These guys want to have YOU over for dinner
Few views are grander than the universe laid out across a clear Costa Rican sky. But as you take in the magnificence, the no-see-ums are munching on your body.
The little flying insects are common in Costa Rica from the highest mountain to the most deserted beach. They reward their dinner guests with bites that itch like crazy and last for days.
But a little study shows that some of these creatures also are responsible for pollinating cocoa trees. No bugs, no cocoa pods and no chocolate. The larva is as hungry as the adult female and dines on certain water pests.
Spanish speakers call these pests, purrujas, zancudos or beechas and English speakers know them as midges, sand flies or no-see-ums because they almost always get away without being seen. Some are so small that they fit through screens that stop bigger insects. Sometimes they swarm.
Generally the biting flies resemble mosquitoes. Some bite during the day, and many do so at night. But like the mosquito, it always is the female. The male may be out pollinating cocoa trees.
The insects should really be called chewing flies because the female injects a little saliva into the small wound to help keep the blood flowing. Several hours later the bite turns into a small red spot that itch intensely.
Some tropical species can transmit diseases of tiny worms, so repellent and tight-fitting clothes are recommended. Some species are not put off by bug spray.
Clear nights and a lot of outdoor activity increases the exposure of humans to these flies, although each only has a short lifespan, perhaps two weeks. But there seldom seems to be a shortage.
Around dwellings, eliminating stagnant water and decaying vegetable matter where the larvae dwell, according to entomologists at the University of Georgia can reduce the number of biting flies.