Tropical Critters

The Philippines is in the tropics, so things grow quickly here. There are all kinds of plants and animals all around. Having lived most of my life in cities in the US, I was used to the assumption that there are spaces reserved for humans, where other animals only rarely tread. Here it’s a bit more mixed up between the species.


The cockroaches here are not merely humongous, they also fly. I realized that while they are bigger than the cockroaches I’m used to from the US, I did see some this size in Florida once. In Florida they call them palmetto bugs. But according to wikipedia, palmetto bugs have short wings that are useless for flying. These cockroaches here really do fly. Not that often, but when you least expect it they may fly right past your face. We’ve found the best solution for them is spray – get the can that says Cockroach Killer on the label. It works pretty fast. Whereas if you step on them or flush them down the toilet you may not actually kill them.

I’ve seen bees here the size of lemons. OK, that includes their wings, but even the body part is maybe 4 times the size of the bees I’m used to in the US. I’ve seen one moth that was the size of a large grapefruit, again including the wings. Lots of smaller moths that have little clear wings. They are attracted to light, easy to kill, but very annoying.

Mosquitoes here can carry not only malaria but dengue fever. Dengue can be fatal to children, less so to adults, but it can make you very sick for weeks, as it did to a friend of mine here. Lots of smaller insects like ants of all sizes, termites, and things I don’t have a name for.

We also have lizards, which eat the insects. Most Filipinos live in harmony with the lizards, as we do here. I once saw a lizard actually eating a moth here, so I know they’re on my side. But one day there was a horrible smell in the bedroom, it turned out there was a dead lizard there. There are spiders too, of all sizes, and I suppose they also eat insects. Their webs are sometimes annoying. Walk in a place where we haven’t been recently and you’ll get web all over you (and it’s not the world-wide kind).

Sometimes you can’t even see the insects until they are on you, or you find yourself scratching later. At least twice I’ve been sitting here at my desk and something dropped into my hair.


Then there are the mice. Little tiny ones that can hide in the walls. We managed to catch a few with the little glue trays. Of course then you have to pick up the tray with the still moving little body on it and dispose of it. A few weeks ago Dindin went to visit his family for a few days. I called him one night because I saw something, larger than a mouse. First I had heard it, rustling the plastic garbage bags in the hall where we keep the garbage. Yes, we had a rat, actually it turned out we had rats. Seemed like he might be too big for the glue tray, so the sales person at the hardware store recommended the fly paper. Well he just balled that up and ignored it. The glue tray held no interest for him. We tried a mousetrap, he got the cheese out without springing the little trap. I bought a cage trap, but when I got it home I realized it would not kill him, and then I’d have this large, living animal to contend with. So we got some poison. We had been concerned about poison because then we could have a dead rat smelling up the place and not be able to find it. But they sell poison that works slowly and slowly causes blindness, so the rats seek the light.

Well after a few days, we found 2 small dead rats outside on the lawn. So it apparently worked. They were larger than the tiny mice, but not as large as I had feared. About half the size of a small banana. Disposal was fairly easy. Now, I know some of my friends will object to the cruelty, and perhaps I should have used the cage and taken the animal elsewhere, but wouldn’t that be likely to just cause problems for some other people? This country is full of people – almost 100 million of them. I think we did a public service by killing those rats and mice. At least we did a personal service for our household.


I haven’t actually seen any snakes, but they are here. It’s a consideration in landscaping. You don’t want areas of thick growth where the snakes can hide. You want to be able to see the dirt. I actually like snakes, but I don’t want to be surprised by any.

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  • robin yates (@robinyatesph)  On August 25, 2011 at 4:07 am

    the large catch alive spring traps for rats work, easy to kill the rat, immerse in a bucket of H2O

    • Barry C. Saiff  On August 25, 2011 at 4:11 am

      Hmmm, I didn’t think of that. Yes, I still have one of those, so I’ll save it for next time.

  • Bobbi  On August 25, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    I think you just convinced me not to visit you!

    By the way, I think you misspelled mosquito.

  • Barry C. Saiff  On August 26, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Thanks, Mom, for the spelling correction. I’ve fixed it. It certainly was not my intention to dissuade you or anyone else from visiting. Perhaps I generalized too much. Other places I have stayed, such as Manila and Batangas, had much less critters (although in Batangas there were more pets – chickens, guinea pigs, etc.).

    I think perhaps the trade-off is noise vs. critters. Where I live now it is very quiet – very little road noise, few roosters, just some dogs that bark sometimes and a school band a mile away that plays loudly sometimes. In Manila and Batangas the critters are less but the noise is much greater. No place is perfect.

    On the other hand, it may have more to do with the kind of building you live in. This is an old house, and even when you clean it, it still looks dirty. Perhaps that’s why the critters like it so much.

    If you could spend 1/10 or 1/5 of what you do now to live where you do, except every week you had to kill a cockroach or a mouse, would you be happier? Consider the greater security that a much lower cost of living would provide you. How much is a critter-free life worth to you?

  • Joseph  On July 23, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    I am planning on moving to PI. I am a single American. What kind of visa should I get. I heard the Permanent Visa was very costly. I am looking to get a place and stay for about 6 months to a year. What do I need to do?

    • Barry C. Saiff  On December 30, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      Sorry for the late reply, I have been neglecting my blog. Hopefully by now you’ve find out what you needed. You can consult the nearest Philippine consulate or their site for information.

  • shindereru  On August 30, 2012 at 4:51 am

    “Most Filipinos live in harmony with the lizards…” ~ couldn’t be more true! haha

    hi Barry! really sorry for the bugs bugging you…by the way there are so-called BED BUGS too! make sure you expose your mattresses in direct sunlight as it’s the only way to kill those annoying bugs ^.^ …and ’bout the WEB (no, not the world wide one), ha! good luck with that! I spent half of my life trying to get rid of those in my grandma’s house…you gotta use an ‘extended broom’ (the really long ones) to reach the high places like the ceiling…and the rodents…urgh! dunno exactly what to do with them, maybe FREAK OUT? lol 😛

    but despite these things…I see you’re still having a good time living here in the Philippines…you’re a SURVIVOR! ^.^

    ’bout the snakes…maybe if you say something in parsel tongue…then it might leave you alone…haha!

    • Barry C. Saiff  On December 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      Hey Cyndrel! Took me long enough to respond, didn’t it? In our new house the critters bother us less, but we have some problems with losing food, and now we make sure all food not either refrigerated or sealed in the original cans or bottles is sealed in a plastic container or otherwise sealed from infiltration.

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