Travel Tips for travellers to Amazon Rainforest, Second Part. Insects…natures little blighters.

Travel Tips for travellers to Amazon Rainforest, Second Part
Insects…natures little blighters.

“How do you cope with the insects?” I was often asked. Practically, is the answer.
Mosquitos are not such a problem as I thought they would be. I rarely got bitten. Along black waters, mosquitos are few or non existent. They can be found more often in areas of high density, towns and cities, then in thick forest.
I did get attacked though, by either mosquitos or bed bugs, during my second visit to Brazil. They went for my eyes as I slept in a no-star hotel on the outskirts of town. When I got up in the morning, I found the world looked a very different shape. I viewed it as if I were looking through a letter box. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and stepped back in horror. My eye lids were white, shining and hugely swollen and stretched, like a Buddhas belly. My eyes, buried in the slits, were barely visible. I spent several days hidden, day and night, behind a pair of dark sun glasses, until the swelling went down.
What I did have more of a problem with was the tiny Black fly. Especially visible in the afternoons, when I was relaxing with a book. They hovered in front of my eyes like tiny black full stops. Often floating into my eyes or up my nose, they left me red eyed and sneezing. The flys didn’t bite or burrow, they were just too familiar for comfort.
My solution was to cut up an old mosquito net and hang it from a wide brimmed straw hat. This solved the problem of the fly irritating me, but trying to read a book through a haze of nylon was impossible, so I gave up.
Another problem was wasps. I received a sting one evening, while eating at the only lit area in the forest. The light attracted a variety of flying insects, mostly beautiful moths, but also wasps.
Large, with black and yellow striped, curved bodies, primed and ready to strike, they buzzed danger. The sting I received was on my ear lobe, and it hurt. Immediately a lemon was halved and my ear was wiped with it and held in place. I was told to expect pain and swelling for several days. The next day, nothing. No pain, no swelling, no visible evidence of the spiteful creatures revenge on me for swiping it.
I did get stung by some smaller wasps, however, and the pain and swelling were extreme. My hand was swollen to twice its size. It was hot to the touch and sore. The skin on my fingers was stretched to bursting. My hand resembling a cows udder, throbbed painfully at the end of my arm for several days, but eventually went back to normal without medication.
The forest is full of biting, stinging, sucking insects. Many of these insects are beautiful and fascinating, but at all times it is necessary to be cautious and avoid touching.
Mosquito deterrents and insect bite cream are all useful. Malaria preventives are essential.

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This tiny ant along with termites can give painful bites and cause swelling. Avoid.

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Most wasps like this mud dauber are harmless, but some can give painful stings and are best avoided.

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Spiders are best kept at a distance. Some like the Wandering Spider can kill. The Tarantula here will not kill, but if disturbed can cause intense irritation with its hairs.

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Mud Dauber Wasps of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest.Sceliphron caementarium.

Wasps of the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest. Hymenoptera.Sceliphron caementarium.

The Wasps Nest.

Tightly attached to one of the trees that formed an archway across the path to the river, was a large wasps nest. It was a big, bulbous nest, that throbbed with an ominous, humming noise.
Mr Monduco, my neighbour, along with a young nephew, decided its close proximity to the pathway made it particularly dangerous and it had to go. I protested, but they insisted.
They gathered together some twigs and branches and lit a fire below the nest, as I stood on the verandah watching. They then took a long branch each and at arms length and with some trepidation, set light to the nest. Having ensured it was burning, they looked at each other, nodded, threw the branches, turned and ran like hell. They hurtled up the stairs, ran past me at speed and flew into a room and shut the door and window shutters. I, shocked at this unexpected turn of events, quickly followed their example.
They looked scared, but hid it by laying back against sacks of manioc, laughing and teasing each other, and frequently checking through a crack in the window to see what was happening outside.
The nest glowed orange as it burnt and soon the papery construction began to fall apart. The few wasps that hadn’t been trapped inside the nest hung around for only a short while, before flying off.
The next day Monduco pointed to a new nest being built high in one of the tall trees. This one they left alone.
The wasps of the rainforest not only built nests in trees, but also single cells made of clay, which they attached to anything that didn’t move: clothing, shopping bags, apples, door handles etc. They also built long cell structures that when attached together looked like flutes. Some built cells that they piled one above the other.
The colouring of these wasps is usually yellow and black, but I did see one morning a beautiful metallic blue wasp fall from a roof timber. It landed at my feet clutching a black spider.
Wasps, like all insects, are a part of life in the forest. Most are not aggressive, but I did get stung on a number of occasions with varying degrees of swelling and discomfort. Strangely it was the smallest wasps that caused me the most trouble, blowing my hand up like a flaming red, cows udder.
A small price to pay for my extraordinary adventure into their territory.
Thanks to Paul of Garden Guests, I now know the wasp in the first photo is a Mud Dauber Wasp, Sceliphron caementarium. It is a non-aggressive wasp,that builds cells out of clay, either singly, or in a flute-like or pipe-like structure.

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