August 10, 2017
Vieques, Puerto Rico
My younger sister Della is an awesome photographer and writer. Check out some of her pics and writing on her blog, Midlife Melody.
Since my Mama’s passing in July my siblings have all bonded like never before. Mama would be proud.
One of the ways that the four of us (plus our four spouses) communicate is by group texting. We all post things that are happening in our lives from our four spots on the globe: San Antonio, TX; Rockwall, TX; Utah; and Vieques, Puerto Rico.
Utahan Della and her family really like cold climates and much prefer shoveling snow over shoveling sand. We’re sisters from the same family, same parents, but very opposite climate preferences. It’s like Winterfell vs Valyria (Game of Thrones). She’s more Wildling…I’m more Dothraki.
Yesterday she snapped and sent us these two incredible photos of local beasties that inhabit the wily northern kingdom called Yellowstone, which is close to where she lives.
Wow! I don’t know whether to gasp in awe of her beautiful photography or the fact that she is that close to critters that could maul and eat her.
So, this morning as I did my run here on Vieques island, I had Della’s images fresh on my mind. I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to worry about hungry bears (I saw Revenant!) or irate buffalo as I enjoyed my morning ritual here in paradise. I could walk/run with no worries of being gored or eaten. Lucky me!
Then I happened to look down at the road and saw this.
John had told me to watch out for scorpions, millipedes and centipedes because in the Caribbean they can be deadly. Huh? No way this little wormy thing with a gazillion legs could kill me!!! I snapped the photo and just in case he was right I made sure not to get too close or step on the little critter.
Then I came home, pulled up Google and checked it out. Sure enough, John was right.
Here’s what I found.
The scientific name for the centipedes found here in Vieques is scolopendra gigantean. These critters can grow to be a foot long, not quite Hollywood-size, but scary. But in monster movie style, they are carnivorous and love munching on frogs, lizards, small birds and insects. They like warm, damp climates and live primarily along the Amazon River in South America and in the Caribbean which includes here on Vieques Island. Yikes!
They like to live under rocks and in cave crevices, so the chances of seeing one here are pretty slim, but if you should happen to find one, don’t attempt to take it home as a souvenir. If bitten, the venom can cause nausea, fever, chills and pain that one local described as worse than childbirth. In some cases the bite of the scolopendra gigantean can cause death.
An interesting side note about centipedes is that not one of them have exactly 100 legs! They have either 21 or 23 pairs. I’ll take the bug scientists’ word on this. I’m hoping to never get close enough to count!
We’ve seen a few dead scorpions since we’ve been here and frankly, that is the only state I’d like to find one. Most of the scorpions here are bark scorpions, genus centruroides, although a few years back scientists discovered two new types right here on Vieques. Lovely.
Scorpions prefer to live in dark, damp places like under rocks and logs. But they also can find their ways into houses and could choose shoes and clothing to hang out. Always, always shake your shoes before putting them on!
Mexico has the most deadly varieties of scorpions reporting about 1000 fatalities per year, but the sting of most Caribbean arthropods just cause major illness and hospitalization.
Actually what I saw this morning on my run was an anadenobolus monilicornis, also known as the yellow-banded or bumble bee millipede. These little critters are native to the Caribbean.
They can grow to about 4” long. They secrete a toxin that is really stinky. In fact it’s so stinky that some birds and small animals crush the leggy critters and rub their wings or fur in the secretions to keep insects away. The good news to humans is that if you get the stinky goo on your skin it won’t kill you. But you will have a painful brown blister that can take up to 4 months to go away. Ouch!
Growing up, my family never went camping. Our family outings primarily consisted of watching Texas A&M play football. So I guess it makes sense that all four of us kids have a burning desire to be outdoors as much as we can.
We’ve developed a true appreciation of our surroundings whether they be icy or sweltering. We’ve learned to respect the critters of all sizes and the possible dangers that come with them.
It’s all good. And, it’s definitely worth it. Nature heals the soul.