Patagonian Insects

December 22nd, 2008 Posted in fauna

Written by Shanie

We recently had some discussion come up amongst our guests about the insects of Patagonia. A few of them had never seen such huge bees and had been a bit frightened by the harmless friends of the garden.

So I thought I would give a quick synopsis of the common insects that we have seen on our property. Maybe it will help the next visitor to Mother Nature’s paradise not feel so threatened.

First, there are actually three types of bee-like insects here that travelers might call a bee.

1. The Common Yellow Jacket: They are carnivores of rotting meat and live in dark, musty holes deep in the earth. The are the speedsters of the sky — flying much faster than others in the insect family. Due to their enjoyment of dead flesh, they don’t frequent the flowers, gardens or nice smelling areas much. They do, however, appreciate the smell of trash and dumpsters. The yellow jacket has a menacing look and lingering habit to its flying when it is checking you out, but in reality they are not too aggressive, unless you are destroying their home or swatting at them.

2. The Regular ol’ Honey Bee: These guys are lovers of the garden, one of the two insects that are big players in the thriving flowers of Patagonia and docile creatures. They live above ground, in hives nestled in trees, power poles and attic spaces.

3. The Common Bumble Bee: These big teddy bears of the bee world are like little black and yellow puff balls floating through the air. They are impressively slow moving, making them easy to catch (we have a friend that enjoys picking them up and playing with them; I appreciate their mellow movements because it makes it easy to help them back outside when they become trapped in the house). As shown by our friend, these guys are beyond mellow, peaceful and docile. Bumble bees live, like their Yellow Jacket cousins, in holes deep in the cool, dark Patagonian dirt.

Beyond the bees and yellow jackets, there is the biting fly or tabano, as it is known in Spanish. Fortunately, these annoying buggers have a short life span and live only at certain elevations, usually in wooded, mountainous areas (not so great, if that is the same location that you are choosing for a campsite, but there is hope beyond the bug spray). The other added bonus is that their flight speed is deathly slow; I say deathly because you can usually wipe out the swarm in the first night of camping to make your chosen site biting-fly-free. Interestingly, it is the lady fly that is looking for the blood of vertebrates. They also feed on the nectar of flowers.

There is one other bug that I am not sure of the name (if any readers can follow my verbal charades and know the answer, please divulge). This guy is about an inch in length, with a black head, legs and antennaes. The body is a Halloween orange and translucent in the light. He may be scary and mean looking but, in reality, is testament to the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I tend to think of them as more like hovering china lanterns.

So, for all of you out there that think that bug might get you — Don’t worry. They mean you no harm.

Special thanks to Professor P for his bee expertise!

  1. 6 Responses to “Patagonian Insects”

  2. By Martin on May 3, 2009

    Die Frage ist doch eher, wie könnte man es besser machen. Erwartet jetzt von mir keine Antwort darauf, aber darüber sollte man wohl nachdenken!

  3. By Gin on Jun 5, 2009

    We have the very same Tabano fly here in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. My internet research led me to a site that sells traps for the females based on their natural tendancy to attack a moving target and not based on the targets smell – http://bitingflies.com/.

    As a rememdy for the bites, a friend suggested using a large pinch of tobacco mixed with saliva and placed on the bite area. As the saliva dries, the tobacco draws out the chemicals that make your skin itch. Leave the mix on for at least 30 minutes – the bite area may itch for a while longer, but I can testify that there will be practically no swelling and the bite will heal within a day. Repeatedly applying amonia to the bite will also offer relief and works much better than any over-the-counter medicine.

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. By Patagonia on Jun 5, 2009

    Interesting info Gin, thanks for sharing as well.

    Adios, Jamie

  5. By Knight Gold on Jun 20, 2009

    This is a great article. I’m new to blogging but still learning. Thanks for the great resource.

  6. By Patagonia on Jun 20, 2009

    Thanks Knight Gold. Suerte with your new blog adventures!

  7. By eva on Sep 3, 2012

    I was stung by a bee while at Upsala Glacier. Our guide said it was impossible as no bees live there. I showed him the furry puff ball attached by it’s stinger to my pant leg. He simply shrugged. What’s your experience of bees near the glaciers?

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