The concept of paradise has been well known to humanity for centuries, and once Columbus discovered the picturesque tropics in the Caribbean, many explorers became convinced that paradise had been found. Long after the Caribbean region had lost its mystique as a long-lost tropical paradise in the minds of European explorers, the Hawaiian islands were found in the Pacific. Not surprisingly, the Hawaiian islands became a topic of fascination among many American colonists and Europeans after the explorer James Cook documented his first visit to the islands in 1778. It did not take long before the islands were bombarded with numerous European ships. Many ports were rapidly constructed on the islands’ coasts, which led to the introduction of countless invasive insects. Beginning in the 1700s, frequent invasions of unrecognizable insects and spiders terrified the native community on a regular basis. Exotic insects were particularly abundant in Hawaii’s port towns where the non-native creepy-crawlies quickly departed newly arriving ships.
According to one 19th century entomologist, D.E. Hardy, “night-biting” mosquitoes in Hawaii were brought to the islands for the first time in shipping barrels that departed from Mexico. Before 1826, native Hawaiians had no word for “mosquito,” as the bloodsucking insects were unrecognizable to native islanders. Several different scorpion and centipede species that were brought to the islands from Spain frequently made appearances in the homes of native Hawaiians. Due to the arrival of these venomous bugs, natives had to get used to examining their clothing before getting dressed, as stings and bites were commonly sustained by scorpions and centipedes within loose clothing. Several tarantula species also started to invade homes, and numerous ant species also posed a public health threat. Nineteenth century Hawaii also saw the introduction of bumblebees and carpenter bees. To this day, pest control is a matter that is taken very seriously by the Hawaiian Government.
Have you sustained an insect or spider bite within a tropical location?