I want to preface this blog by saying that what you are about to read is not an indictment of Honiara. This place is cool (not literally) and definitely worth a visit (hint hint), but being my first Pacific experience, it has really brought to light some fascinating differences between this part of the world and the comfort of Africa.
With the exception of a healthy dose of heat rash, first off the rank is the trusty mosquito. Mosquitos are not new to me. However, in all my mosquito experience, I have never encountered a population as tough as the guys found in the Pacific. Like a good hyper-vigilant Australian, I lather myself in 80% DEET every morning. Yet as soon as I step outside, these hard-core culicidae cling to me as if I’m coated in sweet, juicy nectar. If the daily dose of highly toxic 80% DEET doesn’t get me, there’s a good chance that malaria will. Or dengue. Or Zika. (Yes, that’s a thing, and Solomon Islands is currently experiencing an “outbreak”…… with one confirmed case).
The mosquitoes are joined by their fellow nematocera-in-crime, the midge. Fly screens are no match for these little blighters, who like to compete for the title of Most Annoying Insect as I sip my afternoon coconut, or my evening coconut, or any coconut, really. Seeking shelter inside provides absolutely no respite, though. There has been an intense month of airing and washing to get rid of whatever has been causing the itch from the inherited bed, blankets, couches and pillows. (Don’t even go there!).
Despite these attacks from all directions, there is no insect more plentiful, or painful, than the ant. The house and garden is full of them. Dare to leave a dish unwashed and, within a few minutes, it will be moving under a black, heaving mass. Nothing is sacred. Just tonight, I saw my freshly cut toenails being carried away by one very efficient and disturbed formicidae. Toenails! Cooking and cleaning has turned into a constant dance to defeat the enemy without getting attacked myself. Yes, these Pacific ants, at about 2mm in length, are living proof that it’s not the size of the ant in the fight, but the size of the fight in the ant.
I guess the one upside of this six-legged assault is a new-found, reluctant appreciation for our other household residents. Normally, if I had a family of 10cm-long spiders setting up shop right above my front door, I would be buying up the country’s supply of Mortein to restore peace and order. However, these fellas do have an extensive web network that seems to work marvellously in filtering out a bunch of crazy critters before they reach the door. Who knew? Add to this a healthy population of geckos, and the evening’s entertainment of watching the little guys snatch up unsuspecting insects, is tremendously satisfying.