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Private Island Pests

If you own a private island, you are in charge of your own little fiefdom. But like any benevolent ruler, you may be forced to defend your island kingdom from intruders now and then.


On a private island, your invaders can range from the micro to the macro, sneaking across your borders undetected. Not all creatures great and small are content to leave you alone in paradise. To defend your kingdom, your weapons of choice will range from antibiotics, insecticide, and occasionally, brute force.

Nature’s Tiny Predator: The Sandfly

palm-trees-beachWhite sand beaches make all of us swoon, but they are also the favourite haunt worldwide for the ubiquitous and annoying sandfly. Call them what you will – sand fleas, sand gnats, chitras, or punkies – this small but fierce bloodsucker can make your life a living hell. Sand flies live on the ground, so they jump onto the feet, ankles, and legs to bite. Because sand flies are so small, bites occur before you even know they’re in the area. The bite is painful and itchy, often causing large welts and rashes that may last for several days. Sand fleas can also carry diseases such as Carrions disease, the Pappataci fever virus, and Leishmaniasis. If you have a sandfly problem on your island, it’s best to get professional help.

Microbial Pest: Lethal Yellowing

Lethal yellowing is a fatal disease of coconut and palm trees. This little troublemaker has swept through Jamaica, Cuba, Florida, and the Caymans. Presently, lethal yellowing is spreading through the Yucatan, Honduras and hitting Belize. The small bacteria like organism that causes lethal yellowing travels with a small insect called plant hoppers. The bad news: there is no cure, hence the word lethal. Palm trees will die within three to six months after the first symptoms appear. The sad leaves of the palm turn yellow and droopy, and start to fall off. If your tropical private island becomes stricken, you’ll have a bunch of telephone poles instead of palm trees. Once an area is affected, the disease travels several kilometres without problem. Prevention is the only cure. You can plant disease resistant trees or treat your palms before it happens with trunk injections of antibiotic palm formula every few months.

A Much larger Pest: Squatters

tent-on-beach Squatters are a visible and much larger threat to your private island. In North America, squatters have considerably less rights than in Central America, for example. In Costa Rica, if a squatter sits on your land for three months unimpeded, they can start to establish a claim. It’s better to prevent squatters from sitting on your land in the first place rather than dealing with them once they’ve set up camp. In Panama, there are a couple ways to prevent squatters. Pay your property taxes. Syndicates find properties that aren’t up to date on their taxes. They can pay the taxes and take over. Also maintain your property well and install a caretaker in your absence. An unattended, unsupervised island is ripe pickings for squatters.

Real Estate Scams

Also, be wary of foreign scams. In Central America, you might find the property of your dreams. After a couple of beers, you get out your chequebook, ready to invest. The slick agent you’re dealing with convinces you the property is a real bargain. You buy the property and return home. When you’re gone, the agent (or the syndicate he’s involved with) installs paid squatters on your island. When you return in a few months, you find the island is no longer yours. Sometimes the law favours squatters, not you. Land with squatters is worth nothing. Likely, the people who sold you the land will offer to buy it back at a reduced price in order to start the whole scam again. Your investment is gone. And along comes the next victim.