Insects in Cyprus

For visitors, there is little need for concern about dangerous insects in Cyprus. Mosquitoes can be a nuisance in the early evening, during spring and autumn, but do not cause malaria. If you are allergic or suffer an itchy bite, pharmacies stock a variety of remedies.

Listed are some of the less pleasant forms of insect life:

Ants – Black ants are harmless outdoors, but can appear from tiny cracks if there is anything edible around.  I  spray my kitchen cupboards with ‘Biokill’ in the spring, and keep food in airtight containers. Even so, ants will discover a few breadcrumbs, or a drop of jam on the counter top.  If this happens, wipe them away and re-spray any possible entrances.

Bedbugs – these are unlikely if you have bought new mattresses, or are staying in a clean hotel or apartment. Unfortunately they are sometimes found in older, less well-maintained homes or hotels. If you get several bites in the night, it’s worth changing your bedding, thoroughly vacuuming the mattress and bedframe, and the floor underneath, and spraying with insecticide. Wash bedding at 60C or more.

Cockroaches – these live in the septic tanks and garden sheds in Cyprus, or other dark, damp places, and appear in houses during the summer months.  They can be quite large – up to 6cm or more in length – and will fly in windows or crawl up bathroom pipes.  Like ants they are attracted to anything edible in the kitchen, including grease on the floors. Regular mopping, including a few drops of tea-tree oil in the water, can reduce them, but almost everyone who lives in Cyprus will find a few cockroaches appearing each summer.  We keep Biokill handy to spray them, then trap them under large yogurt pots.   Stamping on them is not recommended since it can lead to roach eggs being scattered.

Roaches are most active during the early evenings, so we make sure windows and doors are shut before dusk, or at least that a light is on since they do not tend to crawl towards lighted rooms. However the ones that fly are at the ends of their lives and may well fly into an open window, even in a lighted room.

Fleas – these are common on the feral cats which roam freely around restaurants and beaches.  They rarely bite humans, but if they do the itch is extrme, best treated with tea-tree oil or aloe vera. If you keep a cat or dog they should be combed regularly, and furniture regularly sprayed with diluted tea-tree oil, Bio-kill, or any other spray that will not harm the animals but should kill any insects. Do NOT use tea-tree oil on pets directly as it is poisonous to them.

Mosquitoes – malaria was eliminated from Cyprus in the 1950s, but mosquitoes still breed in puddles and streams, and are most active in the spring and autumn. If they are a problem at night, ensure that windows are closed or netted. You can buy plug-in devices at supermarkets or pharmacies which take either a liquid or pad containing insecticide. These are effective, and theoretically harmless to humans or pets but we find the scent overpowering and prefer not to sleep with them on. Using for half an hour or so before going to bed can be a good compromise.

Moths – these insects, harmless to humans flutter around at dusk and after dark, and are attracted by the light. The problem with moths is that their larvae can destroy clothing or even the felts of pianos, if left undisturbed to breed. To guard against them, the easiest method is to use protective lavender-scented sachets that can be bought at supermarkets or pharmacies. Remember to change them every three or four months. Old-fashioned mothballs are not available in Cyprus.

More annoying still are food moths (also known as Indian meal moths)which are interested in accessible bags of flour, seeds, rice, and other produce. Occasionally something bought from the supermarket may be infested already, but this is rare in the larger supermarkets where turnover of stock is good. We keep only a small amount of grains etc in our cupboards, placing in airtight containers immediately. We put any extra bags of flour, oats, etc, in the freezer until needed. This has the added advantage of destroying any eggs or larvae that might already be present.

Spiders – not technically insects, some spiders are harmless and will catch mosquitoes and other bugs in their webs. Unfortunately, not all Cyprus spiders are harmless. Common in older homes are small brown spiders which jump, and which can cause very itchy bites that last two or three days. Creams from pharmacies or tea-tree oil can soothe them.

There have been occasional reports of black widow spiders in fields, and even tarantulas lurking in cluttered garages. While they tend to run away rather than attack unprovoked, they can be dangerous if accidentally touched. Seek medical care immediately if bitten.

Further information on some of these pests can be found at the following sites:

Indian meal moths
Cyprus spiders (large photos – not for the squeamish!)

If you are interested in more attractive insect life, you might like to visit the Cyprus butterfly site.