Cohabitating with Bali’s insects

- LIVING OVERSEAS -

christopher-bylineWe continue our examination of Bali animals that you are likely to encounter if you stay here long-term. Let’s visit the insects of the island – and there are many of them!

Read the first part on Reptiles and Amphibians here.

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These are really, really, really huge spiders!

These are really, really, really huge spiders!

Spiders. For Canadians like Kristofir and me, it is very surprising the variety of spiders here. Most are harmless, and many are really small, some making webs, some prowling. And there are really BIG spiders. Some big brown ones (small hairy bodies, long legs) have come into the house and surprised us, but are reputedly harmless. You will find beautiful yellow ones in the garden, and they aren’t a problem. There are also HUGE yellow ones as big as your palm (see picture) that are fascinating to watch from a distance, and really are unbelievable in terms of how big they are. We have both gone from being wary around spiders to being curious and interested in them. Kristofir even survived having a big yellow one drop into his hair in a banana plantation, so again, just be aware of any that may be poisonous. We’ll talk about that in a later post.

Mosquitoes. We get bitten here in Bali, and we’re not even sure if they are mosquitoes most of the time because there are no apparent insects to be found. But we do see and get bitten by mosquitoes. Wearing insect repellent is recommended when venturing into the jungle or around ricefields in rainy season, but to be honest, we haven’t been using repellent as much as we thought we would. Malaria, dengue, Japanese encephalitis and other mosquito-borne illnesses are, from what we’ve heard, not really a problem around Ubud, although I have heard that it is more common in the heavily-populated south with its large sewage ditches. At least one of our friends had dengue fever once, and recovered just fine. Malaria prevention medicine can make you feel nasty, so be aware of its side effects before using it in your travels. I would say it is probably not necessary to use it in Bali, but check with your (travel) doctor before leaving your country.

Ants regularly make a migration up our kitchen wall to a hidden passage that leads to Oz.

Ants regularly make a migration up our kitchen wall to a hidden passage that leads to Oz.

Ants. Another creature that you simply must live with are ants. Where there is sugar, there are ants. We have seen single ants dragging good-sized cracker segments across the driveway. Some are very tiny, some bigger in size. There are biting fire ants, but most do not bite but rather just get into everything. We’ve had small ant-like creatures living in our wood table, as happens with many people with wood furniture in Bali. They love drinking from our empty water or juice glasses, and it’s gross to see, but we just wash them after and its fine. We also have had huge migrations of ants in the house, moving up the walls. It’s harmless and just fascinating to watch. Really, I think Canadians are unreasonably squeamish about ants in houses. In a Balinese home, they are simply part of the family.

Cockroaches. This is the only creature on this list that we haven’t successfully cohabitated with. Perhaps we could learn too, but the best we have been able to do is seal off ways in which cockroaches get into the house, and kill the ones that still manage to get in. Cockroaches are not just part of New York City lore, they are in Bali, and they are really the only creature that we find quite repulsive. They drop from light fixtures onto the floor, skitter around, run away from us, taunt us, and just seem to be the ugliest insects around. While we can live with every other creature on this list, cockroaches are not given a second chance in our home. They’re not so common (sometimes more common than others). When they do appear, I trap them in an empty yogurt container and then snip them up with scissors. They’re resilient, so the scissor-chopping seems to be the only quick way to do away with them. It must be all of the horror movies with plagues of cockroaches which has incited this reaction. Perhaps you can convince us otherwise?

Some lovely Indonesian insects at the Bali Butterfly Park.

Yes, I volunteered to have these Indonesian creepy crawlies put on my shirt at the Bali Butterfly Park!

Flying insects. There are all kinds of flying insects in Bali, and most of them, we have no idea what they are called. There are huge drunken wasps that fly into the house and buzz around harmlessly. MASSIVE black bees that defy gravity with their bulky figures. Iridescent blue winged beauties. Huge grasshoppers and locusts that not only bound about, but fly. Gangly looking mosquito-type critters. And during rainy season, there are bugs that come out of the ground, gravitate towards all things lit up in the night, and then most of them seem to just drop dead. (A delicacy in Bali.) Weird! We luckily have not encountered the infamous tomcat which has a very toxic bite, but it is worth being aware of them.

Butterflies. Some of the butterflies here are the size of birds! And they come in all patterns and colours.  There are few things more magical than watching from the window as two butterflies do a delicate dance together in the garden. Massive ones feed on hibiscus flowers and flap their wings like blackbirds. They seem haphazard in the breeze, and yet are graceful, delicate and eternally lovely. Their original caterpillar forms, however, are to be avoided, as many of them are poisonous from what I’ve heard. But leave those caterpillars alone! They are one day going to delight the world with their fantastical flights.

By the way, don’t pay heed to negative TripAdvisor reviews; Bali Butterfly Park is well worth a visit!

Our video of our visit to the Bali Butterfly Park in June 2011

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