The Venomous Moths of Cozumel

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The hollow hairs (setae) of the Hylesia alinda moths found in Cozumel can cause cutaneous lepidopterism, or a contact dermatitis (a pruritic, urticarial eruption) called “Caripito Itch,” after Caripito, Venezuela where it was first recorded.  These tiny hairs carry a toxic mix of histamines and proteases within their hollow shaft and if they come in contact with bare skin they can envenomate.   Touching the moth is not needed to be affected; the hairs can float free and come in contact with a person who is simply walking by as the hairs drift on the breeze.   H. alinda moths are nocturnal and have a breeding cycle of 3 months, so they appear in clusters around each breeding period.   The large moths have up to a 4-inch wingspan and often congregate around porch lights at night, which is where people most often come into contact with them.
Caripito Itch can last anywhere from 7 to 14 days.   The condition is highly resistant to all therapeutic treatment.   An individualized approach using various drugs seems to work best.   Some drugs used in the treatment of Caripito Itch are:
Cetirizine: Zyrtec®
Loratadine: Claritin®.
Desloratadine: Clarinex®.
Diphenhydramine: Benadryl®.
Chlorpheniramine maleate: Chlor-Trimeton®.
Dexamethasone: Decadron®, Hexadrol®.
Prednisone: Deltasone®, Orasone®.
Hydrocortisone: Solu-Cortef®, A-Hydrocort®.
Metil-Prednisolone sodium succinate: Solu-Medrol®.
Pramoxine Hydrocloride: Zocort®.Mupirocin: Bactroban® ointment.
Calamine: Calamine Plain®.
Tetracaine: Altacaine®. Lidocaine 2%: Dilocaine®, Lidoject-2®.
Triamcinolone acetonide: Kenacort®. Gabapentin: Neurontin®

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The Lion Fish Origin Myth

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This myth maintains that the lion fish which have invaded our Caribbean waters originated from six captive examples, whose aquarium at a restaurant in Biscayne Bay broke and the six fish escaped when Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992.   As with most myths, there is a smidgeon of truth to this statement, but it does not tell the whole story.

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Coatis, Pizotes, or Coatimundis

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The white-nosed coati (Nasua narica) is a species of coati and a member of the family Procyonidae, which also includes other coatis, raccoons, olingos, and kinkajous.   Local names include Pizote, Coatimundi, and Tejón.   It averages about 9-15 pounds in weight, but males are much larger than females, and small females weigh as little as 6 pounds and large males as much as 30 pounds.   On average, their total length is about 45 inches, about half of that being the tail length.

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Flotsam, Jetsam, Litter, or Garbage, I Refuse to call it Rubbish

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Over 35 years ago, when I wrote my first travel guide to Cozumel, I included the recommendation that before you go to the east coast of the island, first go by a tlapalería and buy a small bottle of tiner (paint thinner) so you could clean the tar off of your feet after walking on the beach.  Back then, we had very little trash on the east coast beaches, but loads of tar and crude oil residue.  Today, the tar has disappeared, along with most tlapalerías.  However, the amount of garbage one finds today on the east coast beaches of Cozumel is truly astounding.

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A Cozumel without Coconut Palms

Can you imagine a Cozumel with no Coconut palms?  I’m not referring to what might happen if the Red Palm Mite has its way.  This voracious pest (Raoiella indica, also known as Raoiella eugenia) originated in the area around India, Iran, Arabia, and Egypt then jumped the ocean and landed on Cozumel’s shores, where it is now decimating the coconut palms as well as other species of plants.

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