So, you’re moving to Hawaii? Congratulations! Here’a a brief introduction to the six (mostly permanent) locals you’ll be sharing your home with.

Uninvited guests can be pesky, but in this case, it is best to acknowledge and embrace the fact of their existence and not stress too much about it. (You really don’t have any other options, other than misery. And who has time for that when you’re living in Paradise?!)

1. Geckos. We’ll start with a fun one. Geckos are your friends (although they might freak you out at first when you open a cabinet door and they jump out at you. You’ll get used to each other.)  They’re cute and colorful — until they start to die, that is. If you notice one fading on you, try to put it outside so it can get some sun and food and (hopefully) bounce back to health. Best of all, geckos eat small roaches, fruit flies, gnats, and moths in your home.  Free pest control!

2. Cane Spiders. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find these housemates absolutely terrifying. When I first moved to Hawaii, I once spent two solid nights chasing one around my room. They’re huge (with leg spans of six inches,) fast, and and elusive. But like the geckos, they provide free pest control (although I’m still undecided on whether or not I consider them a more undesirable pest than the small roaches and other insects they eat.) The good news is, they don’t built webs, are mostly nocturnal (so hopefully you won’t have too much face-time,) and will typically run from you rather than attack you. The biggest danger they pose is the near heart attack that their size and fuzziness can induce. So. Try to accept their presence in your home with a little less animosity (I’m speaking mostly to myself here.)

3. The Ants. Not a fan of ant floaters in your tequila, water glass, or food? Decide to get over it — and then do. For me, it happened when a bomb pizza I’d gotten from Flatbread in Paia was attacked by ants while I was having a painting party with one of my girlfriends…on the floor (I know, not the best place to set food. I s’pose I deserved it.) Throwing that pizza out wasn’t an option, so I stuck it in the fridge and ate it for breakfast the next morning, ants and all.

Ants will outnumber you in your home by about a zillion to one.  Ironically, Hawaii is one of the only places on the globe with no native ant species… yet today, there are approximately 44 different species of ants in the Hawaiian Islands. They can be incredibly damaging to the native flora and fauna, and since none of the little critters are native, I’d be happy if they all disappeared. But, that’s not going to happen. So accept the fact that during your time in Hawaii, you’ll be eating them, drinking them, and sharing your personal space with them. They can take over alarmingly fast, so try to take preventative measures to keep them contained as much as possible (keep things clean, don’t leave food out, etc)… but know that they’ll still be there. When they get out of control, Terro Liquid Ant Baits are what I’ve found to be the most effective.

4. The Roaches. Cockroaches are dirty bugs. Literally. I don’t like them, but I’m fairly accustomed to them as I’ve been living with them in very close quarters for five years now.  There’s 19 different species of cockroaches in Hawaii, and while they won’t hurt you, they will take over your house if you let them—and they’re hard to get rid of. It’s definitely a worthwhile investment to have your home sprayed every couple months, and in the meantime try to keep your home clean, trash emptied, dishes washed, and sinks and counters empty of food. It’s highly unfortunate, but you’ll also need to come to terms with the fact that at some point, you’ll most likely eat one. I bit into an extra crunchy muffin with one baked into it once. One of my friends woke up one day with a giant one in his mouth. A former roommate was eating from a bag of chips and accidentally tossed back a live one that had been munching at the bottom of the bag. When it happens, thank the universe that it’s over and move on (but it’s okay to be mad about it for a bit first.)

5. The Centipedes. There’s really only one thing to say about these: you do not want them in your home. They range in size from tiny to massive (1-12 inches.) Their bites are excruciating… and they don’t like to let go. Centipedes are really the only pests in Hawaii to be scared of (but please,  do be scared. Geckos are fun to hold if you can catch them. Centipedes are not.) They move crazy fast, like warm, dark, damp areas, and can squeeze through even the tiniest spaces under doors and in walls. Don’t sleep on the floor, be alert in the jungle and in the grass at night, and don’t leave bedding or clothes on the floor.

6. Mice and Rats. For some reason, these rodents thrive on islands. But, since they’re not unique to Hawaii I’m sure you’ve dealt with them before and I’m tired of thinking about pests. Moving on. 

No matter what (or who) you encounter in your new home, keep a sense of humor. Promise yourself that you’ll never get so distracted that you stop noticing the wild, breathtaking beauty around you. Life in the Hawaiian Islands is magical, messy, exhilarating, exasperating, and safe. There are no snakes or wild animals that are going to jump out and kill you, so when you’re pulling your hair out over the bugs throwing parties in your home, take comfort in that.

**The exact pests and combination of pests that you will live with depends on your location. While you will have ants, roaches, geckos, and possibly mice everywhere in Hawaii, there are certain areas where you are more likely to experience centipedes and cane spiders, such as the jungle or wetter places, and other areas where you will encounter them less.