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 or...The value of sharing the planet...


By: Marcela Cortés

Photos: Laura Taivalaho

Robert Biskupski

Andrés Benavente

 

 


Have you ever wondered why quetzals, jaguars, multicolored frogs and toucans get all the attention when talking about Costa Rican wildlife?

Today we’ve decided to branch out and give justice to a group of forgotten creatures – those that are typically anonymous or considered all too ordinary  – those that are less colorful and much more common. The time has come for bugs to step into the spotlight. 

Costa Rica never ceases to amaze us with its abundance of animals, not just in its national parks and forests, but also with much of its smaller tenants and visitors in our gardens every day.  They often invite themselves into our homes, sneaking in through any open door or window.

Whether we like it or not, they always find a way to get inside, but luckily the vast majority of them are inoffensive – they don’t muddle with our food and they don’t make a habit of causing any large problems.  This is not like Australia or Africa, where such tiny visitors have the potential to kill. Here, in the worst-case scenario they’ll give you a rash – and this is very rare, indeed.

 

Let’s start with the most famous of these tiny guests: the omnipresent geckos, who with their almost transparent skin, decorate every corner, wall and lampshade in Costa Rica.



In addition to eating countless spiders, mosquitoes and other insects each day, the geckos courteously do not invade our food supplies or transmit disease –making their coexistence with the human race completely and utterly harmonious.

A similar harmony is found with the frogs that live concealed within our gardens –except on the rainy days when they gain the confidence to look for protection in the gutters surrounding nearby houses. The bravest of them all even dare to enter our living areas in search of refuge.

Other, tinier frogs, love to enter our swimming pool to sing at night, capitalizing on the echo that makes them sound like super frogs, in the hopes of succeeding at attracting more females. It’s kind of like the macho guys that go around with mega stereo systems in their cars...

 

Our wooded garden is also visited by an ample variety of birds, such as trogons, mot mots, carpenter birds, magpies, hummingbirds and countless more. Together they bless us with various serenades throughout the day. It’s also a pleasure to watch them “birding” around in front of our balcony – soaring from treetop to treetop, or flying from the mountains to the sea. Each day many hummingbirds visit the garden sometimes in sizes so small that at first sight, they can be confused with large butterflies or dragonflies.

In the mornings, I receive a jolt of energy from watching the friendly and hyperactive squirrels playing in the trees without a care in the world. This dose of humor puts some pep in my step for the rest of the day. I can’t explain exactly why, but watching them play entertains me to no end!

 

Occasionally, beautiful bugs that look like real-life leaves, large multicolored grasshoppers, and sometimes some elegant praying mantises enter the house.


 

Clearly “our house” does not belong to just us. Many, many other critters also consider it their home.

In reality, the 5000 sq. ft. that we call home is also home to an incredibly diverse universe that includes; the huge nest of leaf-cutter ants behind the water tank, as well as populations of three other varieties of small ants, one nest of small and inoffensive wasps next to the front door, and 2 more near the trees.  One cannot forget the four green iguanas and three enormous lizards, which have transformed tiny spaces into their permanent homes or the various families of birds and their chicks that camp out in the trees. Two types of bats sleep by day between the tall plants, and at night they munch on insects in the garden.



Completing our community are about 70 species of vegetables and hundreds of thousands of small annelids, mollusks, arachnids, insects and myriapods. 

Oh! And let’s not forget two dogs and two cats.

 

There are some who would call this space, a four-person home – but in reality it’s an entire ecosystem bustling with life. In fact, if you were to weigh all of these tiny, peculiar houseguests, their sum total would surpass the total weight of the human beings in the house…by far!


 

To coexist in harmony with all of this wildlife is not an easy task, but I guarantee you that it is a possible and very fulfilling one.

 

We are taught to call them bugs, think on them as disgusting, scary and repulsive.   As kids, we are taught to disrespect them, to step on them or kill them just because they are passing before us.

 

Three years ago we decided that if the wasps that were building their nest at our front door were to bite or bother us in any way, we’d move the nest to a different place.

 

Because they have never bothered us, the wasps continue to thrive in the spot that they  originally chose as prime nesting real estate. It would not be difficult for us to change their location and maybe it wouldn’t bother them ­– but…What if the new place that we chose did not suit them? How unjust would it be to put the brakes on the prosperity and life of this magnificent colony only on a whim to control nature and our immediate surroundings?

 

Some people might think that this is an extreme example. You might think, why bother…they’re just wasps! Let me get to the heart of the matter: What right do we have to disrespect life? Have we won the right to bullyjust because we are a highly developed species?  

 

Our superiority complex and present behavior is actually comparable to one of a king that wants to kill or oppress all of the inhabitants of his kingdom.


If we consider ourselves better and superior, we should have the capacity to understand that it isn’t humans allowing nature to happen, she allows us to exist.

 

As kings of the planet, I invite you to marvel at the miracle in which we have found ourselves, and to assume the roles of a good and fair ruler..

I am not referring to a king such as Juan Carlos who recently went hunting for elephants in Africa. I’m talking about a noble king whose main objective is to create a healthy and happy kingdom…healthy and happy to all the inhabitants, no matter the size, color or…species.

 

 

How to make your house more environmentally friendly?

Each species plays a biological role and is part of a delicate equilibrium of life, so each is vitally important. We must learn to live together with nature, not to fight against it.

Here are some recommendations for making your home and yard healthy and happy ­­– for all of it’s inhabitants!

 

·  When you fumigate, don’t simply spray everything. Be selective in which areas you spray, and please think about the other species that you will be affecting. If you are only worried about spiders and scorpions, choose a product that exclusively repels arachnids. If you’re battling termites, fumigate only affected zones.

 

· Before attacking a piece of the natural world that falls within a residential zone, think about whether it really needs to be done, what will truly be affected, and if there is any other viable solution besides killing the visitors.

 

· Teach your dogs and cats not to attack the smaller animals that visit your abode.

 

· Take care not to contaminate your land with chemicals, oils or detergents.

 

· Plant seeds and trees that are eco-friendly – that is, plants that present a service to other species. To the squirrels this could be coconut palms, almond and cashew trees. For the hummingbirds and butterflies, plant many flowers. As for the birds, they love fruit and seeds! Heliconias as a place for butterflies to lay their eggs or Guava and Copperwood trees for feeding the monkeys.

 

· Teach your children how to observe and understand nature. We don’t want to teach them to fear the natural world, because to teach fear is to propagate future anguish. Precaution, yes. Fear, no.  Above all, teach them to respect all forms of life, a concept that will encourage them to learn respect for their fellow creatures throughout their life.



We now invite you to read the other articles of this issue on the virtual version of the magazine. 


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