Bugs that Bite in Belize: 2024 Update
Belize amazes visitors each year with her natural gifts: our world-famous barrier reef, the sand and beaches, the jungles, the wildlife, and the seemingly endless warm sunny weather. But like everywhere in the tropics, in fact, everywhere in the world (maybe excluding Antarctica…I haven’t been there…yet) there are insects.
The trick is to stay calm and do a little preparation before you come.
Because depending on the time of year and your location, you can get some bites.
If you come prepared, they can be a non-issue. So let me dive into it. To let you know what you might encounter, how you can stop them from biting you and, if they do, what I find makes you the most comfortable.
Only you know how you react to bites – are you generally the first/only one to get bit in your family? Do you get more bites and itchier bites than everyone you know? Is your skin super-sensitive in general? No shame…all you need to do is be prepared and know a few things about biting insects in Belize.
I have been living for almost 17 years on Ambergris Caye, Belize – the northernmost caye – here are the biting insects on my list.
You guys don’t need me to tell you what a mosquito is.
On Ambergris Caye, we get more mosquitos from about July/August until the end of December — and as the rains stop, from January to early summer, we have almost none.
Mosquitos are most active when there have been recent heavy rains and around sunrise and sunset. They also tend to be less in developed areas (like downtown San Pedro, Ambergris Caye).
Solution #1: Great repellent. 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.
AND THEN…finding repellant with Picardin has changed my life. Not greasy, hardly any smell and it works as well if not better than DEET. I LOVE this lotion for all-day protection and I also love the spray. I can’t recommend them enough. ** I have NOT seen picaridin for sale in Belize so order ahead!
Also, pack an anti-itch lotion/spray/oil for bites that do make it through. I have tried them all – from Benadryl to Cortizone-10 to anti-itch pens and the one that works for me every single time is: Tea Tree Oil. Natural tea-tree oil.
I am not a natural-only person…not at all. I do NOT think that natural remedies/lavender or citronella oils -the stickers or the bracelets – I don’t think they work as mosquito protection down here. At least not for me. But tea tree oil works on my itches every time.
Sand flies or sand fleas are tiny little nothings…also called no-see-ums or midge, 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.
They are common on or near sand, especially in less traveled areas where these fiends lay their eggs. For beaches that are commonly raked or heavily used, there are fewer or even no 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 rises or sets and the wind is low.
Sandfly or no-see-um repellant? An oily barrier works best for protecting your tender skin from these little jerks. They are so small that it prevents them from biting. Here is where oily DEET is your friend – 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.
Other Biting Insects:
Botlass or “Battle Ass” flies: I have never encountered these small black flies on the cayes. I have been bitten by them at the Belize Zoo and “out in the bush” in Cayo or south when hiking.
They concentrate around ankles and lower legs – you may not even feel them bite but they leave a tell-tale drop of blood on your skin. And the resulting bite is one of the itchiest I know.
Be prepared. 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.
Most will visit Belize and never meet a doctor fly. But during certain seasons (they seem to like flowering trees in the late spring/early), in areas far outside of towns, these guys can be out.
These yellow flies, like a deer-fly or a horse-fly in parts of the US, have a mean bite. They are called doctor flies because they take blood. But unlike most doctors I know, 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.
I have not found a repellant that works to keep them away. And these bites can be itchy – so make sure to have your anti-itch oil and pack some Benadryl pills (always) if you react (swelling or extra itchiness).
Others (And Non-Issues):
- Scorpions: There are scorpions in more rural/less developed areas. I have seen 3 or 4 in 17 years in Belize – they are truly horrifying looking but…I also know that those who have been stung compare the pain to a bee sting. Not great…but not life-ending. If you are camping or in a rustic area, if you leave your shoes outside your room for the night, check inside the next morning before putting them on. I’ve never found a scorpion in there but I always check!
- Fire Ants: Watch where you step. We’ve got fire ants and they have a mean sting but I think most vacationers can go a week or a month or even a year without encountering fire ants. You’ll know if you stepped on them…
- Spiders: We do have spiders in Belize – but I’ve never had an issue. I’ve seen tarantulas a few times – they are not generally aggressive and they want nothing to do with us.
- Botfly/Botflies: Maybe you’ve seen the gross-out videos of someone extracting a worm from their skin/head after a trip to the Tropics. If you haven’t, DON’T LOOK IT UP NOW! It’s gross. The botfly egg is carried by the mosquito, it drops off while the mosquito bites you and gets into your skin. They are quite rare. I’ve never heard of anyone getting one on Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker – they tend to be in rural areas – sometimes around livestock. Again, it is rare. And a good reminder to wear your mosquito repellant.
- Bed bugs: About once a year, these insects make it into all the international headlines…bed bugs at Paris Fashion Week…or bed bugs in Manhattan 8-star hotel. But I have never heard about bed bugs in Belize.
A Summary of my suggestions for biting bugs in Belize
- Don’t freak out about the bugs in Belize – they can be completely manageable or non-existent depending on where you are or the time of the year
- But come prepared. Repellent is EXPENSIVE when you wait to buy it when you get to Belize – and the assortment is very limited. Bring some with you. Or maybe even two kinds – find what works for you.
- Always bring Benadryl (or generic Benadryl) on vacation with you – anywhere. You never know if you are allergic – or have an allergic reaction to something. Bring some anti-itch cream just in case…no one likes an itchy vacation.
- 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 snakes. Yes, Belize has snakes – and a few are poisonous. But you are most likely not going to see any of them. Also, Belizeans are highly attuned to snakes – many people grew up in rural areas where snakes can be more of an issue. Your guides/those who work at your lodging will let you know everything that you need to know. But unless you want to go looking for them, snakes want nothing to do with you.