or...The value of sharing the planet...
By: Marcela Cortés
Photos: Laura Taivalaho
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
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.
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!
beautiful bugs that look like real-life leaves, large multicolored
grasshoppers, and sometimes some elegant praying mantises enter the house.
“our house” does not belong to just us. Many, many other critters also consider
it their home.
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.
our community are about 70 species of vegetables and hundreds of thousands of
small annelids, mollusks, arachnids, insects and myriapods.
And let’s not forget two dogs and two cats.
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!
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.
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
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
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
· Teach your dogs and cats not to attack the smaller animals that visit
Take care not to contaminate your land with chemicals, oils or
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
We now invite you to read the other articles of this issue on the virtual version of the magazine.