that Bite in Belize: 2022 Update

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

We also have about 1000 reasons that you should want to get to Belize as soon as you can – here are my top 8 reasons that Belize is SO special.

For much of the year (the dry, breezy season – usually December thru about May) – I don’t notice them at all.  The mosquitoes aren’t around – they are waiting for rain…for standing freshwater 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 – an update of my guide to Belize insects might be in order.  And I’m updating it every year or so because, even 15 years in, I learn more and more about how to live with biting bugs in Belize.

Here is a handy list I wrote just about a month ago:  Packing List for Rainy Season in Belize (and what Rainy Season Actually Means)

Let me start by saying that I am not blase about bugs.   I DESPISE flying 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 bedtime.   God forbid I hear the eeeen-ing of a mosquito with the lights out.  Just the thought of it gives me a cold shiver.

This 6-pack of flyswatters is one of the most useful and most satisfying things I’ve ever shipped to Belize.

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:  For years, I was sure that the only way to stop bugs from biting – particularly mosquitos – was DEET.  But man, I hate to apply the stuff.  It’s thick and oily, smells pretty horrible and, in high percentages, melts plastic, paint and even nail polish.  In just the last year or so, I’ve found PICARIDIN.  And it is a total game changer.  This product WORKS as well or better – lasts for hours even with heavy sweating – and does not stink.  I love the lotion.  

I, like you, want to use natural oils and chemical-free sprays but when the bugs are bag, they don’t work at all for me.  It’s just salad dressing.

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

THE MOSQUITO:

You can start with my 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 or brackish water to breed.  So during the summer and fall – when rains come mainly at night, 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.

For example, I was just in the Pine Ridge Region of Belize at Gaia Lodge in late May – the mosquitos were horrible on Ambergris Caye – about 100 miles away – but there were ZERO at Gaia Lodge.

They are worst in the early morning and in the evening and during those times, spray or lotion is a must.  Those containing light DEET or picaridin work best for me.

Use the picaridin lotion or DEET if that’s what you prefer.  DEET is, again, greasy, but that is a necessary evil when it comes to my next bug…

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 prick 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 commonly raked or heavily used, there are fewer 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.

A product with a good amount of DEET – sprayed on your legs (concentrate around the feet and ankles) works perfectly for me.

BOTLASS OR “BATTLE ASS” FLIES:  

These tiny black flies are TOTAL ASSHOLES.  I have encountered them only on the mainland (while hiking and at the Belize Zoo) 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 known 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:  

The name makes sense.  Like doctors, these yellow flies are known for taking blood.  But unlike MOST doctors, they are incredibly dim-witted.

They are aggressive about following you 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 with 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 her 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 by the water, 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
  • But 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.  You can get it here…but it’s just something easy to get at home and nice to have when you are itchy.  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.  Always.
  • If you are planning to go hiking on the mainland or do some nighttime tours, bring light long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Some of you are going to ask about spiders and snakes and scorpions.  Yes, Belize has all these things.  And you are most likely not going to see any of them.  If you are staying in the jungle and go on a night hike to see creepy crawly critters, you will most likely see tarantulas and maybe scorpions.  And this is also true if you stay in a place way off the grid…but in populated areas?  These guys generally try to stay away from humans.  And they should be a non-issue.





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