Monday, June 16, 2008

Of Gnats, Geckos and Creepy hairy things..

Now where DO I start? When did it dawn on you that Sri Lanka is full of things that buzz, creep and slug about, and we don’t mean just the wanainchi.(1)

probably just when you stepped off the plane and had to choke on a few kamekazi houseflies…
Vermin in Sri Lanka range from curious to positively deadly with lots of slime in between and none of them taste good so don’t try this kind of revenge. Although we are poor and very bored we still have not started eating our insects; and there’s a reason for that, no doubt very cultural.
Here are the worst offenders I can remember and not necessarily in any particular order except that I scream loudest in this order, when I see them.
1. Dalam- boo-wars:
These are nasty hairy little caterpillars which descend quietly from particular trees, on invisible threads like spider web. Onto your towels or drying laundry no doubt and then they stay there until you unwittingly rub them into your skin , where they cause itching and pain worse than a centipede which lasts for about a month. This is Sri Lanka being really mean. Any landlord who harbors trees which drop dalambuwars should be abandoned forthwith. This is another good reason to really dust your clothes before you wear them and have a good look at them, because this lot are sticky and may not actually fall out even if you do walk around for ten minutes bashing your nightwear across the furniture ; besides a suspect which is just half an inch long and two millimeters across can still cause the same amount of suffering. Oddly the best first aid for both these torturers and for centipedes (see below) is a bit of garlic which has been sliced open –gently rub the area with that liquid garlic. Or mash it and apply it if you don’t mind the stink because it is very soothing. Really.
2. Garudas:
To not be too scientific about it, centipedes fall into three categories
Hairy and
Dead Scary
The first are hardly visible like fine bits of running fiber, the second are larger and bite worse and the last are the so called garudas who fall from coconut trees and are about a centimeter in WIDTH , and have SEGMENTS which carry their hundred thick MUSCULAR legs about. I don’t want to find out what their bite feels like but if you are sensitive enough, the reaction can bring you to an inch of death. This is why it makes sense to batter your clothes before you wear them, and don’t hang clothes in damp bathrooms because centipedes usually come in through the drains. Occasionally you may find one in the laundry bucket or half dead in the suds. This is a nasty experience; cats sometimes alert you to the presence of these and other horrors, but most of the time they just cause another set of problems so, the only solution is to keep things dry and cool if possible.
3. Roaches:
You have these in any country since biologically they are an evolutionary success story that has hung around for thee million years in spite of the fact that every thing from the dinosaurs downwards tried to stomp on them; but I have heard that in comparison to the Americans, Sri Lankan cockroaches are particularly large, shiny, MEATY and HEALTHY LOOKING. Nothing a spot of bug killer cant handle so this is probably the least of your worries.
4. Mosquitoes:
Hurt and they are deadly; the list of diseases they carry is expanding from Malaria Filaria and Dengue to Chikunguniya and did we forget to mention insomnia ? There is four ways to deal with them that come to mind. Coils , Mats , Vapors and Nets.
5. Rats:
Being mammals are maybe the least revolting, but they are just as dangerous as they harbor obscure ratty germs. They don’t always take to the rat poison you may lay out to them. What can I say, a case for cats again.
6. Geckoes aka Hoonaas :
I don’t actually scream about geckos unless one lands inside my cleavage (and it has happened…) and I actually think they are quite cute friendly little beggars, which actually reduce the rest of the insect population from your walls anyway. I have named the two fat characters that live behind my writing desk at home ,Freddy and Mr Hide, and they often come out and give me a beady cross eyed stare (they have curious pupils shaped like + signs). However they can be deadly if they fall into your tea or curry while its cooking and you imbibe of this. I’ve heard of families dying of this , although Im not sure why and the internet is curiously mum about it too. Cats who eat hoonas are just very sick for sometime and don’t do it again, but boiled hoonas I hear is absolutely caustic. Don’t fry them either , I mean we have lovely little dried anchovies on the market which are much safer. And if you haven’t been frying anchovies but the kitchen smells like it – the reason could be that you have a rotting hoonar in the door jamb. Use a twig and a polythene bag and don’t worry , it wont bite *
7. Leeches:
This subject is too revolting for me to even consider writing about so please refer to some other guide book, or the internet. You are reading the work of someone under trauma. I have just two words on the subject. Salt and Pee.
8. Snakes:
The smaller they are the deadlier and sadly we don’t have any solutions for them except that so far they have left foreigners alone, mostly ; needless to say Sri Lanka has one of the highest snake bite rates in the world, not to mention apparently the highest rates for alcoholism and for suicide; a definite sociological conundrum which needs investigation. They hide in laundry and shoes and yes, again, cats notice them earliest.

(1) Lovely swahili word meaning "People". And why am I lapsing into Swahili ? I m darned if I know but Hakuna Matata!


eukaryote said...

8. Snakes:
The smaller they are the deadlier and sadly we don’t have any solutions for them

That's a misconception about smaller the deadlier, only 4 poisons types in Sri Lanka, and all 4 types are poisonous irrelative of size or age.
The 4 types are [not in any specific order] Cobra, Russels Viper, Common Krait and Indian Krait. All the other types [of which there are over 60 varities] are mildly venomous [meaning you'll live, if bitten without medication] or not poisonous at all. Like all other animals they seek food [especially rodents] and water.

aljuhara said...

thanks very much for the feedback- I shall use this in my publication if its ok with you. perhaps I meant that the smaller they are the less chance you have of seeing them hiding in your clothes etc so easier to get bitten.
are you an expert on this ?would like to have more information from you on my pet rescue site as I know that Sri Lanka has a rather disorganised snake bite emergency response..

eukaryote said...

I not a herpetologist in any way, but I am a doctor involved in toxicology and currently working in a research team concerning all toxins that humans are faced with. Snake bites are a routine part of my day, at the hospital where I work. If you wish for specific details concerning snakes and their interaction with humans I can point you too a herpetologist I know at the University of Colombo. email:

Restless Ecstasy said...

Awesome blog! :]
Thanks for all the info as well. Out of your list, what revolts me the most are the leeches! *shudder*

P.S - You are now on my blogroll as well as your pet rescue website (We only have stray dogs at home) :)

Angel said...

Slight addition to the above. There are 93 species of land and sea snakes identified in Sri Lanka, and 5 are considered potentially deadly, the 5th being the saw scaled viper echis carinatus. According to some researchers, it contains, miligram for miligram, the most powerful venom of any viper. Happily, the ones living in Sri Lanka seem pretty laid back and their venom possibly less toxic, fatalaties being rare.

Other species are poisonous (mild to moderate) or not poisonous at all.

I'm not sure about snakes hiding in clothes, but as a general rule, it's a good idea not to stick your hand under logs, leaf litter, stones etc. And to have your feet covered and possibly stomp while walking in the dark, as the vibration sensitive snakes will hopefully get themselves out of the way.

Disclaimer : I'm newly graduated and probably much junior to Eukaryote. If you need ard facts for your publication it would be a good idea to follow up on his lead.

On a different note, thanks for the hoona tip about the tip and the plastic bag... I've alway wondered how to get the gently decomposing fellows off the door jamb.

aljuhara said...

thanks, you all, for your valuable information! its wonderful to have you visit my site- although the rest of it is probably not about reptiles please do continue to read!

aljuhara said...

and on the subject of reptiles- how about starting a blog with good information on Sri Lankas snakes and reptiles - we need one!

aljuhara said...

dear Angel, what I usually do with anything dead from hoonahs to medium sized cats, is take a thick polythene bag put my hand inside it grab the cadaver and then TURN THE POLYTHENE BAG inside out over it so that its BAGGED . so I dont even need a twig. I was just pretending to be lady-like in the article because it gets published in Daily Mirror.:-)