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Parenting in Costa Rica: Where Two Kids Equal One Trillion Ants

Two of the central aspects of my life are wildlife and being a dad. I’ve loved wildlife my entire life. I’m constantly studying mammals. I’m a sucker for a pretty bird. Heck, if you tell me you’ve got a scary-looking bug to show me, I’m all in.

I also love being a dad. I have two young boys who showed up in my life a few years and have aggressively dominated it ever since. Though at times it feels like they’re slowly draining the lifeforce from my being, I love them with all of my heart. The problem arises when these two loves collide. Both boys act as pied pipers for one particular form of wildlife, teeny tiny ants.

My older son excels in just about every way. He’s mature beyond his age. He shines both socially and academically at school. He’s a gifted artist. He knows more about outer space and the countries of the world than any adult that I know. But the wheels come off at mealtime. No matter the type of food he’s eating, it will get everywhere.

There will be food on his handsome little face, and there will be food sprinkled throughout the entire area. My wife and I call him ‘Pach,’ short for mapache, because he eats like a little raccoon. The result of this raccoon-like feeding is a never-ending stream of the tiniest ants you’ve ever seen dutifully marching in to clean up the mess.

While Pach is responsible for many of the kitchen/dining room ants, my younger son is responsible for the sofa ants and bed ants. He’s a grazer. He likes popcorn, potato, yuca, and plantain chips, and little bowls of cut up fruit. He’ll take his snack items wherever he goes and leaves little crumbs in his wake. Just try sitting on my sofa to relax and watch a little TV.

Within a few minutes you’ll notice a little tickle in your arm hair. It’s a sofa ant. Lay down in his little bed to read a book with him and guess who else is enjoying children’s literature? Those are the bed ants, polishing off some bits of popcorn.

Neither kid is particularly adept at putting their half-eaten snacks away which results in a game called ‘How many ants is too many ants?’. This game involves some ant-based mathematics where it’s my job to consider the tipping point of the volume of ants that requires the bag of chips to be thrown away or perhaps it could be saved by a quick trip to the freezer followed by a sorting of cold chips and frozen ants.

Their powers combine in my truck, where they’re responsible for a colony of truck ants, a slightly larger species that lives in some hidden part of my truck. At some point years ago I made the mistake of bringing snacks for the truck ride home from school. What was once a nice little treat is now a requirement. ‘What did you bring to eat?’ is the first thing they say upon entering the vehicle.

I tell them to clean up after themselves as we arrive in the driveway, and they do. They pick up approximately 25% of the crumbs and leave the rest for the truck ants to sort out.

So, if you’re a parent of young kids and you’re considering the big move to Costa Rica, there’s some math you need to consider – Costa Rica + kids = 1 trillion tiny ants.

About the Author

Vincent Losasso, founder of Guanacaste Wildlife Monitoring, is a biologist who works with camera traps throughout Costa Rica. Learn more about his projects on facebook or instagram. You can also email him at:

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