The other morning while we were eating breakfast, we looked out the door onto our balcony and saw one of New Caledonia’s notorious HUGE grasshoppers for the first time. When we first found out about possibly moving here, we saw some photos online of these giant creatures and have been looking forward to finding one. This thing was seriously huge! This got me thinking that I should write something about the creatures that share our home with us. Being a tropical environment, New Caledonia is host to a large variety of creatures that are pretty exotic to those of us that come from more temperate climates. Insects galore, geckos scurrying along the walls, and our bird-alarm-clock are just a few.
The one we saw on our balcony was a female coconut grasshopper, one of the largest species in the world. This thing was seriously as big as my hand. They’re generally harmless to people, but they will make you take a second look what with their clacking and giant claws and mandibles.
As for the other creatures we share our home with, the worst, as you might imagine, are the cockroaches. These guys are everywhere. Usually they are the small type but occasionally a huge one will make its way in (about the size of my thumb) and nobody wants to see one of those mammoths crawling on their kitchen counter. Keeping things tidy may marginally help keep them away (it at least helps us to find/kill them), but there’s no escaping them completely. If roaches crawling around aren’t problem enough, there are some smaller varieties that fly in the window and hang out with you when you’re reading or watching TV, occasionally falling onto your head. Blarg. We were used to seeing an occasional roach since we moved from DC, but the ones here are much more… plentiful.
The other housemates that we could do without are the mosquitoes. Dengue fever exists here in New Caledonia (although your chances of getting it are pretty low in Nouméa) so you have to be vigilant. The mosquitoes here are much larger than the little tiger-striped ones back in DC (which are actually a non-native species) and completely disgusting when you smash one and get a Dexter-esque blood spatter on the floor (or your leg). I’ve never seen such greedy mosquitoes. They gorge themselves so full that they can barely fly away. They’re easy to kill then, but the damage has been done. Surprisingly (and thankfully), there seems to be fewer here than back in DC during the summer.
Fortunately, we have help combating the insects. We, as well as just about every other household here, harbor collections of geckos! These guys are awesome at eating bugs. We see them crawling around the walls and ceilings and hanging out during their nightly hunts. They seem to establish some territory and protect it well (there’s one in our bathroom, one in the laundry room, a bunch in the living room/kitchen, etc.). Finding their leavings is a small price to pay for their insect slaying abilities. The geckos have a unique sound (kinda like a click-click-click) and we had no idea what it was when we first arrived. The first night we were here we heard the sound and could have sworn it was someone knocking on our door (at 2 in the morning). Needless to say, there was nobody at the door and we soon learned of the source of the noise. We may or may not talk back to them sometimes.
Speaking of waking up in the middle of the night, how does a 4:30AM alarm sound? That’s about the time the bird-alarm goes off just outside our bedroom window. What sounds like hundreds of birds going insane for an hour or so before the sun comes up is how we were awakened for our first few weeks here until we grew accustomed to it. I don’t know what their game is, but they’ve done an excellent job of acclimating us to the early morning hours of the island (a post on that sometime soon).
Another bad bug story involves a bag of dried black-eyed peas that had been thoroughly consumed by weevils. We didn’t notice at the store (lesson learned – always check your purchases), and once we got home there were dozens of hard black weevils crawling in our pantry. Upon closer inspection, we could see that every pea had been burrowed through and eaten. We quickly exterminated the culprits and now we keep our grains/beans/etc. in the freezer/fridge, which seems to be a pretty standard practice around here. One of our friends actually found some little worms or larvae in his new bag of rice… We don’t have any weevil pics so here’s a shiny bug.
We’re still searching the outdoors for some dugongs, cagou birds, and flying foxes but for now, I’ll leave it at the zoo that is our home. Luckily for us, we like animals and the wildlife and don’t mind sharing our house with them as long as they keep each other under control and stay out of our food. Although we could do without the roaches and mozzies (that’s Australian for mosquitoes)… You definitely need to be willing to share your space with nature here.