I know how to avoid bugs in the temperate forests of Chilton County, Alabama. I learned the technique while taking hikes through the forest as a kid. All you have to do is walk through a sweet-smelling, sticky mist of Off bug spray and then watch out for snakes.
But avoiding creeping, crawling creatures in the tropical rainforest is much more difficult. Costa Rica is covered in thick jungle and protected wilderness, and the humid temperatures are the perfect breeding ground for every tiny being with more than four legs. The small country is host to over 4,000 varieties of insect!
I’m not super squeamish, but no one really likes bugs, scorpions or snakes. Luckily, there are some simple ways to avoid the critters, or at least coexist with them peacefully.
If you’re on either of the country’s coasts, mosquitos will be a problem. Though it’s rare, some carry dangerous diseases such as malaria or zika. Long pants, long sleeves and strong bug repellant are a must. Remember to spray your clothes, as well as rub repellant on any exposed skin — hands, face and the back of your neck — even though it might feel sticky and gross.
Ants are, unfortunately, quite common everywhere in Costa Rica. To avoid bites, don’t wear open-toed shoes when walking around in the countryside. You’ll also want to keep any food you have shut in a refrigerator or cabinet, as anything left out in the open will draw a long, hungry line of bugs.
Many people fear spiders over every other type of bug. Arachnids are common in Costa Rica but most of them are harmless. The types that might enter your hotel or home include the tarantula, daddy long legs and golden silk orb-weavers.
More dangerous spiders, such as the banana spider, the most toxic arachnid in the world, tend to stay in the jungle. If you are going on a nature walk, make sure you have long sleeves and closed-toed shoes. Above all, if you see a spider, just avoid it! Most won’t interact with humans unless provoked.
Scorpions can sneak into your hotel or home easily and hide in your shoes or clothes. The key to avoiding spider or scorpion bites is to shake out your clothes and shoes before you put them on. This will let you avoid the most common way people are bitten.
Centipedes, millipedes, cockroaches and caterpillars are harmless bugs you might see in a house or hotel. These creatures aren’t dangerous unless you have some sort of allergic reaction to their bite.
Snakes are common in the forests of Costa Rica, including venomous varieties. The most dangerous is the yellow-bellied fer-de-lance, a serpent responsible for 80 percent of snakebites in the country. Snakes do not typically attack if not provoked. Most people are bitten when they accidentally step on a snake, so watch your step in the jungle. Don’t shake branches either, as some snakes hide in the trees. And don’t tempt fate by attempting to interact with a snake. Just avoid it.
Bugs in Costa Rica are prevalent but mostly harmless and danger can be avoided by using common sense. Remember to bring or buy lots of repellant and wear long clothes. Keep the space where you’re staying clean and dry, and watch out for bugs hiding in clothes or shoes.
It’s a little more complicated than dabbing on Off, but not by much!