Nocturnal Creatures That Are Awake When You Are Not

When the sun slowly falls into the sea and shadows descend across the earth, we find ourselves submerged in the land of the nocturnal. As we attempt to adjust our senses, the creatures of dim-lit skies and cooler airs begin to appear. They have evolved to thrive at night, adapted to avoid detection from predators or increase their success in hunting. With their enhanced eyesight, stealth and heightened sense of smell, these creatures flourish in their pursuits of the night.

The Slow Dawdlers: Bermuda Land Snail and West Indian Top Shells
The Bermuda land snail is difficult to spot. Living under rocks, decaying logs or leaf litter, it finds both relief and refuge in its compact and damp habitat. This peculiar snail is unable to seal in moisture to prevent it from dehydration and therefore hides from direct sunlight and appears to be most active during rainy periods, seeking out moist environments.  The ancient, endemic land snail has evolved over the past million years to become more active at night, avoiding the predators that once contributed to their dramatic and severe population decline, almost to the point of extinction.

Since their predators approach by either land or sea, the West Indian top shell waits patiently on the rocky shoreline until the safety of darkness permits them to venture out and move silently and slowly along the dark tidelines. The invertebrate species, which can grow as large as five inches in diameter, is protected not only by its shell but also by law, from human collection and consumption.

The Dreaded and Venomous: The Centipede
Packing the sting of a bee and measuring up to a foot long, the dreaded centipede is one of the most feared creatures in Bermuda. Active at night and thriving in shaded high-humidity environments to avoid dehydration, these insects are now found islandwide. Although they prefer to feast on earthworms, cockroaches and silverfish, unfortunately, if disturbed, these predatory arthropods will not hesitate to sink their venomous pinchers into anything in close proximity.

The Evening Nuisance: Mosquitoes
If you listen closely, you may hear the buzz of the meddling mosquito. However, to be fair, you may feel her presence first: What begins as an initial and unsuspecting tickle on your skin is often followed by a terribly frustrating itch. With the hunting vision of an entire Olympic swimming pool, the female mosquito can be quite merciless as she is determined to drink her entire body weight in blood. The mosquito thrives in shaded humid areas, avoiding dehydration that can come from direct sunlight, and breeds around any form of standing water, even a teaspoon will do.

The Late-Night Hunters: Squirrelfish and Barn Owls
To avoid detection from predators, squirrelfish hide in rocky crevices during the day, blending in with the orange-red surroundings of corals.  Hunting at night off docks, shallow reefs and inshore waters, the fish’s large bulging eyes assist greatly in successful predation of larvae, small fish and crustaceans.

Although high-flying predators are not so common around the island, the barn owl has established itself as a considerable predator.  With their silent flight feathers, heightened sense of hearing and binocular vision, a breeding pair of these birds can swoop in on their prey and consume up to 3,000 mice and rats annually.

The Night Strikers: Yellow-Crowned Night Herons and Moray Eels
Stalking the coastline and ponds for fish and amphibians, the yellow-crowned night herons ambush their prey from the waterside. Hunting at night is an adaptive method to minimise competition with other water birds.

Deep in their underwater lairs, the moray eels await their prey. Although they are known for their menacing eyes, the eels are plagued by poor vision making it easier for them to hunt at night, depending on their keen sense of smell. The scent of their favourite small fish lures the eels out of their caves, emerging quickly to lunge at their prey.

The Not-So-Creepy Crawlers: Pill Bugs and June Bugs
This next creature, the pill bug, also known as the roly-poly, we find to be quite surprising. It is a familiar friend often found shuffling around the playground. Happily, neither a pest nor a nuisance, pill bugs are in fact the only land crustacean, breathing through gills located on the underside of their tiny bodies. They feed on rotting vegetation and the heavy metals within soil, giving their blood a bright blue colour commonly found in many other species of arthropods. Curling into a ball when threatened, these armadillidiidae prefer quiet nights in damp soil, out of direct sunlight, and away from predators and disturbances where they can absorb and retain their moisture in peace.

From their interesting clicking noises to their clumsy flight paths, the June bug provides its observers with lots of entertainment. However, with their habit of burying into the ground and munching on roots, these round-body beetles are known for leaving behind dead spots on lawns and, consequently, are considered to be quite pestilent. Although the June bug has adapted to nocturnal habits to avoid daytime predators, the population is low enough that infestations are uncommon.