Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Don't Let It Spit In Your Eye

Tonight I met a new bug here in Cuenca. The Andes are not known for their insects, and other than a few flies and mosquitos I really haven't encountered any bugs up here at all.

Until I met the Atuto, as it is known locally.

Atuto Cuenca Ecuador Bugs

This is the closest picture I could find online, because when I first encountered it, I wasn't thinking about pictures. No. I was thinking about flip flops, which is what I was wearing on my feet, and that fact that the bug was on my dining room floor between me and the bathroom. So I shrieked and ran for the neighbors to identify what it was and what to do about it.

Blame it on growing up in the Midwest, but I associate unidentified creepy crawlies with possible poison hazards. Who else has a grandma with a picture of a brown recluse on the side of her fridge? Midwesterners are just raised to identify poisonous vs. non-poisonous insects, and until I knew which side of the line my unwelcome three inch visitor feel into, I wasn't facing it alone.

My Atuto was all black, and in the flesh it looks a lot like an oversize grasshopper. So not really that harmful, right?

Wrong. While I was worried about jumping or biting, my downstairs neighbor volunteered "Don't let it spit in your eye!"

Excuse me?

It seems that the Atuto spits. . . or more accurately, projectile shits according to the experts over at Entemology.com. It's a vague relative of the bombadier beetle family and excretes a venom out its backside that includes hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide, which creates a rash/burn on human skin. This burn is particularly harmful to open sores and tender tissues. . . like your eyes. Hence why the locals are adamant about not letting this one get its venom into your eye.

Fortunately, I was able to get my Atuto pinned under a glass and tossed out of the apartment down into the central garden where the pigeons can have their way with the thing. Shannon, who has lived in these apartments for over a year, says he's only ever seen one in his house, in the bathroom. They've seen a few in the garden area, but the Atuto's don't seem to be terribly interested in being indoors or being around people. Fine by me, as you may imagine!

I'll let you know if I see more (hopefully not!) and get a real life picture. Apparently the Atuto is highly localized to this part of the country, so it may be a challenge.


  1. ew ew ew. don't worry about getting another picture, stay the F away from that thing!

  2. Haha, definitely trying to keep away, although I have heard of a spot where there are hundreds of them on display!