This is an acid bug.
It’s stupid and it smells bad. No, really–it’s a species of stink bug, and its reliance on odorous chemicals for a defense means that it’s a terribly flier. When they can be bothered to lift off, they fly clumsily and noisily, bumping into objects while buzzing and making a godawful racket. This wouldn’t normally be so bad, but they also have a habit of perching chest-high, flying into people’s faces, then panicking and spraying as a defense. It also doesn’t help that monkeys eat them by the fistful for some reason, often sending clouds of them into the air as they forage.
The name is no joke–these aren’t your average stink bugs. The compounds they use are a concentrated acid that will melt cloth and burn skin. I’m seriously not kidding–this is my wrist an our after I failed to notice one had landed there.
The other day, I ended up bruised, burned, and partially melted. Something had taken root under my nails. My feet had gotten wet and the skin was starting to slough off into paste in parts. Between the mosquitoes, chiggers, and black flies, you could probably measure my long-term blood loss Empirically. I still have an entire botanical exhibit worth of twigs and leaves in my hair. I can’t completely tell where the forest ends and my body begins. It’s like I’m being slowly digested.
That’s not just a colorful expression. As we move through the forest, thorny vines catch and claw at our clothes and skin. Rough-surfaced leaves rasp away at our exposed limbs and faces, slowly flaying patches. Some stems or fruit, when broken, release toxic or caustic compounds. Watch bands, backpack straps, shoe laces–these are often the first things to dissolve or crumble away after a few months of solid field time. Skin, at least, can heal when given the chance, but the worst days will leave burns, scrapes, rashes, and scars that will last for some time.
I’m already sharpening my machete in preparation for the end of the month.