What makes Costa Rica so special is its species density (number of species per unit area). Costa Rica possesses about 5% of the total world’s biodiversity. Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity extends into the insect world. There are more than 800,000 species of insects on earth. Costa Rica is home to more than 34,000 of these, while many thousands more await identification.
Many of Costa Rica’s insects go largely unnoticed by passers-by. Grasshoppers, beetles, termites, flies, ants, wasps, bees, moths, butterflies…. The list goes on and on. Visitors usually do not encounter massive swarms of insects, nor are they aware of the many insects surrounding them at every minute of the day. Most of the insects found in Costa Rica are harmless, yet can be annoying or quite frightening due to their size or numbers. There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 species of flies, of which only 900 or so have been recorded in scientific literature. There are more than 1000 species of butterflies (5% of the world’s population), thousands of species of ants including leaf cutters, army, bullet and fire ants, and an estimated 20,000 species of beetles. Visitors usually do not encounter massive swarms of insects, nor are they aware of the many insects surrounding them at every minute of the day. Most of the insects found in Costa Rica are harmless, yet can be annoying or quite frightening due to their size or numbers.
The first time you see army ants marching through the forest or the giant golden-orb spider sitting quietly in her nest, you might be startled, but you will quickly learn that these insects do not harm you when left alone and that there are many interesting things to learn by observing them, especially when you look closely.
Of course, there are a host of unfriendly bugs that also exist in Costa Rica. Chiggers, wasps, bees, ticks, mosquitoes, and the famous “no-see-ums.” All of these common insects can inflict irritating bites on humans. Responsible use of insect repellent (spraying or applying it away from others who might not want to inhale its fumes as you apply it) or lightweight, long sleeve shirts and pants can help eliminate most of these types of bites.
Visitors will be pleasantly entertained by the variety of butterflies that flutter by and by their differences in size and color. There are sting-less bees, insects that mimic leaves, caterpillars with crazy hairs and spines, huge bioluminescent beetles that make lightening bugs look like specs of dust, spiders that make their homes in burrows and then make a door out of debris, hinging it with silk. These trap-door spiders can open and close their door at will and can keep it closed with force by using their legs and fangs to keep it shut. There are tail-less whip scorpions that do not sting, and butterflies with clear wings that you can see through. Costa Rica is also home to the strongest creature on earth…the Hercules Beetle.
As you travel through Costa Rica, remember that all these insects belong here and just because they might cross your path when you least expect it, it is not okay to kill them. Trying to handle insects can lead to painful stings and is not recommended. Respect the wonderful, amazing world of insects and they will honor you by not bothering you either.