On the island of Hispaniola in the country of Dominican Republic we do have some wild life to speak of. I’m not referring to the human-type of wild life, although this is here in abundance. The creatures, small and smaller are what we will include. The endangered, extinct and the creatures that thrive on this tropical island.
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Dominican Republic has no creatures that will kill you
Here we have no large animals to speak of. Nothing that is going to eat you alive, except for the mosquitoes (which I think should be considered as being the new national bird), and the no-seeums, that I have no idea what they look like but they leave their itchy red mark on the flesh. There are no really dangerous creatures on our island, other than maybe a rare crock, cayman, a scorpion, or a spider. Most tourists and people living in the cities never come across these things. Even the Dominican tarantula, known as the Cacata, is not an easy crawly to see. They usually don’t live in the cities and they usually only come out at night. Most of the cacatas/ tarantulas I have seen were thin anorexic spindly looking arachnids. I know people that have seen giant car-covering spiders carrying a cat away in its dripping fangs, lol. Really there are some very large spiders here but not quite that big.
The island seems to be inhabited mostly by birds, of all types and colors and lizards, of many sizes and shapes. There are the basic domestic animals not native to the island. There are many cows, goats, chickens and horses. You may even encounter a rabbit that escaped from captivity and made its home in the countryside. There used to be wild boars but they are almost gone and have only been spotted in the mountains where there is little human population.
The Red Bug is the simple name; the real name of this bright red bug is the St. Andrews Cotton Stainer (scientific name is Dysdercus andreae). These bright red mean-looking bugs are frightening looking yet do not bite humans. They are dangerous to cotton and other fruit trees and plants.
St. Andrews Cotton Stainers grow inside the of the Portia tree also known as the large-leaved tulip tree, a member of the mallow family. The red bugs also develop on cotton, where the species can grow much larger than on the portia tree. They feed on the seeds of the Sea Hibiscus (Hibiscus tiliaceus) plant where they are found in large numbers feeding under the leaves or where the seeds fall to the ground.
These bright red-orange bugs with their distinctive markings are easy to see. The larvae are red and white. The adults have the distinctive white cross, the St. Andrews cross, filled in with black.
Found in South Florida and most of the West Indies islands, the bugs are considered to be agricultural pests. They are named cotton stainer because they stain the cotton bolls that they feed on. The red bugs puncture the boll, enter, feed and leave behind a stain ruining the cotton. They are one of the most destructive cotton pests. They also can damage orange and peach trees, okra and other plants.
The Hispaniolan Woodpecker/ Pájaro Carpintero de la Hispaniola (Melanerpes striatus)
The Hispaniola Woodpecker is a medium-sized woodpecker is only found on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola in the countries of Dominican Republic and Haiti. They can be found throughout the entire island.
This noisy woodpecker travels in groups and is very social, unlike most woodpeckers. They also watch out for other colonies members nesting young.
They are easily spotted because of their pointy beaks, their yellow and black striped body feathers, their greenish grey rump and the distinctive red head. Of course, these birds have the noticeable red on their heads. The males red striped goes from the forehead to their heck and the female species red markings are much smaller and can only be seen extending from the nape to its neck.
Here in the Dominican Republic, many parts of the country do not like these boisterous birds. One of their favorite nesting places is in cacao (cocoa) trees damaging the tree and they also like to poke through the seed pod making it easy access for insects and other organisms that can damage the crop. According to (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09670878509370969#preview) pod damage was assessed at 3.7% in 1981 and 3.5% in 1982, close to the 4% estimate by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Dominican Republic. The Ministry established a bounty program on the Hispaniola Woodpecker in 1976, our study suggested this bounty should be discontinued. The program was found to be not cost effective, and did not reduce damage, and had an adverse effect on other avifauna.
Madame Sagá also known as The Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)
Madame Sagá was first record in Dominican Republic in 1796 originally arriving as a cage bird on the slave ships from Africa. In Africa there are many species in this family. They are common all over the country now and only recently have been spotted in the Colonial Zone of Santo Domingo.
The male is usually bright orange to yellow with a black hood, brown nape and red iris. The female is yellow-green. To me, a person not very knowledgeable about birds, they looked bright yellow with black heads and beaks with red eyes. They are eye-catching easy to spot.
The males build the round nests with a small opening. They are nicely woven usually using with palm leaves. Then he waits hoping the female will choose him because he is the best mate and nest builder. They nest in colonies laying between 2 to 4 pale green to blue eggs between April and September. You can usually hear them before you see these bright birds are their colonies can be very loud especially in the mornings.
Madame Sagá feeds on rice and grains making it very unpopular with the rice and millet farmers. This pretty and noisy bird may be small but it loves to eat and eat. They are considered pests by the Dominican farmers.
The Black Witch Moth (Ascalapha odorata)
The Black Witch Moth is called so because is considered to be a warning of death in Mexican and some places in the Caribbean. Other places in the Caribbean this giant moth is considered to bring good luck by blessing people with money. In Spanish it is known as “Mariposa de la muerte”. It is also called the Bat Moth because it is close in size to a small bat.
This huge moth starts out as a large caterpillar that can be up to 3 inches in length. It has beautiful intricate patterns of black and greenish brown spots and stripes. These caterpillars grow into the large moths with the males wing span reaching up to 7 inches and many are even bigger. Their markings are very beautiful and at night, when they usually fly, they are many times mistaken for a bat because of their size. They will not hurt you and are lovely to watch.
Black Witch Moth caterpillars eat legumes and especially like acacia and mesquite. They are harmless and not considered to be a pest. They do not have stingers or teeth.
They originally were found in Mexico and Central America but now can be found in North America as well.
Vine Sphinx Moth (Eumorpha vitis)
The beautiful Vine Sphinx Moth is a nectar feeder. They enjoy dining on the nectar of orchids, jimsonweed, and periwinkle. The caterpillar prefers vines, in which to hide. Grapevines are their favorites.
The colors are black to brown with a touch of pink on the back winds where they connect to the body.
They do not bite and are not dangerous in any way. Some farmers consider the bright green caterpillar to be a nuisance because they like to dine on grapevine leaves.
I took this picture of the Vine Sphinx Moth in Santo Domingo Este, Dominican Republic, near Puerto San Souci.
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