Uso- Caterpillar. Tû– Sand flea. Tahyi- Ant. Mberu- Fly.
Today, I count 26 bug bites on my left leg alone. My right leg looks worse. Interspersed in the hair around my calf, I can discern gnat and black fly bites. Mosquitos prefer my thigh. My feet are covered in black dots, gifts from the ants who bite as I work barefoot in my garden. And my toes look like a war zone from the never ending battle with sand fleas, who leave huge craters at the tip of my toes when I dig out their egg sacs. If there’s one element of Paraguayan campo lifestyle that I’ve adapted to the most, it’s the acceptance of insects as a perpetual part of my life. With the recently hot weather, beetles have been particularly good company, swarming in my house at night, finding their way under my mosquito net, crawling underneath me as I sleep, and startling me awake when they bite, usually on my butt. Sand fleas, or pique, are old news. At one point, I was digging out an average of five per week, leaving each of my toes heavily bandaged. I can sit and read and not be bothered anymore by the flies that land and walk all over my neck, face, back, arms, legs…. I’ve stepped in fire ant mounds, wearing nothing but flipflops. I’ve found a nest of the creepiest spiders I’ve ever seen behind my compost box. They were nothing compared to the hand-sized spider I once found in my towel. Smaller spiders rebuild their webs in the corners of my house, mere seconds after I sweep them away. I find small bugs in bags of pasta and instead of wasting good food, I throw them in the boiling water with the pasta and call it a good source of protein. These bugs, I’ve learned to live with. They’re a part of my daily life and they tend to be good company, just other inhabitants of rural Paraguay, going about their business. And I accept them.
But so help me, should parasites or a bot fly or a mosquito with dengue jump into the mix, a change in outlook might be unavoidable….