biting ants and other noxious insects in Costa Rica

Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 05:15 PM
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biting ants and other noxious insects in Costa Rica

I fear I'm beginning to make a nuisance of myself since I've posted many queries on this site. I am, however, very grateful for the in-put. I'm becoming more and more convinced that CR-- gorgeous as it may be-- simply isn't for us; that's a great shame because I've long been interested in seeing that country. My latest concern-- and perhaps the most significant one-- is that I've been reading about the stinging ants-- bullet ants, I think they're called. I live in Florida and we have fire ants there and we've both been stung several times and found the bites fairly excruciating and very long-lasting. In Florida, though, one can usually avoid the ants; they don't come inside for instance. I get the sense that in CR the ants-- and other such creatures-- are inevitably in the rooms. I'd be interested in hearing feed-back about this. I know for sure that if we were bitten frequently by fire ant-type insects or other biting/stinging bugs, we could not possibly enjoy the hiking, kayaking, etc. that we had been eager to do. I'm also sorry to read the terrible reports about some of the accommodations-- even quite expensive ones. I don't need perfection, and we don't prefer Four Seasons type (large chain resorts)-- but I'm disappointed that places like Villa Caletas and Makanda get so many bad reviews. In short, we've already got hotel and air reservations, but I think it may be wise to cut our losses and cancel, even with penalty. There are so many other magnificent places to immerse oneself in natural beauty. A disappointment.... Thank you very much for responding-- and, again, apologies for being such a frequent poster.
poss is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 05:22 PM
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poss - Before our trip, I started getting nervous about reading so many posts of insects & every other sort of thing that could harm us while we were there. I never saw ANY bugs in our room except for 1 centipede type thing at Peace Lodge. No ants - no mosquitos - NO scorpions (I checked the sheets) - no spiders, etc, etc. Costa Rica is so beautiful. I would not let that concern you. Now, if you are staying in total backpack/hostel type places, you may see more insects & may want to upgrade your accommodations to ensure you will have fewer of them. We were just there 30JUN - 08JUL & stayed at Peace Lodge, Arenal Paraiso, Jardin del Eden & Melia Cariari. I would NEVER cancel this trip. We went rafting, hiking, horseback riding through the rainforest, etc. Just relax & enjoy - there are plenty of things everywhere to worry about & if you worry too much you won't ever get to enjoy any place cause the next place you look at will probably have something else to get worried about! Seriously, just don't think too much about it & go & enjoy the awesome country!
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Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 05:29 PM
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We just returned from a two week trip to CR. We had many experiences with ants. Somehow, we found ourselves standing in the middle of ant-y areas several times during walks/hikes (and while watching a turtle lay eggs in Tortuguero). You're right -- the bites really hurt, but they didn't seem very longlasting. The only ants we saw in any hotel rooms were the non-biting types. As for bullet ants, we saw some in the Sarapiquis region and one of our tour guides told us he'd been bitten by them several times. We just watched where we put our hands.
Good luck in making your decision.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 05:46 PM
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In three weeks of touring CR, neither my husband or I were once stung or bitten seriously by an insect. Only on the Osa, in an open-air cabin, were there insects in the room. We were provided netting for our bed, so it wasn't a problem sleeping. In Tortuguero, we had the same experience as jeg - wandered into an ant colony, but the bites were nothing more then slightly painful, and quickly forgotten.

The lodging was overall excellent.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 06:08 PM
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In my opinion you are greatly over reacting to the possible insect problem.
We have been in most of the habitats or CR from sea level to over 10,000 feet. Our interests are birding and nature, so we are outside most of the time.
During our visits we have seen bullet ants in the Caribbean lowlands and fire ants a few places and exactly one scorpion. We have never been bitten by anything except sand fleas and mosquitos.

Our accomodations have generally been mid-range to simple and although we have seen a variety of interesting creatures in our rooms nothing has ever caused us the slightest harm.

Costa Rica is a wonderful country. Don't let a few bugs keep you away.


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Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 07:25 PM
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I think worrying about every little itty-bit thing that can or can't go wrong, will or won't happen, you deprive yourself of actually enjoying yourself. We don't live in vacuum-packed bubbles and things can & will go wrong, to be trite, it adds to the experience. I have been bumped by a shark in the Bahamas, shat on by a (very full) bird in Brussels, seen horrid poverty in Haiti, had a bomb blow up in a double-decker outside my hotel in London and so on....I wouldn't take back any of those experiences, not a one. If you plan for the worst, and expect the worst, you miss out on so, so much. It's possible to over-plan, over-investigate, over-analyze to the point where there's no fun left in it at all. I hope I'm not coming off rude, that's not my intention, but you sound like you're worrying yourself out of visiting a beautiful, friendly country.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2004, 09:09 PM
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Please don't cancel your trip. I've been to CR 6 times and have never been bothered by bugs, let alone stinging ants. Sure, a spider here a beetle there but nothing to get excited about.
What area are you planning on visiting?
I've spent most of my time on the Pacific coast, staying in moderate, clean accomodations. Not to worry.
Some people are making it sound worse than it is. Go and enjoy. You will love it.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2004, 01:46 AM
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Ants, like most critters, are not fond of Ultrathon insect repellent.
Simply avoid nests and large migrations.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2004, 05:12 AM
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Poss, I have to agree with the other posters, the bugs just aren't a problem. I agree with that fire ants are certainly a problem in Florida. Even caused me to actually wear shoes there instead of sandals (at least part of the time).

When we were down on the Osa, one of the young girls in the room down from ours found an enormous grasshopper in her room. Scared her half to death, but certainly a harmless critter. When we pulled up to the dock for the first time at Aguila de Osa, it really sounded like the Expedia commercial with the people under the mosquito net. What a racket! I don't know what kind of insects were 'singing', but they were loud. I'm sure no louder than the cicadas have been this summer on the esat coast of the states.

When you're sitting on your patio at Makanda watching the monkeys a few insects won't seem like a big deal.

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Old Jul 23rd, 2004, 05:20 AM
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I've been to CR 9 times, my husband has been 12 or 13 times, and neither of us have ever been bitten by anything expect a few mosquitos. I see more scorpions in my house at Lake Travis in Austin than I've seen in Costa Rica. We have traveled from Tamarindo all the way to Povones and the Osa and in-between and in all the trips, I've seen a couple spiders, a centipede and a big beetle. Nothting that hurt us. Creepy to look at to be sure, but nothing harmful. When we did see bugs, it was in the lower to mid range rooms- $40-$50 rooms) but have not had any problems with higer end places. Seriously, you need to stop worrying or you'll never see anything as beautilful as Costa Rica. It's a jungle out there, but it's a beautiful jungle. I've been reading this forum for years, and others as well, and not once have I heard of anyone getting seriously hurt by insects in Costa Rica.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2004, 10:58 AM
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Poss, I do hope you reconsider your decision!
We visited Costa Rica 3 times and our experience is the same as Ally's: other than a few mosquito and sand flee bites, we never encoutered any bug problems in Costa Rica. Sure, we occassionally have seen ants and spiders in our rooms but those were harmless and really not any worse than the insects we get in our house in Connecticut.

Of course you can't be totally reckless in Costa Rica (like you wouldn't be at home either) and leave windows and doors open and the lights on so that the various creatures have an open invitation to come in. But if you keep your windows, doors and screens closed, you should have no serious problems.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2004, 11:10 AM
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On each of your posts, you have come across as adventurous, young at heart, and fun-loving. I, too, would agree with the others. In 8 trips, we have never had an insect problem other than no-see-ums occasionally and a mosquito bite here and there. And that was only when we didn't use a repellant. We've seen ants, but have never been stung by them, and we have done a lot of hiking. CR is an absolutely fascinating country, and I just KNOW you will enjoy it tremendously. There really is no need to worry. I, too, hope you reconsider!
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Old Jul 23rd, 2004, 12:15 PM
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I don't think you'll find the bug/ant etc. "population" in CR to be such a nuisance that you won't be able to enjoy your activities. Actually, I think you'll find them less bothersome than Florida! Can you hike, bike and kayak in Florida without the bugs affecting you, sure! You can do the same here in CR. You don't sound like Floridians that stay "cooped up" in the A/C 24/7 so the open air environment here should be pleasing and acceptable for you. Use the same common sense in CR that you do in Florida as in bug repellent, closing doors & screens in the evening etc. Having entertained many friends from the sunshine state (as we are former Floridians ourselves now living in CR), they are amazed at our ability to live comfortably in the jungle and every one of them has made the comment "Where's all these bugs we envisioned?" Okay, enough said about that!

In a previous post you mentioned your concern with booking expensive accommodations and some negative reviews. I don't think there is a correlation between what one spends and a guarantee that you won't have a bad experience. Even the finest of restaurants and accommodations worldwide have their "off days" and unfortunately someone is at the receiving end of that. Such an incident(s) can't be foreseen or even avoided. It might happen and it might happen to you anywhere you go in the world.

I think you've done a great job in researching your trip to Costa Rica. Don't become overly concerned. Or to quote Mark Twain "I've lived thru some horrific times in my life ... some of which actually happened!"

Safe Travels!

Lisa in Manuel Antonio
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