Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bugs and Other Philippine Wildlife

I grew up a mile high, just outside Denver, Colorado USA. It was cold in the winter, and bugs were limited to those which could survive freezing weather. Many can, the most troublesome of which to me were red fire ants, black widow spiders and tomato worms.

Fire ants are bigger than most ants that inhabit the Philippines, and nastier. When they bite it feels like . . . yes, fire . . . for several days. They are red and the biggest are maybe a centimeter long. They hide out underground during the winter then emerge in the spring from huge hills about a meter across, running all over the place to forage for food. They are carnivorous and eat about any living creature. If they detect a threat, they don't flee. They attack. Our revenge was to pour gasoline down their nests and fire it up. Or huge M-80 fire crackers, little sticks of dynamite. You couldn't kill many that way, but you could assure they would be hard of hearing for a few days.

Black widow spiders are deadly poisonous. They live through the winter by hiding out in dark, warm places, like the garage. It is wise to look carefully beneath anything you pick up. That big round body, shiny and black about the size of a pea, would scare the bejesus out of me. They define creepy, in color and ominous shape and reputation and the way they move, as if stalking, across the underside of things. My father got bit on the neck once and his head swelled to the size of a basketball. Black widows helped me develop one of my two main phobias. One is arachnophobia.  The other, claustrophobia, a tale for a different telling.

Tomato Worm
Tomato worms are not poisonous. They don't even bite. But they are huge and green and have a habit of roosting right where you can catch hold of them whilst reaching for a tomato. I suppose they survive the winter by being an egg or something. I dunno. But they have legs like a caterpillar, are about an inch thick and five inches long, and their insides are green, rather like guacamole, a ground up avocado. I know, because after jumping 18 feet into the air and shrieking like a howler monkey in heat, I would stomp on them, and what you get is what you get.

Now the Philippines has a much more robust population of bugs. And they are bigger. And more of them are poisonous.

There are so many ants that I have stopped trying to avoid them. They crawl all over me as I wander amongst the bamboo, where the larger black ones live, and I flick them off if they tickle or do their minor biting thing. There are spiders everywhere, big gray-brown long-legged ones. In the bathroom, on the screen, under rocks, in the bamboo. I've had them on my arms and legs and they are teaching me that they don't really like me either. So my arachnophobia is actually easing.

Let's see. Cockroaches you can ride. Centipedes that really ruin your day. Big hairy tarantula-like spiders and wee little hopping spiders. The hoppers seem to like my computer desk, and nibbling on my elbow. Huge worms that look like centipedes to me; but my wife says they are harmless.

Anything with 2,000 legs is NOT harmless.

Beetles large enough to form a rock band. Praying mantises; Catholics, I am sure. Caterpillars that can devour a huge plant in a day or two; I presume their poops have nutrients. All kinds of nameless, faceless things flying this way and that. A cute orange bug with black spots that looks like an overgrown lady bug on steroids. But it bites.

So it is no wonder the reptile population also thrives. With that much gourmet food on the wing and ground, the lizards grow fat and happy. The snakes, which dine on the lizards, also grow fat and happy.  The frogs are here one day and gone the next. I suppose also cuisine for the snakes. Every once in a while I will stumble across a huge frog, about a foot in length, brown, just like the ground I am walking on. Too big for a snake to eat. So I am developing frogophobia, because that is just not right, to be that invisible and that hideously huge and ugly.

But you can tell they are Philippine creatures, because they show up inside the house anytime, without invitation.

One frog was even trying on my shoe for size. I think he wanted to borrow it.


Have a jolly good day!


  1. Critters everywhere huh? Either you're blessed with a home that's that close to nature or you're living in Malacanang...

    As kids my friends and I would pluck caterpillars from leaves then skewer and roast them. Or we sometimes stick a firecracker beside it while it's slowly crawling at a trunk. This is especially true during the last few days of the year when we had plenty of firecrackers at our disposal. And no, no frog was safe from total dismemberment. We sometimes place the frog in a can and throw lighted triangular firecrackers inside. Genius, eh?

    Oh, and cats weren't safe from us either.

    Now, if we could only do this as easily to the englistches-speaking critters from the 'other' blog site...

    Can't wait to read on what Mariano has to say about your article.

  2. Fortunately, I am close to nature, having left the bamboo groves that were on my property, and being surrounded by empty land overrun by all kinds of green stuff that is fine territory for creatures. Malacanang would be way too creepy for me.

    I think today's youth are underprivileged (at least in the US), not having the bombs available that we as kids had. Most of ours were imports from Mexico. The M-80 fuse burns under water, so we would wrap it in a ball of mud and drop it like a depth charge into the irrigation ditch, bringing crawdads and fish to the surface, in not such good condition.

    But I can't top your frog-in-a-can.

    We did make plastic model tanks and airplanes, then when we tired of them, blow them to bits with inch-and-a-half crackers. Oh, I all so recall. We'd put a firecracker and a rock into the handle of the wheelbarrow and shoot it like a bullet.

    Thanks for the blog idea. My days in the rocket club when we made our own rocket fuel . . .

  3. Yup, THOSE were the pastimes... Ah yes, critters and death were a recipe for some sadistic juvenile fun.

    Of course, we didn't have PCs, PSPs and Xboxs back then. No matter how state-of-the-art games are played nowadays in those consoles, nothing beats witnessing first-hand the gore of the splattered entrails of an unfortunate leaping amphibian.

    Sick? HELL YEAH.

  4. Have you considered poetry?

    " . . . splattered entrails of an unfortunate leaping amphibian."

    Way graphic, dude, way graphic . . .

  5. I do not have much to say about critters, insects and all. My wife attracts lizards and snakes that I can say. One time, a green lizard two-thirds of a foot long while she was in the bathroom. Her shriek scared the poor lizard away. She ran after it with a broom naked. The 2nd time a thin skinny snake was waiting for her, again, in the bathroom !

    Our bathroom, then had a crack where unwanted fellows creep right thru. Always in the bathroom because it is always moist.

    Our pantry is always populated by cockroaches. No matter how I sprayed it with Baygon nothing seems to work.

    Middle of the night, after lights are turned off, I could hear cockroaches and rodents parties without our permission.

  6. Thank goodness, my new house is snake-rodent-cockroach proofed. I do not know about ants.

    The back of our house, beyond our property's moat and drawbridge is a deep steep drop. Clusters of bamboos, corn plants and thick vegetation, I hope their snakes and lizards will not clamber up and seek out my wife :)

    One thing about my castle is birds and birds everywhere. I love the sights of birds. Their twittering is so soothing that everything is OK.

  7. Uhm, ever thought of shooting down those birds with, say, green hogs?

  8. Aha ! You seem to be reading my mind, 1DC. While I was banging on my keyboard it was on my mind but it did not go down from brain to my fingers into the computer. As you know, brains are faster than finger. ... Yes, our community has no-shoot policy on birds. If there are snakes, lizards, and other paraphernalia of the environment squirming, crawling around we are not supposed to kill it baecause it is part of the ecosystem our community is trying to promote ! We are to call our administrator and the administrator calls the gardener and put these in a safe place away from homes.

  9. 1DC, I like the fat white ones that drop bombs. Birds, that is.

  10. Thanks Joe. A quick thinker, as always.

    Mariano, it seems the gardener has all the fun.

  11. Joe, wanna read something graphic?

    "My wife attracts lizards and snakes that I can say.";
    "a green lizard two-thirds of a foot long while she was in the bathroom.";
    "She ran after it with a broom (?) naked.";
    "a thin skinny snake was waiting for her, again, in the bathroom !"

    Go ahead, Joe, unleash your imagination...

  12. There are 1,000 legged bugs and there are four-legged animals...

    This time there are two-legged vertebrate sashaying in finery sometimes in one-piece or two-piece. She's Shumcey Supsup. To Joe who doesn't know what "supsup" means SUCK! Not suck, like, life sucks. Suck like you put a straw into the mouth and suck it dry.

    Supsup is 3rd in Miss Universe. Philippines has plenty of Miss Universes and Missed universe. Bloggers and forums are bursting with comments bringing down servers to its knees.

    From the "major-major-major" mistake in the past to "american questions about religion" that did her according to some comments.

    I really thought watching Miss Universe is directed at women not realizing that FILIPINOS watched them, too! I do thought that it was sooo Gay watching Miss Universe. Find breed of two-legged animals.

  13. Brown-skin-punk'd-flat-squat-nose with Mozabique thick lips are now looking at themselves in the mirror. "Do I look like foreign-import-looking Shumcey?"

    "Am I tisay enough?" "Should I go to Vecky Belo to make me look more unlike-Filipino?"

    Whatever happened to Filipino animals? They do not want to look like indigenous looking Filiipnos anymore. They wanted to be more like Americans and Japanese with white milky smooth skin.

    And they complain that they do not get the best table in restaurants because they do not have that mestiza-foreign-import looks.

    Why can't Miss Philippines, Inc. promote the indigenous native Filipino brown-skin-punk'd-flat-squat-nose-Igorot-thick-lipped pygmy look?

    There is beauty in the current breed of Filipinos. Why prefer white-is-beautiful? Why, oh, so, prefer not-Filipino looking?

  14. Victoria's Secret black model has indigenous African look. She's not pretty but she exudes exotic confident beauty. Why are these people in the government trashing the Filipina beauty? Why, oh, why?

    Cebu Sinulog Beauty Contest was a contest not made for Cebuanos. It was made for the foreigners. They have foreign-import-European looks. They have foreign-import-European last names. And I thought I was somewhere else in Monaco. I WAS IN CEBU. IT WAS IN CEBU. AND THEY PREFER THE MESTIZAS. Of course the wonner was a mestiza with last name not indigenous to Cebu.

  15. The indigenous Philippine two-legged wildlife is now 2nd-hand, 2nd class citizens many thanks for promoting non-Filipino looking.

    That is why Joe got more attention when he breeze thru in any Philippine establishments. They open the door for Joe. They sit him down in comfy chair. They buzz around him if everything is what Joe wanted.

    Joe's children will be adored, too. Might end up in beauty contests and in telenovela. Suitors lined up from Aparri to Zulu. Whatever Joe wears, Filipino copy. Joe will be the merchant of hip and cool Filipinos look up to.

    Filipino two-legged brown-skin-punk'd-squat-flat-flared nose will soon be extinct. They'll be cross-breeding, if they are lucky, with the tisoys and tisays. MANY THANKS TO MISS PHILIPPINES, INC. and the Government.

  16. The non-filipino looking, two-legged wildlife would be a much-welcomed infestation in my home ANY DAY. Especially when the wife is out for the week.

    OMG, a thought just crossed my mind. THey say foreigners prefer exotic beauty. Be careful Joe, the 'indigenous native Filipinas' are aware of this. WOuldn't they give anything for a taste of Joe's earthly flesh. And uhm, maybe, a chance to own a Green Card.


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