A Squeamish Girl’s Guide to Costa Rica, Part 2

By Emily Rackers

SAN LUIS, Costa Rica — There I was, walking through La Bella Tica coffee farm, carrying a basket of fresh oranges. One misstep and I was in the red zone. I felt a sharp pain by my ankle; then another on my shin.

I looked down: tiny ants attacked my leg like their own personal corn on the cob buffet. There must have been 30 crawling on my right shoe. I don’t know if they thought it was their neighborhood block party or what.

I let out a scream and kept shouting “Ants! Ants!” and hysterically smacking my leg and shaking my body. I couldn’t believe it — of all people to be attacked my ants, it’s the squeamish girl. How such small creatures can leave welts the size of vigorously scratched mosquito bites is beyond me.

As I nursed my wounds with a tube of hydrocortisone and a cup of Costa Rican dark roast, I thought about how negligent I had been in getting into that situation. Because, technically, I was Godzilla in their New York City. They had no choice but to defend themselves and their land.

So let’s talk about how to avoid ants in your pants:

  1. Know your ants. This is a biggie. Some ants are totally harmless, like the carpenter ants or concrete ants that we see back in the United States. Others, like fire ants and army ants, can be a really unfortunate encounter. I do not recommend trying to make friends with these types of ants.
  2. Look for the lines. Lots of ant species that we have encountered travel in lines that are decently visible. These include leaf-cutter ants, army ants and surprisingly, most other types of ants. Use common sense. If you see a line of ants, don’t walk through it. Cartwheel over it, if you have to, but do not walk through it.
  3. Move. Want to know how I ended up with creatures of darkness and despair biting me? It’s because I was standing still on them, trying to take a picture of a basket of naranjas (oranges). This is a bad idea. The longer you stand still, the more they’ll take their little legs and scurry up your body.
  4. Stop, drop and brush. And if you still end up hosting the neighborhood ant block party, try to remove any clothing with the ants on them and brush off as many as you can. It’s important to do this quickly to avoid more bites. Doesn’t matter how silly you look; you’re covered with little death crawlers. Stop, drop and brush.


Editor’s note: for an earlier post in the “Squeamish Girl’s Guide” series, click here.

One thought on “A Squeamish Girl’s Guide to Costa Rica, Part 2

  1. Debbie Allen says:

    More fun, and good info, from the field. [typo in paragraph 3, second sentence, ‘my’ ants]

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