You’ve been dreaming of a relaxing getaway to the Florida Keys for a while now and finally make it down for some fun. On your trip, you plan to go swimming in the beautiful blue waters, maybe take a boat out to do some snorkeling or diving, a little jet skiing, parasailing if you’re feeling totally adventurous. You’re having an amazing time when all of a sudden… “OW! What just bit me??”
To that I answer… oh, so many things. Really, it could be anything. If Florida Keys animals are known for anything, it’s for being abundant with all sorts of things that want to bite you, eat you, make you itch or at least, scare the holy crap out of you.
In this blog, we go down the list of these animals in the Florida Keys and how to avoid them… Or, at least survive them.
[Originally posted May 2022, Last updated August 2022]
Florida Keys Animals That Can Bite, Itch, Sting, Scare & Eat You
Mosquitoes & No-see-ums
I can’t stress the importance of bug spray enough. So, allow me to expand on this for a second. I wish someone had warned me prior to my first extended visit to the Florida Keys.
Sunsets are beautiful as are the sunrises. However, they are breakfast and lunch time for mosquitoes and noseums (NO-See-Ums).
You are probably already familiar with mosquitoes. But, noseums are a special kind of hell reserved for southern states (I think). While the tradewinds often blow these annoyances away, when all is calm, these noseums are out in full force.
These little flying gnats that bite are (in my opinion) even worse than mosquitoes. You literally can’t see them, hence the appropriate name, and they bite often and leave little screaming and wailing red marks all over you.
When it comes to Florida, there is no shortage of dangerous animals that can kill you. In fact, Florida is one of the top states for deadly animal attacks.
Once you have been bitten, people will tell you not to scratch. I’m here to say… good luck with that. These suckers itch like crazy. I recall one Summer at Bahia Honda State Park Campground after a night of camping. I woke up to find a million little black dots all over my body and I was scratching like you couldn’t even imagine. There were red dots all over my body from where I’d scratched. It looked like I had chicken pox.
Locals have many suggestions… each of which I have tried, following every instruction religiously.
These are usually the best solutions out there but alas, it didn’t work. So, I went to 3 different pharmacies to find a better solution. This time, I was given…
I’ll tell you the one that actually worked… it was a tip given to me by the locals who have clearly experienced this themselves.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. Yep… good ole fashioned apple cider vinegar. You may walk around smelling like the latest Summers Eve douche product but, the relief is well worth the stares.
These suckers sting. Not all of them but a lot of them.
Not only do the visible ones get you but, if you are unlucky enough to swim over sea grass that is hosting the eggs, don’t be surprised if in a short time you have a nasty and incredibly itchy trail of bumps all over you.
Heed warnings on beach signs.
First, don’t freak out if your travel companion offers to whip it out and pee on you. Don’t worry, they haven’t lost their minds from heat stroke. This common myth is based presumably on the notion that the ammonia compounds in the urine can help.
However, the reality is that the water component can actually release more venom and make the situation worse.
Just politely tell them to put that thing away… Then, remove any stingers that are visible and grab yourself some APPLE CIDER VINEGAR. See the recurring theme here? 😉 The cheapest of the remedies on the list is actually the most effective, who knew? And trust me when I say you will be pouring bottles of it on your body. Make sure to bring at least a couple bottles of apple cider vinegar.
Another great remedy is rubbing alcohol which you pour on. Do NOT rub it!
CAUTION: Some people can have allergic reactions jellyfish stings. Some of these symptoms are much more severe.
Seek emergency medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms…
- Rapid heart beat
- Muscle spasm
My sister had a very unfortunate experience with Jelly Fish stings while snorkeling off Key West. While the boat captain let us know prior to getting in the water that jelly fish were present, he thought they were downwind from where we were.
She ended up with multiple stings. Fortunately, the boat keeps sprays of vinegar on the boat to alleviate the stinging. We also had Benadryl on hand to help.
Her stings were from tentacles that fully draped over her body which ended up leaving scarring. She got a tattoo to cover some of them (see photo below) with an homage to the beautiful jelly fish. LOL
Ahhh.. sharks, my favorite. SARCASM
To say that I’m scared of sharks is an insane understatement. So much so that people who know me think I have a problem. Literally, today as my computer awoke from “sleep mode”, a spontaneous pop up screensaver appeared and guess what it was a photo of… yep. A big ole shark. Just as I’m saying this I have chills. It’s completely irrational.
Anywho… here is me with one.
Even though I was scared when I first spotted them, sharing the ocean, waterways and canals with these magnificent dinosaurs is an amazing experience. It took a while to be in awe, not fear. Knowing that they were innocent nurse sharks definitely helped.
According to the Key West Aquarium, there has only been 1 reported fatal attack in the Florida Keys since records began in the 1800’s.
There are 143 different species of sharks that can be found in the Florida Keys and there are precautions you can take to improve your chances of not being mistaken as dinner. I’ll leave it to the experts at Florida Museum to share those with you.
How to Avoid Shark Attacks
Despite what JAWS may have you believing, sharks are not out to eat humans. In fact, Steven Spielberg was upset about the negative reaction people had toward sharks after they saw the movie and started killing them. If you’re still scared of being accidentally mistaken for fish food, the Florida Museum shares ways you can avoid being attacked by a shark.
Alligators & Crocodiles
No Geeves, you got that wrong. There are only GATORS in Florida. Ha! That’s what you think… Florida has both!
So, what is the different between alligators and crocodiles?
American Alligators are found in Fresh Water while American Crocodiles are found in Saltwater.
While swimming in the canals of Key Largo, I encountered one of these creatures along the bank. Regrettably, I did not take the time to ask for an identification card or get into what its family lineage was.
But hopefully my dear readers, you can understand my quick exit from the area. Later, I read in my Airbnb host’s manual that because we were located in the Florida Everglades location, these land/water dinosaurs are not altogether uncommon in the murky canals.
For more fun facts check out the links below!
Want a relaxing island getaway?
Head to Key West! Read my blog for the ultimate romantic vacation with your love. We’ll talk activities, restaurants, hotels, even places to go nude.
Okay, this has to be one of my favorite Florida Keys animals. These giant herbivorous lizard creatures are neither dangerous nor aggressive but, they do look incredibly intimidating.
Iguanas can reach up to 5 feet in length and range in color from bright green to black.
My first encounter with an iguana was in Key West. Back then, I was screaming my heart out and absolutely terrified. Now, I’m so excited when I see them that I have camera rolls of photos.
While they are not native to Florida, they can be seen on many beaches, roadsides and cabanas kicking back by hotel swimming pools, stealing customers’ pina coladas. True story.
While there are other terrifying Florida Keys animals and other species throughout Florida like Panthers, Bears, Brown Widow Spiders and giant Pythons, I haven’t run across any of them (luckily).… and as you know, I only write about my own unique experiences.
That’s a wrap ya’ll! Thank you for reading my blog. Hopefully got a laugh or two from it and it didn’t scare you away. The Florida Keys is such a fun place to travel to! Just remember to bring the essentials and you shouldn’t have a problem!
That’s a Wrap!
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed my blog.
And now I want to know! Do you have any stories encountering wildlife? Funny or scary… Share your story with me in the comments below! 🙂
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Your Guide to a Romantic Island Getaway | Things to Do in Key West for Couples
Getting My Scuba Certification in Florida: It Starts With the Right Dive Shop
Salt Lake City Adventure: Making the Most of a Bad Trip
Fishing Trip Packing List: What to Bring Fishing?
The Ultimate Packing List for Every Type of Traveler
Tennessee Road Trip: Things to Do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg
At Real Girl Review, we value truth and always strive for accuracy. Posts are updated regularly. If you read something that still doesn’t sound right, contact me at email@example.com. I will investigate the facts and make changes as I deem necessary.
The No-see-ums get me every time.. and now I carry all the above when going tropical…I think crocs and alligators would be my biggest fear… we have the Crocs up north where they come sit on the beach.. never between the flags though
Cross are not to be messed with. Always look around you when you’re walking. 😉
That’s great to know! 😊 Thank you for that helpful info Lorraine! I’ll definitely add that to the blog. Thank you for reading the blog!
Noseeums also exist in Mexico and Central America. A great local product for any kind of itchiness is mentholated alcohol which can be picked up in the local farmacias.
I word of caution about iguanas: Do not bother them or handle them, lest they bit you. Their bites are quite nasty and infect easily.
While mosquitos and noseums are most likely to and probably will bite me, it’s the crocs that raises my fear