About four years ago, our dream of living in Costa Rica came to fruition. With our home office, virtual clients, and residency in place, we were set. Settling into our new home on the Pacific Northwest Coast in the Guanacaste region was easy. The home was comfortable and well built, the weather was warm and sunny and the Costa Rican people welcoming.
Our eyes would soon open to the many Bugs in our neighboring space. Unexpectedly we were about to open our hearts to these creepy crawlers.
Granted, there are many Bugs that a human should rightfully fear; scorpions that crawl into your shoes at night and lay in wait for a nice juicy foot for breakfast in the morning. Jumping spiders with bodies resembling a starfish and suction cups stronger than an octopus, that fly through the air as they jump and adhere themselves from one wall to the next.
There are no sugarplum fairies dancing over your head, but in fact buzzing mosquitos, who are bound to mistake your nightstand glass of water for a jungle pond. As you snooze in ignorant bliss, these winged warriors will settle their growing families into your beverage. Their eventual demise is eminent as you reach to quench your thirst in the middle of the night. We quickly learned the value of a cover on your drink.
This was only the beginning. When dusk turned to darkness, our new home took on a whole new light. We knew not where they came from or how they got in but somehow the Bugs arrived. Like packs of wolves or schools of fish, these critters would ascend upon our abode in small and large numbers; from the tiniest little bugger that you could barely see to the large foreboding multi legged giant winged bandit.
In the beginning we were petrified. We screamed, we yelled, we jumped up on chairs, we swatted at them and our clothes, we picked our dogs up off the floor and swung them over our heads, as we feared the witching hour each evening.
I couldn’t understand why our human neighbors had such a nonchalant and unconcerned reaction to this nightly invasion; until one day our Costa Rican friend Wendy put it in all in perspective. To my wife she simply said “What do you expect Mickey, you live in the jungle.”
It was as if someone had hit us over the head with a giant fly swatter. In that very moment we realized that the Bugs had been here first. Here we were carrying on over their quiet march into what was once their home. Had any human thought twice about bulldozing their nests and hills and hovels.
And so it began, our relationship with these Bugs that we would soon come to Love.
We did not necessarily embrace them with little bug hugs, but we did welcome their nightly visits into our home. Our evening screams were replaced with an appreciation for their generosity of sharing a space that once belonged to them. We were in bug love and with it came curiosity.
For my wife it was an acceptable detail to our life here in Costa Rica. For me, it was a growing interest in the antics of these little visitors. I anticipated each evening with the excitement of small child on Christmas Eve. What fascinating little friend would come to visit tonight and where had they been during the day. Were they sleeping, or building bug houses out of sticks and leaves, or having butterfly wing themed pot lucks in some shady tree trunk?
I began to refer to my bug posse as the bug of the month club; for like the fruit of the month club you never knew what you were going to get and each month it changed.
My home office is on the second floor. My desk is directly below a picture window that looks out into the trees behind our home where the howler monkeys travel back and forth.
As I sit at my desk in the evenings, catching up on work, I long to open the curtains to enjoy the moonlit view. But something stops me.
In the evenings the lights inside our home attract the Bugs outside our home. As soon as you crack open the window covering you’re greeted with what looks like a million bug eyes of every shape and size starring at you, some running relay races up and down your window pane and those bolder bugs, begging with their little bug eyes to come in.
The little ones try to weasel into any opening when you’re not looking. The larger ones with a fling start, try to slam their heads into the glass in hopes of getting in through the miracle of glass osmosis.
These are tenacious bugs. In fact they will eyeball you in a manner akin only to a Brooklyn NY Street bully who won’t let you pass down the street on the way to your own home.
As I eyeball them back the softer side of me contemplates for a very brief second or two, opening the window and letting them in, just to see what would happen. Would they fight for the Facebook corner on my computer screen, would they all make a mad dash for trash can, or would they fly around the light singing songs of buggy glee. In reality, they would head straight for me and in my immediate future would be a sea of calamine lotion and round the clock antihistamines.
With my window-closed shut, and with an appreciation for these multi-legged and winged neighbors who I can only admire from afar, I recount some of my favorite bug of the month stories, here in Costa Rica.
One month we had these little tiny black bugs that came in by the hundreds. One minute the beige tile floor looked normal and the next minute it was covered with moving black specs. We never did figure out how they got in or where they came from. There was no obvious black bug parade. As they marched towards our sleeping dogs, we would take turns scurrying to sweep them into the dustpan and hurl them every so gently out the front door. By the time we turned around to return back into our home the floor was full of the buggers again. It went on for a month and as mysteriously as they arrived, they left, not to be seen again until same time next year.
The mystery of the June Bug was even more confusing. The June Bugs look like giant flying brown hard-shelled beetles. They slither in through the window and door cracks as soon as it gets dark outside, with one goal in mind, to fly straight for your head as fast as they can. After they hit you in the head they fall heroically to the floor dead. Like kamikaze pilots they are dedicated to their cause with little regard to themselves and no expectation of a reward. There must be some secret reason these June Bugs do this, but to date, this writer remains ignorant. One year it was an especially disturbing June Bug Season. I was up late working at my desk many nights in a row. Even with the curtain blocking the light from inside the house, these crunchy kids relentlessly squished themselves into the teeny tiny space at the base of the window track. I stuffed paper and cotton balls in every crack I could find and still they got in.
I was in the middle of writing proposals and became weary of losing my concentration to swat at the continuous flow of freaky fliers. After several rounds of swatting and catching stunned and semi dead June Bugs, I gave up. It was much less distracting to have them “biff me off the head” and fall to their prescribed deaths than it was to try and stop them. To make things more mysterious, the June Bug arrives in Costa Ricain May not June. Did these bugs think that by doing that they would catch us unsuspecting humans off guard? Only the June Bug knows for sure.
In the wake of the June Bugs are the White Disco Moths. Ok that is not their official name but it’s as good a name as any. They look like Vidal Sassoon himself did their hair. These moths arrive by the thousands and congregate around the Liberia International Airport. They don’t seem to bother air traffic and are quite an exceptional sight for travelers lucky enough to see them. These little guys are the whitest white you’ve ever seen. They almost look like they are wearing tiny white velvet clothes or were dipped in the whitest of white traffic paint. Atop their little round super white heads is the largest shock of white spikey hair a bug can ever sport.
And well, as I conclude, no bug story would be complete without a reference to my beloved Horatios (yes that’s my made up name for them). Horatios are large red ants that come into the house at night. They run around like maniacs scared of their own shadows and petrified of people. When they see you (generally on the kitchen counter) literally stop dead in their tracks, almost jump up in fear on their hind legs and high tail it out of the house via the nearest crack or crevice. Why they come in the first place, who knows? They don’t even eat anything, they just run around frantically probably wondering how they got in and even more concerning how they are going to get back out. Why Horatios you might be wondering, well they are bright red, like my favorite red haired TV dude David Caruso who plays Horatio Caine on CSI Miami.
As sit at my desk at 4pm on a Friday afternoon, I can only wonder what buggy antics the Jungle has in store for me tonight and like that kid on Christmas Eve, where the heck I put my Santa PJ’s.