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Insects, Spiders and the Like


The tropics are acknowledged as a place where insects abound. And to be technical about it, scorpions and spiders are arachnids and in a different class from the ordinary collection of flying insects and ants. This article just touches the high spots of the most amazing arthropods amongst Acapulco's fauna. We will leave the research on flies and mosquitoes to the reader.


The Spanish word for Scorpion is alacrán (of Arabic origin). They come in various sizes and colors: Black, red, and pale beige. The beige ones (güeros) are the worst. They sting, and although rarely fatal (unless you have a heart problem, are very young or very old) it HURTS a lot and can induce fever, sweating, trembling and even coma. They can be anywhere, but in truth you are unlikely to see one. The basic rule is that the more expensive your hotel/villa, the less likely you are to find one. However, since we are not all going to be staying in 5 star hotels and villas and for those of us who do not intend to spend a fortune on accommodation and prefer a friendly place in Pie de la Cuesta, here are are a few rules to avoid unnecessary pain.


The poor Tarantula has a terrible reputation, and must be up there as one of the most feared and misunderstood of all animals. They are really, shy, and relatively defenseless things that have been about for as much as 265 million years. Although you may be reluctant to believe it, there is not a single record of anyone dying from a tarantula bite in this country since records began. The tarantula is nocturnal. It sets out at night to hunt. It preys on insects, but it might find the odd small rodent or baby bird.

Guerrero Orange-legged tarantuala

Should you chance upon a tarantula by day (usually they can be seen crossing the road) It is probably a male in search of sex. The females are inclined to stay in their holes, which could be in the ground or a tree. The adult male does not live much longer than eighteen months, but the female can live for up to twenty years, and it takes her eight to ten years to reach sexual maturity. Think long and hard about squashing one of either sex (as if you could tell the difference). The mating process is not a deeply joyous experience and involves a fierce fight. The male has to keep the female at a distance by means of structures on its front legs called tibia hooks, in order to prevent himself from being eaten. This also allows him access to her genitalia, which are to be found under her abdomen. The male deposits his sperm there using the tips of his pedipalpus where his sexual organ is located. Having dealt with this, the male needs to make a swift and nimble exit, and the sperm will be stored there until the following summer when the female wakes up from her hibernation. Only then will she look for a suitable place to make her nest.

The female lays between 600 and 1,200 eggs, of which about half will hatch. Then begin three stages of growth - the infant, the juvenile and then the adult. The infants will shed their skin a couple of times in their first year. Should they make it to adulthood, they will only shed it once a year. Because of their short lives, males frequently don't even have the luxury of changing their skin.

All the big, hairy, heavy spiders come under the family of Theraphosidae and, in Mexico, there are a total of 111 species of tarantulas, of the most abundant are the aphonopelma and brachypelma. They can be found all over the country, but there are more, obviously, in the tropical and desert regions. It is important to note that nearly all tarantulas of the brachypelma species are in danger of extinction. This is possibly due to the fact that they are among the most colorful, which makes them favorite pets. Also, they are less well camouflaged and so more easily visible to their predators, which include birds, rodents, weasels and especially a particularly unkind wasp that lays her eggs on the tarantula's body so the larvae get a good start in life by eating their host alive. Ants are particularly fond of newly laid tarantula eggs.

Tarantulas have a reasonably well-developed set of defense systems; the best known is, of course, its notorious bite, which, should you need reminding, IS NOT FATAL. Less known is the fact that the hairs on the upper part of the abdomen can cause uncomfortable irritation or even stinging, according to the species and the sensitivity of the attacker. They also use these hairs to protect the entrance of their holes. Should they find themselves cornered, the first defense tactic is to rear up and show the size of their teeth, Should that fail, they will throw themselves at the attacker and rub their hair all over them.

All spiders have eight eyes, set in different ways depending on the species, but to make matters particularly difficult, Tarantulas are almost blind. To locate and capture their prey, they rely on vibrations sensed through their feet and can pick up the slightest current of air with their hairs. They build webs, which are not generally used for capturing their prey, but rather, for reproductive purposes and to camouflage the nest entrance.

As both hunter and hunted, tarantulas have an important place in the ecological balance. Leave them alone, they have enough enemies without having to be beaten up and murdered by some hysterical maid with a broom. True, they look like something out of your worst nightmare, but they do not behave that way at all. Tarantulas are also very boring pets. Even if they are good for scaring Granny, they don't do much else.

Types of tarantula found in Guerrero include the Mexican pink tarantulas (BrachypelmaKlaasi), Mexican red-kneed tarantula (Brachypelma Smithi) and the Guerrero orange-legged tarantula (Brachypelma Boehmei).


It is said that in one square kilometer of the Amazon rain forest there are more ants than there are people in the world. If you have ever been there, you know it's true. Acapulco is a close second. Any potential visitor to Acapulco should be aware that ants are everywhere, from the smartest hotel to the poorest hovel, in the middle of the road, in the middle of a swamp, and certainly in the middle to the sugar bowl if you leave it out for more than a few minutes. In the kitchen there are little tiny ones that are little bigger than a grain of sugar. Sugar is what they are after. If it is sweet, they will go for it. They also seem partial to fish. Even a few misplaced drops of milk or a bit of Coca-Cola that didn't make it into the glass can attract ants to the cleanest of kitchens, and in a matter of minutes. The good thing is that they don't really bother anything that much.

On the floor at night another variety emerges -- much bigger and rather slow. They eat and nest in wood. They don't sting. Leave them alone. They will leave you alone.

The other domestic variety is the Arriera or leaf cutter. They are not in the house, but just outside, in the garden. They are really destructive and can strip a good sized Bougainvillea of all its leaves in just one night. They are the gardener's enemy number one, but they are fun to watch.

Once you go outside there are any number of varieties of ants that sting and bite. Stand too long in one place on a lawn and they'll get you. Just keep moving. Otherwise, they'll be up your trouser leg in a flash. The good hotels fumigate regularly (the Princess does it daily), so ants are not much of a problem there. But do not try sunbathing on someone's lawn.

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