Nothing to get bugged about

by BardofEly

Many people hate insects of all kinds. They call them bugs and swat them, spray them or squash them. Bugs are a specific type of insect though.

Bugs are something that most people don't like. They are thought of as nasty "creepy crawlies" that ought to be destroyed. With insecticide or squashed underfoot perhaps? Even the word "bug" can mean to annoy you or something that causes things to go wrong.

Bug has become a word that can be readily applied to a wide variety of insect life, although technically it should only be used for the true bugs or hemiptera, of which there are thousands of different species. Amongst these there are shield bugs and water bugs.

Seed Bug

Harlequin Bug
Seed Bug

Shield Bugs

Aptly named

Shield bugs often have brightly decorated wing cases on their backs and it was with great joy that I recently encountered a rather aptly named Harlequin Bug, whilst rambling on the hills above San Isidro. I spotted the creature resting on some leaves and was glad I had my camera with me. I was also glad I hadn't trodden on the little fellow. With its red colouration this dandy of the insect world would surely win any bug fashion show.

True bugs also have modified mouthparts that they use to pierce things and suck up the juices inside. Some feed on plant juices and are pests, while others like the Bed Bug feed on us and so we can definitely call them pests too.

Another group, known as the Homoptera, includes the aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, cicadas, and scale insects. These Homoptera have the rather dubious distinction of being probably some of the most destructive insects in the world. Certainly here in Tenerife, gardens are plagued with whitefly. Besides killing the plants the horrible little things fly up at you in a cloud like a mini snowstorm in reverse.

I may have a problem with whitefly but in general I like bugs. I will rescue them too. If I see a flying insect trapped in a room I will guide the poor creature to an open window. I take delight in thinking that they will find their way home, and in some strange sort of karma, that my good turn will be returned.

When I was little boy I delighted in popping beetles and caterpillars and other six-legged small creatures into a jar or matchbox and taking them home to keep as pets and to identify. Look what I've found I would tell my parents and my dad would help me find out the names from a book.

Water Boatmen

Swim on their backs

The excitement of discovering insects is still one of my pleasures in life. In a disused reservoir, also on my visit to San Isidro, I found more baby Water Boatmen than I had ever seen. The little back-swimmers were everywhere I looked, rapidly rowing themselves through the brown stagnant water. I remember being fascinated by these creatures when, as a young lad, I used to see them in a pond in a local park.

The Water Boatman is a type of water bug and has the typical piercing mouthparts, which it uses to suck out the blood and vital juices of any aquatic creatures it can catch. If you catch hold of one, beware, because it can use its mini beak to bite you too. It moves from one pool to another by flying, and it is quite remarkable to think that such a creature manages to find suitable habitats in such a hot and dry place as the south of Tenerife.

Another species of water bug I have found on the island is the Pond-skater and I recently discovered these incredible insects gliding over the surface of an irrigation tank in the Masca gorge. There were also lots of Whirligig Beetles, shining and spinning around on the surface where water dripped from a pipe, and Red Darter Dragonflies perching on the side-wall or hawking around over it all.


Tenerife mountain village
Masca in Tenerife


Shangri-La in Tenerife

Most visitors to Masca are amazed by the beauty of the mountains and the craggy rocks in this Shangri-la of the Canary Islands, but I find the insect life there just as wonderful. Giant lizards that were once believed to be extinct have recently been discovered on the cliffs but I am sure if these reptiles could hideaway in Masca, then there are probably some very rare insects living there too.



A very common type of insect that everyone seems to hate here in the Canary Islands is the cockroach. Personally I think they are fascinating creatures and I used to keep the Madagascan Hissing variety as pets. I was once featured in the South Wales Echo as "Bugman Steve Andrews" and I had one of these large insects crawling across my forehead.

There are a lot of people who collect and breed the many different types. In fact, if you search online you will find The Blattodea (Cockroaches) Culture Group and Allpet Roaches, "a site dedicated to all roach enthusiasts."

The Cockroach was also the inspiration for the popular song "La Cucuracha," and the dance of the same name. Just goes to show there's always a good side to everything. You don't have to let them bug you!

Footnote: First published in the Western Sun, July 2005.

Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.

American Cockroach

A common type of Cockroach

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Updated: 10/18/2012, BardofEly
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