Bad Bugs, Bad Bugs,
What cha goin to do when they come for you?

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Tabano Scorpion Puss Moth Io-moth Centipede coming soon Brown Recluse malaria mosquito kissing bug

The pictures on this page direct you to different bugs that you should avoid around Rio Dulce. Although insects are plentyful here, most of these are relatively few in number compared to many places I have been in the U.S. As in most cases in life, being informed and educated is usually the best defense. It is not necessary to scare yourself into a sheltered existence by knowing things that "could" happen. It is my opinion that you will miss out on a lot of life and its amazing wonder if you do. If you know what to watch for, wear the proper clothing and repellent, the chances of getting bitten are fairly scarce. Along with the information on these various bugs is other information about prevention, as well as the sometimes lurid details of what can happen when bit or stung so you can be prepared IF something should happen.

By spending so much time in the jungle, I just realize that I am NOT the top of the food chain and the I may just be asking to be a traveling snack bar by running around in shorts all the time and usually barefoot. That is for the most part because I don't wear repellent, and that I like to see things close up. In either case, you want to avoid these!

To navigate this site you simply click on a picture to take you to more information on that specific bug and more about it.



Each segment of a centipedes has one pair of legs. The first pair form claw-like poisonous fangs. I've never heard of anyone getting stung by a centipede but they do have the ability to do so. These fast moving creatures feed on insects (even cockroaches!) and sometimes small lizards like gecko's.


Io moth Caterpillar

Touch this little fella and you will think you landed in a bunch of stinging nettles. There are several species of caterpillars around here that have the same effect. They like heliconias and larger leafed plants, so try not to brush against them while walking around. These grow to be about two inches long and if you click on the picture you will see what they metamorphose into. To learn how to avoid contact or treat if you did, click here.

Stinging caterpillars have hollow quill-like hairs, connected to poison sacs, that are used as defensive weapons. When these hairs are touched they break through the skin releasing the poison. Reactions can range from a mild itching to the more severe pain, dermatitis, and even intestinal disturbances.

Gusano de Polla photo

Puss Caterpillar

(cerura venula)
[Gusano de Polla] Doesn't this look cute and cuddly. Guess again! This one-inch caterpillar is covered with a dense woolly coat of soft brown hair, with tail-like hairs at the rear end. But beneath those furry hairs hides poisonous spines that will burn severely! The stings often more severe than those of other caterpillars and increase in severity with the size of the caterpillar. Puss stings are comparable to a Portuguese Man of War or wasp and the pain may last several hours. Swelling from it may last several days.

Kissing Bug

(Rhodnius prolixus)

Kissing bugs, known as chinche's in Central America are blood-suckers, like mosquitoes, ticks and tse-tse flies. They usually feed just after sunset. They are attracted to the light in our houses, the odors that we exhale, skin odors, and to the warmth of our bodies. Kissing bugs who enter a house will feed on household pets as well as humans. Many people have moderate to severe allergic reactions to the kissing bug bite but they can also be carriers of Chagas disease. In the early stage, symptoms are typically either not present or mild and may include: fever, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, or local swelling at the site of the bite.

Gusano de Polla photo


(cerura venula)
Bats make up half the species of mammals here in Guatemala, perhaps that is why the mosquito population is so low. When someone is bitten by a mosquito, the site of the bite becomes very itchy. When the itch is relieved by scratching, the site itself begins to swell; sometimes the swelling can become very large before the itch and the swelling disappear. Chances are usually that if you can refrain from scratching it, within an hour it will stop and go away. However, 9 times out of 10, a person who is bitten will scratch the site until it bleeds, which brings about enormous relief from the itching. To actually stop itching, peel a banana and place the inside of the peel on the bite, depending on your system, within seconds the itching should stop.

In no way are mosquitoes unique to Guatemala, but it is important that you are aware of the hazards they present. When a healthy person has been bitten by the malaria carrying mosquito, the immune system immediately begins to attack the parasites that have been injected into the skin. However, for someone whose immune system is compromised, the chances of developing malaria are greatly increased by messing with it. In five years that I have been here, I have never seen one case of Malaria, but I have heard of a small few of people who have contracted dengue fever that is also contracted from mosquitos. Dengue is currently in epidemic proportions throughout Central America. I know there is no reason to get overly paranoid here, but it is a good idea to carry a good repellent with you while traveling in the jungle. With all my studying of plants, animals and insects I have created a repellent that I personally guarentee. For more information click here. To learn more about the different mosquitoes, click on the picture of the mosquito.



Yes, there are several species of scorpions here. They are NOT deadly, but again they can cause slight numbness for a few hours and the discomfort of a bee sting (personal experience again!). To avoid them, when in rural areas, check your shoes and clothing where they may have been able to get to before you put them on. They usually hide in and under wood and trees so watch where you put your hands. There 16 families of scorpions and 1260 described species worldwide so I'm still looking for the exact name for the variety here.

Click on the Scorpion to learn even more about them.

Brown Recluse

Recluse Spiders

You probably have had more opportunity to come across these in the United States than here where it is not all that common, but this is a creature worthy of knowing about, and from personal experience, one to be knowledgable about.

The Chilean recluse spider is a venomous spider, Loxosceles laeta, of the family Sicariidae (formerly of the family Loxoscelidae). In Spanish, it (and other South American recluse spiders) is known as araa de rincn, or "spider of the corner"; in Portuguese, as Aranha-marrom or "brown spider". This spider is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the recluse spiders, and its bite is known to frequently result in severe systemic reactions, including death.

Click on the spider to learn even more about the Recluse spiders behavior and effects.


(Diachlorus ferrugatus)

Commonly known as the Yellow Fly in the Tabanidae family, they call them Tabano's here. This is a variety of horsefly that you REALLY don't want to have much to do with. Like mosquitoes, it is the female fly that is responsible for inflicting a bite. ALL horseflies can bite but THIS one can cause some real discomfort for a number of hours. It will itch, ache and swell where it gets you. Although it attacks throughout the day, it is most active during the late afternoon and on cloudy days. It is especially common near large bodies of water, but tends to remain in or near forests, seldom attacking in numbers far from the shelter of trees around riverside mangrove and forested areas. It is one of the few tabanids which attacks indoors. All exposed parts of the victim's body may be attacked, and since the flight is rather quiet, a person is not aware of the flies until the sharp pain of the bite is felt.


There are about 75,000 species of wasps that are known of, most of them are parasitic. Although their stings are worse than a lot of others, these are one of those insects that are hard to classify as a good bug or bad bug. Their stings are extremely painful but they ARE helpful in that they LOVE caterpillars which destroy various beneficial plants. Most other wasps are either parasitic or predaceous and therefore play a vital role in limiting the populations of thousands of other insect species. All wasps are eaten by other species, thereby providing many links in the food chain. To learn more about bee and wasp stings along with possible allergic reactions, click here.

A nest can be as simple as a hole in the ground, to mud type nests, and the most intricate nests are the paper nests made of paper fibers collected from dry wood and bark mixed with wasp spit (I'd say "saliva" but that's too big of a word). There are so many species around here that trying to identify them is more than I want to do at this time. They are not something I want to get too close to enough to try and photograph them or differentiate them from others. I DO know that I have systemic reaction from some of their stings and I would rather get bitten by a coral snake than stung by a wasp! I've had both.