23 May 2009

This will drive you buggy...

In my last post I talked about some bugs called "Myate Verde" and "Pinacate". I received feedback from my fellow blogger Gary Denness of "The Mexile" about about a bug called "Cara de Niño" (Face of a Child) and also from Gloria of "Viva la Vida" about a bug called "Niño de la Tierra" (Child of the Earth). Both of these names refer to the same bug which in English is called a "Jerusalem Cricket" (Stenopelmatus Fuscus). It is not really a cricket either even though it kind of resembles one as you can see in the pictures below. The head of this bug is what really spooks people because it is smooth and translucent and resembles the head of a baby human. There are so many legends about this creature that I won't even begin to relate them here and besides, many of them are quite sinister. The reality is that the Jerusalem Cricket is harmless little tyke although it will definitely bite you if you stick your finger in its face. They are active at night and eat mostly dead organic matter and live underground and out of sight most of the time.

I received some more interesting feedback from my friend Alfredo Medina of "Diario de Alfredo". He told me to watch out for a bug he calls "Pintos". I believe the bug that he is referring to is what is known locally where I live as "juansanchez" (one word with all lower case letters). It is a flat bug with red and black markings that swarms in May and June and is attracted to bright lights at night. It can also inflict a very painful bite (which is actually a stab wound) if it is threatened. This bug is a very serious menace because it is a vector carrier for a debilitating disease called "Chagas" which is an invasive parasite called "Trypanosoma cruzi" or "T. cruzi" for short. There is no known cure for Chagas and it is estimated that there are approximately eight million poor people in Mexico who have it. The parasite attacks the internal organs and especially the heart and victims die at a much earlier than normal age. I have no idea why the local people call them "juansanchez". Nobody that I talked to seems to know.

There are about 130 subspecies of this bug and they are members of Triatominae , a subfamily of Reduviidae, and in English they are known as Conenose bugs, Kissing bugs, Assassin bugs or Triatomines. About a dozen or so of the subspecies cause most of the trouble in Mexico and one of the worst of these is called "Triatominae Mexicana" and it is prevalent in the states of Guanajuato, San Luis Potosí, and Michoacán. The bugs get into poorly constructed dwellings and live in the mattresses or bedclothes or even cracks in the bedroom wall or ceiling or floor. At night they come out and feast on the blood of their victims like mosquitoes do. They like to insert their proboscis in the facial area of their victims which is why they are called the "kissing" bug. They do this painlessly so as not to wake their victim but do not insert the T. cruzi parasite while they are actually sucking blood. The parasite is in their feces and is deposited near the tiny wound that their proboscis makes. The anti-coagulant in the mucous of their proboscis makes the wound itch and when the victim involuntarily scratches the itch they automatically rub the feces into the wound and that is how the the victim is infected. These bugs hide during the day and come out at night to search for blood when the host is asleep and the air is cooler. Odors as well as heat guide these insects to the host. Carbon dioxide emanating from breathing, as well as ammonia and other human body odors attract their attention. During night the bugs are also initially attracted to houses by bright lights. There are other vertebrates that serve as a reservoir for Chagas disease. These include Tuzos (gophers), ardillas (squirrels), ratones (mice), mapaches (raccoons), and especially tlacuaches (opossums, also called zarigüeyas).

There is another bug that I heard of recently that one has to see to believe. There is a town in Yucatan called Téjuxpan, where they have a big black beetle called the Buffalo Clasp Beetle (Dynastes fibula). They take this beetle and they glue little ornaments to it and a little chain so that ladies can pin them to their clothes and the beetles crawl around on the ladies' clothing, being limited in their travel only by the length of the chain. They are quite docile and can live for up to a year if cared for properly. Normally they live out of sight on the forest floor and eat dead and rotting vegetable material. Perhaps one of the Merida bloggers can fill us in a little more about them. They go by the name of "Maquech" or "Makech". Weird, ain't it?


Steve Cotton said...

When I was growing up in southern Oregon, Jerusalem crickets were quite common -- but, we knew them as potato bugs. I have never understood the baby head comparison. I just don't see it. That may say more about my imagination than I wish.

Once again, thanks for an interesting post.

Constantino said...

That's why have have several cans of Oxo around, nothing better than that for those little varmints.

Calypso said...

Yikes Bob - we hate bugs here and there is no shortage. We use cal (lime) to discourage them and occasionally Boric acid.

I suppose that last photo bug is tolerable - but bejeweled or not they are UGLY.

Amanda said...

OK Bob you totally had me freaked out about the Kissing bug and carrying diseases. By the description I thought it was the bugs that are crazy thick around here (Tepa) in July and AUG (they kinda look like the lightning bugs back home). Thank God when I saw the pic it was a different bug. My husband and everyone around here says the lightning bug looking things are harmless, I hope there right.

Bob Mrotek said...

It wasn't my intent to scare anyone. I just think you should be aware. If you keep your house tight and clean which I know that you do, then you have nothing to worry about. Some things that look scary aren't really bad and somethings that look innocent can harm you. Knowing the difference can be important. I'm sorry if I caused you anxiety or alarm.

1st Mate said...

Oh, gosh, Bob I think I've seen that kissing bug before! Yikes!

And that jeweled bug is just disgusting. So you get one for Christmas and then you have to spend your time looking for dead and decaying matter to feed it, right? Yuck!

glorv1 said...

Oh man Bob, those are some ugly things and I do mean things. How could anything be so dern ugly. I hate them, I hate rats too. They freak me out. Debi in Merida ran across a mouse and rat when she was at her compost pile. Yikes, I would have jumped 20 feet high. Bob those are ugly ugly ugly, now I go away. :D take care and have a great week.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

I hate potato bugs, it stems from a trauma I had one Halloween. My brothers were scattering around plastic creepy crawlers, and I thought that a potato bug on the staircase was another one of their futile attempts to scare me and my friend. When the damn thing moved as I was reaching for it, I screamed and fell down the stairs. It's been more than 30 years and I still get the creeps from them!

Gary Denness said...

The photos are good, but don't show just how big those suckers can get!!!

By the way Bob, you gave the old link to my blog. I have been on garydenness.co.uk for a coupla years now! The old link kinda works, but I'm about to trash that blog with ads!

Bob Mrotek said...

I'm sorry if I caused you to have a flashback. I just wanted people to be aware of them. By the way, in the U.S. they are commonly called "potato bug" but they have nothing to do with potatoes.

Sorry about the link. I corrected it :)

Jonna said...

Ack! Those fugly potato bugs were the bane of my existence as a kid. Every Saturday morning I had to help in the yard and I would ALWAYS dig up one of those creepies. I'd dance around and yell and my mom would come over with a spade and just chop it in half. YUCK! Maybe I was scarred for life?

The Makech is not as creepy as a potato bug, for one thing they are dry and not greasy or shiny looking. You don't have to go and look for stuff to feed them, they come with a piece of dead wood and supposedly they will eat on that piece for a year. Still, I wouldn't wear one although I've had one put on me by vendors and it wasn't bad. I just feel sorry for them.

Amanda said...

So I found a bug IM not familure with in my apartment and I came back to this post to see if it was the cricket you posted on here. My husband called it a cricket but it didnt have big hind legs. It sounded like a cricket one night and when my husband sprayed the area what we found the next day was a dazed bug, today I found another. So it looks like a cricket at the top but has no big hind legs and has long antennas. Any idea what it might be? And if it bites? ;)

Bob Mrotek said...

At this point from your description I am not really sure. A photo would help. For your peace of mind why don't you put the next one that you find in a jar (get Hubby to do it) and take it to a pest control man. You shouldn't have to buy anything and if they are any good at all they should be able to tell you what it is. I know that the Orkin people will do this for you but I don't know if they are in your area. If you find out please put it on your blog so that other people will know too but I don't need to tell you that. I know that you are a sharing and caring person :)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.