After a crazy but hilarious encounter with a critter that shall remain unnamed at my office recently, I figured I had to write this post. We have all encountered an uninvited pest or two either in our yards or in some instances inside our homes. When it comes to certain creatures Jamaicans will avoid them at all costs. In today's post, we delve into the world of the creepy critters that invoke fear and trepidation among the local population.
While this list of creepy critters was created in no particular order these lil nasties had to be at the top. There are several species of lizards in Jamaica. In my opinion, the most grotesque of which are the croaking lizards. I'm sure many Jamaicans would agree. I detest all lizards, but these especially because they usually hide inside peoples' homes. Other than their disturbing appearance, they also make these annoying croaking noises which have been the soundtrack to many nightmares. Croaking lizards are most commonly seen at night. They feed on small moths that are usually drawn to light sources and are commonly found lurking around outside lighting. For those of us unfortunate enough to have the light close to a door...well let's just say that's not fun. On rare occasions, you may spot a croaking lizard that has fallen from a tree during the daytime.
There are some superstitions involving lizards and these add to the reasons Jamaicans don't mess with them. The most popular superstition is that if a lizard falls or jumps on a woman, it is a sign that she is pregnant. People associate lizards with evil spirits due to another superstition. For this reason, most people will avoid them. The few who are not afraid of lizards will say "Lizards are more afraid of you than you are of them," however, I will continue to hold my stance that they are *insert Mermaid Man from SpongeBob voice* "Eeeeevil!" and I will not fall asleep in a room knowing a croaking lizard is lurking around.
Jamaicans refer to rats as "Mus Mus". Rats are carriers of Leptospirosis and other deadly diseases and they pose a severe health risk both inside the home and in public spaces, particularly restaurants and supermarkets. The diseases carried by rats are caught through food or drinks contaminated with rat droppings or urine. These rodents multiply quickly and can overrun your home or business in a short time.
The most notable sign of a rat infestation is their droppings. The best way to rid your home of rats is by hiring a professional exterminator or by setting various rat traps. It is important to note that having rats in your home doesn't necessarily mean your space is unclean. Rats rely on humans for food and as a result, they often enter our homes in search of food and water. Known for their gnawing abilities rats will chew just about anything. If you find food that has been chewed by a rat it should be thrown out immediately. Jamaicans view rats as the uninvited guest who overstay their welcome.
Centipedes locally referred to as forty-legs are the creepy critters. Their segmented bodies and numerous legs give them a very unsettling appearance. Centipedes can grow up to 12 inches. These arthropods are venomous and while their bite is not deadly to humans, it is known to cause swelling, redness, itching, and fever in some cases. They are nocturnal creatures and are often found in dark, damp areas of Jamaican homes. It can be difficult to capture or eliminate a centipede because they are extremely agile and fast-moving creatures. Jamaicans tend to avoid them. In a traditional home remedy to treat aches and pains, people actively use a captured centipede as an ingredient. The creature is placed in a bottle or jar with rum and left to ferment for future use as a balm or ointment.
Similarly to centipedes, scorpions are also arthropods with a creepy appearance. Jamaicans are mainly afraid of scorpions because growing up we were always warned that the sting of a scorpion can lead to lockjaw (Tetanus) which may be fatal if not treated. Scorpions are known for their venomous stings, injuries from which have the potential of being infected by Clostridium tetani. Clostridium tetani is the bacteria which causes Tetanus. As a result, we try to avoid scorpions at all costs. If captured a scorpion may also find itself in a bottle of rum waiting to be used as a home remedy just like the centipedes mentioned above. I'm not sure this is a remedy I would ever use though.
Roaches are referred to as the "bottom feeders" of nature. This is because they breed and thrive in the most unsanitary places such as sewage pits and drains as well as areas with an abundance of garbage. They carry diseases and can contaminate everything they touch including food and other surfaces. Cockroaches emit a distinct and unpleasant odour, making it easy to determine when they have infested an area. Many people are repulsed by even the sight of a roach so imagine the trauma of seeing one of these disgusting things sprout wings and fly towards you. Oh, the stories I could tell! Flying cockroaches are the stuff of nightmares and can strike fear even in the bravest individuals, sending them fleeing in terror. In Jamaica, roaches symbolize dirtiness and uncleanliness and no one wants to be associated with them. We, therefore, have a strong aversion to cockroaches.
Growing up I remember hearing stories about the wasp being the lazy cousin of the bee who tried to imitate the bee but was too lazy to perfectly replicate the bee's work. While this may only be a story it is a known fact that everyone prefers bees to wasp. Bees work hard to make delicious honey while wasps fly around being pests. Wasp nests are normally built on the outside of houses, in trees or in other sheltered spots in our yards. They are easily identified by the wasps flying around outside it.
Wasps use their sting to defend themselves. Unlike the honeybees, the wasp's sting does not get stuck in the skin so they can deal multiple blows without sacrificing themselves. Despite the risk of being stung, Jamaicans will attempt to take down a wasp nest on their own by using smoke or insect spray. Recently I've seen videos of people using gasoline to take out a wasp nest. This seems like an effective method for smaller nests, but I will always recommend getting professional help regarding getting rid of pests.
Moths hold a unique and intriguing place in Jamaican culture, as many locals associate the larger ones with the supernatural. Referred to as 'Duppy Bat', these large moths are believed to be an ominous sign that a duppy, or ghost, is present in the vicinity. Although moths are normally benign insects, some Jamaicans may feel uneasy or fearful when they see one, especially at night. The association between moths and duppies is deeply rooted in Jamaican traditions and storytelling, handed down through generations.
The Jamaican Galliwasp is a species of lizard endemic to Jamacia. Galliwasps have a large head, tapered body and tiny legs. Their appearance often gets them mistaken for snakes. Despite their snake-like appearance, galliwasps are not venomous. This misconception has perpetuated fear among many Jamaicans, who have been told that if bitten by a galliwasp and unable to reach water before the lizard does, they would possibly die. This is something that would scare anyone and as such galliwasps are killed on the spot. as a form of self-protection.
In Jamaica, sighting a frog or a toad often leads to the common label of "bullfrog," regardless of the specific species. These ugly amphibians are feared by many Jamaicans. Many frogs in Jamaica have bumpy and slimy skin and their appearance is one of the primary reasons people avoid them. Another reason is their uncanny ability to leap far and high with remarkable agility. The prospect of having a frog spring forth and land on them is enough to send shivers down the spine of even the bravest souls. An old superstition we have is that frogs carry 'Kokobe', leprosy and an unfortunate encounter with a frog may result in one being sprayed with the dreaded 'kokobe'. While this is not accurate, the widespread phobia of frogs has become part of Jamaican culture and has an impact on how people view and deal with these amphibians.
Now, mosquitoes aren't necessarily creepy critters but they are the most annoying and possibly deadliest critters on this list. These little nuisances are carriers of some of the world's most harmful diseases including the Zika virus, Dengue Fever and Malaria. Mosquitoes are persistent pests that can ruin both indoor and outdoor activities. They make it difficult for us to relax, work or even sleep. When they aren't buzzing incessantly close to your ears they are hovering around your legs or another exposed part of your body, trying to locate a good spot to feast.
Despite the numerous efforts by the Jamaican government and locals to deal with these unwanted pests, they remain a constant problem. Some methods put in place by the government include fogging, which is done in communities occasionally, as well as public education campaigns. These campaigns aim to teach citizens how to prevent or destroy potential breeding grounds for mosquitoes. In our homes, we try to protect ourselves from mosquitoes using insect repellant, mosquito destroyer coils and where possible mesh screens or doors and windows. When all else fails the electric mosquito zapper does the trick. You know the one shaped like a tennis racket? This is my favourite weapon of defence against mosquitoes. I've never played tennis but I'm sure with all the practice I have I would be excellent at handling the racket.
Speaking of annoying nuisances ants come in at a very close second to mosquitoes. You generally do not have to walk too far outside to stumble across an ant colony. Ants can be found everywhere. Not only do they destroy the structure of your home but some ants even destroy clothes or furniture. Jamaicans use ants to predict the weather. If we see a colony of ants moving their larvae around this usually indicates that we should expect rain.
The most common ants in Jamaica are known to locals as the Biting Ants, Mad Ants, Sugar Ants and Piti Mi Likl Ants. The Biting ants are black ants that bite on site. These we try to avoid at all costs. They usually have their nests in or around our yards and will send you scampering and scratching if you have the misfortune of standing on their nest. Mad ants are less aggressive ants who always seem to be in a rush. Their movements are often erratic. Sugar Ants are small brownish ants who seem to have a taste for the sweet stuff. They are often found scurrying around in our kitchens. The real struggle begins if they get into your sugar or cereal. Piti Mi Likl ants are tiny red ants that are known to have a painful bite.
The aversions most Jamaicans have to these creepy critters are deeply rooted in superstition, a fascinating aspect of the island's cultural heritage. While some of these creatures pose potential threats, most are harmless to humans. Despite their eerie reputation, these creepy critters play crucial roles in the island's diverse ecosystem, contributing to the delicate balance of nature. As we continue to explore the intriguing world of Jamaican creepy critters, let us strive to dispel misconceptions and replace fear with fascination, fostering a sense of coexistence and respect for the remarkable biodiversity that surrounds us.
Which of these creepy critters sends shivers up your spine? Tell me in the comments below!
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