Last updated on September 29, 2022 by Wandering our World
Jamaica – the land of breathtaking nature, welcoming people, unique culture, and of course, the birthplace of the legend Bob Marley!
Rocking to reggae music blasting out of a seaside bar while sipping your favorite cocktail and enjoying the laidback vibe of this Caribbean island is an experience of a liftime. Especially after you’ve spent the day enjoying the warm Caribbean Sea, chasing cascading waterfalls, or wandering through Jamaican jungle.
However while exploring there is something to be wary of – some insects and bugs in Jamaica that have a nasty bite.
Good news though – we’re here to help you discover what to avoid!
Below we show you the bugs in Jamaica you could encounter on holiday. We explain which ones you really want to avoid, and where they may be lurking.
No creepy-crawly should stop you from visiting this gorgeous island nation, however it’s always good to be prepared.
20+ Insects and Bugs in Jamaica That Could Ruin Your Vacation
1. Tarantula Hawk Wasp
Being named after two of nature’s most ferocious creatures should tell you exactly why you want to avoid this wasp!
The Tarantula Hawk Wasp are large wasps that can grow up to 2 inches! As inhabitants of tropical places, it is no surprise that you can find these interesting yet dangerous insects in Jamaica.
Owning up to its intimidating name, these wasps hunt tarantulas and can paralyze the spiders within 2 seconds with their sting. Worse yet, they then drag the paralyzed spider into their burrow to use as food for their larvae.
Though these wasps are a terror to tarantulas, they can become a nightmare for humans too.
Why? Well, to put it bluntly, the sting of this insect is enough to bring you to your knees – the pain is agonizing.
If you see this beautiful yet dangerous wasp anywhere, then politely head off in the opposite direction. Believe us, you don’t want to get stung by one.
Mosquitos are frustrating buzzing insects common in all corners of the world. Alarmingly, they are also the cause of 725,000 deaths a year due to the diseases they can transmit.
As a tropical country you can find mosquitos in abundance here, and they are most active during dusk and dawn.
We recommend covering yourselves thoroughly before going out. You can also use strong insect repellent to avoid getting bitten by these nasty bugs.
3. Sand Flea
Want to immerse your feet in the warm Caribbean sand? Wait, before you do that, know that there are sand fleas in Jamaica that can bite you…
And if they do bite you, the itching might continue even after your holidays finish.
We recommend avoiding beaches directly after heavy rain as sand fleas become active after rain. It’s best not to lie on the beach without a towel too.
Even after following these instructions, you may still see tiny red raised bumps on your feet and ankles – that’s a telltale sign you’ve been bitten. If that’s the case, you can apply a simple paste of baking soda and water to the affected area. Aloe vera gel is also good to soothe the bitten area.
Noseeums, as the name suggests, are itty-bitty insects that are often too small to see. Unfortunately, Jamaica is plagued by these tiny biting midges.
Known locally as sand flies, these bloodthirsty gnats are responsible for producing painful, itchy, irritating bites.
These pesky insects have mouthparts that are designed to cut through skin. The bitten area often looks like a raised red dot that hurts, burns, or itches.
Often tourists use strong insect repellent when outdoors to avoid these Jamaica bugs.
If bitten, wash the area with soap and warm water and apply rubbing alcohol. If you see swelling, use a cold compress to calm it down. Calamine lotion and hydrocortisone cream can also help relieve the itchiness.
5. Banana Spider
Jamaica is also home to banana spiders, named as such because they are often found camouflaging themselves near banana leaves. The bite is poisonous, and you might experience an irregular heartbeat. If you get bitten by any spider in Jamaica, definitely seek out a doctor.
We know you will be spending a lot of time outdoors because Jamaica is a tropical paradise with interesting hiking trails and waterfalls to explore. Just make sure you don’t go poking your hands into holes and dark places, as these Jamaica bugs like to hide there too.
6. Fire Ants
Just like the name implies, fire ants are dangerous ants that can bite you repeatedly. And yes, that bite is going to hurt a lot. Ouch!
These dark brownish ants can inflict quite some pain when they bite you. But that is not the worse part. Each fire ant can sting you repeatedly. So if you accidentally happen to stamp over their mound, then be prepared to be stung by a swarm of these Jamaica bugs!
It is better to avoid any dirty mounds you see on a trail while hiking. Also, wear socks tucked into your shoes when exploring the wilderness of the island. That will give ants less opportunity to bite you.
If bitten, put a cold compress on the area to reduce swelling. You can also apply hydrocortisone cream to help relieve itching.
Severe cramp in the gut, swelling of the tongue, nausea, and breathing troubles would suggest that you might be having an allergic reaction to the bite.
If that’s the case, then seek immediate professional medical help as the bite could turn life-threatening.
Horse flies, like mosquitos, want to take a bite at you for a meal of warm blood. The difference is a horse fly is much bigger and its bite is more painful. In fact these large flies can grow up to 1 inch.
The female horse fly’s mandible is actually a bit like a Swiss army knife as it can slash your skin. Not only that, but these flies are persistent in their pursuit of blood. These notorious flies tend to chase and hunt you down if they didn’t get a satisfactory meal out of you the first time.
These vicious biters are more active during the day when it is warm and sunny, so beware of these bugs if you plan to visit Jamaica during the summer months. The bite can be painful, itchy, and a bruise may also develop on the bitten area.
There should be nothing to worry about though, as the irritation tends to only last for a few hours. Although if you’re ever worried about an insect bite then it’s always good to get it checked out by a doctor.
Horse flies are attracted to dark colors, sweat, and carbon dioxide. So you could opt to choose lighter clothing and put on an insect repellent before going outdoors to try and avoid them.
8. Carpenter Bees
Carpenter bees resemble bumble bees except for the fact that they have a shiny hairless abdomen.
The female bees have stingers that can cause a burning sensation when stung. But it shouldn’t do much harm unless you’re allergic.
These bees are essentially harmless insects and don’t attack unless provoked.
We know they look kinda cute, but just don’t go around manhandling them, and you shouldn’t face any problems with these bugs in Jamaica.
9. Frangipani Hawkmoth Caterpillar
This exotic, colorful caterpillar can be widely seen in Jamaica. These caterpillars are a sight to behold with their red head and brilliant yellow stripes. But this creepy crawly can also be rather intimidating due to its five-inch long size.
This Jamaican bug feeds mainly on the toxic latex of the plumeria plant, aka Frangipani, hence the name.
These caterpillar pose no real threat to humans. But on rare occasions it has been reported that these bugs bite when handled. No need to be worried though as it shouldn’t cause much harm.
Still, if you see one, we suggest you take a photo from afar rather than pick them up.
10. Cane Toad
Cane toads, with their reddish-brown skin, have backs marked with dark spots. They can grow up to 4-6 inches and are considered an invasive species in Jamaica.
They are not very pretty to look at, but that’s not all. These frogs have large triangular glands behind their heads that can excrete highly toxic white goo. This toxin can be harmful to animals and cause allergic reactions in humans.
The good thing is that they only release this toxin when they feel threatened.
So don’t go about picking up toad-size rocks only to realize they are sticky and slimy! Yuck.
Among the many creepy crawlies on land, scorpions are ones you should be wary of while visiting Jamaica. Found everywhere except in Antarctica, scorpions actually come under the class of arachnids just like spiders.
Well, the good thing is the scorpions found on this island shouldn’t be fatal to humans, unless you’re highly allergic. But they do sting and that can be very painful.
Scorpions usually live on the ground hiding among leaf litter and under rocks. They generally come out at dawn, dusk, or night.
The sting from a scorpion is instantly painful, and is accompanied by swelling and redness in the area. Placing a cold compress over the affected area can bring some relief to the pain. There is nothing to do except wait for the pain to pass.
If you experience a numbing and tingling sensation, you might be getting an allergic reaction to the sting. If so, seek medical help.
We would highly encourage you to check your clothes properly before putting them on as scorpions tend to crawl and hide amongst clothes and bags.
12. Bed Bugs
Ah, good old bed bugs. Not a threat but an extreme nuisance to your otherwise fun trip.
From shady hotel rooms to fancy resorts, bed bugs can be anywhere. These tiny bugs are bloodthirsty critters drawn to the warm blood of humans. And you may be a happy meal for them at night unless you check your room thoroughly before staying the night.
Look for rusty-looking stains on mattresses and the tiny eggshells they leave behind.
They can keep you awake at night with their incessant bites and will leave you with tiny red raised itchy bumps.
Worst case, they can hide among your clothes and can come back home with you. Now that would be a serious disaster!
Just like noseeums, chiggers are barely visible to the naked eye, being 0.006-0.017 inches long. Chiggers belong to the arachnid family and have a round reddish–yellow body.
They favor damp environments, so be careful when visiting Jamaican beaches, especially after heavy rain.
Ankles, waist, and the genital areas are their favorite body parts to bite. Chiggers have razor-sharp jaw-like claws they use to secrete their saliva onto your skin. This saliva can then liquefy human cells, which is what they then eat.
If bitten, red patches may develop with continuous itching that can last up to a week. They do like to cling to your body, so we suggest you thoroughly check and remove every last one from your body.
Take a bath with warm soapy water and apply an anti-itch cream to reduce itching. Applying a cold compress is also a good idea.
14. Black Widow Spider
Jamaica is home to over 180 species of spiders as we’ve written about before, of which four are the most deadly ones in the world.
The black widow spider is potentially deadly, but is also quite beautiful with its red hourglass shape and shiny black body.
The female black widows can be aggressive, so don’t go about provoking them. The bite from a black widow spider can be agonizing, coupled with nausea, muscle pain, and difficulty breathing. Unless you have an allergic reaction, it shouldn’t be fatal. However you still must seek out medical attention.
15. Brown Widow Spider
The brown widow is another poisonous spider found here.
These spiders have neurotoxic venom that can cause whole body muscle ache, dizziness, headache, vomiting, and in worse cases, death in young children and the elderly.
The shy nature of these spiders means you are unlikely to see one. But always shake out clothes left on the floor just in case they’re hiding there.
16. Brown Recluse Spider
The brown recluse spider, as the name implies, is very shy, so the chances of you running into one is slim.
That’s a good thing as this is one of the most dangerous bugs in Jamaica as their venom is 15 times more potent than a king cobra!
If you are unfortunate to get bitten, immediately seek medical help.
17. Forty Legs
Due to the number of legs they have, these centipedes are locally known as forty legs in Jamaica.
They are common across the island, and you may find them during your hiking expeditions to places like Blue Mountain. Being venomous insects, we would advise you to stay clear of them!
However, luckily these centipedes rarely bite humans and only do so if they feel threatened. The bite shouldn’t cause issues – unless your allergic – but you might experience short-term pain coupled with skin inflammation and redness.
Wash the bite with mild soap and warm water and apply a cold compress over the area to reduce swelling. Symptoms typically go away after 48 hours.
But if an allergic reaction happens, it is advised to seek immediate medical treatment.
These are nocturnal creatures, and you will are unlikely to bump into one on your trip. But to be on the safe side, we wanted to give you a heads up about these spooky bugs in Jamaica.
18. Lone Star Ticks
Lone Star Ticks are ticks with a star marking on their abdomen.
These ticks are blood suckers, but the worst thing about them is they may also be the carrier of many diseases.
These hard-bodied ticks usually live on tall grasses and bushes. To avoid getting bitten by these ticks, ensure that your legs are fully covered.
19. Yellow Jackets
Vespula, commonly called yellow jackets, are thin black and yellow colored striped wasps found in meadows during springtime. Unlike bees, yellow jackets nest underground, usually in secluded spots like burrows, tree stumps, or soil cavities.
Yellow jackets can be dangerous as they can sting you with their stingers. And guess what? They can sting multiple times. This can lead to extreme pain, inflammation, and redness in the inflicted area.
In extreme cases, allergic reactions may occur in some people and that will require immediate medical attention. Otherwise, a cold compress should do the trick and you can just wait for the pain to pass.
Scorpionfish (Scorpaenidae) can be one of the most frightening animals found in Jamaica. Why? Well they’re one of the most venomous fish in the world!
The scorpionfish have skin flaps that make them a master of camouflage. That means you could accidentally step on one while they lie motionless on stones and crags of reefs.
These fish have venomous spikes that can inject toxin. That toxin can spread across the body and would need immediate medical help. Swelling, breathing trouble, bleeding and shock are other reactions that you may incur due to the poison.
Be careful while diving and walking along the rocks around the Caribbean Sea.
21. Jamaican Croaking Lizard
Want to know an interesting fact? The Jamaican croaking lizard is one of the most widely feared creatures in Jamaica!
This gecko species can empty a room within seconds with its aak aaak sound! And according to Jamaican belief, these croaking lizards will leave an imprint on whoevers skin they crawl up.
However, the reality is these beady eyed, dark skinned, and stubby legged croaking lizards are harmless nocturnal creatures. They come out at night and can ruin your sleep with their croaking sound, but that’s about it.