Written and compiled by Fred Jaicks.
Insects are often called “bugs” because they are so bothersome. But annoyance is the least of worries regarding some bugs. Some insects can carry disease and spread it from person to person by biting them. Other insects can cause life-threatening allergic reactions in some people. By learning to identify your bug bites, you will know how to treat each properly.
Mosquitoes are flying insects. They need blood as part of their diet, it is nutritional for them. They make a high-pitched buzzing noise and are frequently ranked among the highest annoyances to human beings. Mosquito bites don’t cause allergic reactions in too many people, but the bugs can carry serious diseases such as West Nile Virus and malaria.
- Prevention Tips: Several tips on how to reduce mosquitoes around your home.
- Mosquito Bites (PDF): All about the mosquito life cycle and how to treat their bites.
Another of humanity’s major annoyances, flies are located just about everywhere. There are many types of flies: horse flies, black flies and others. Not all types bite humans, but some of the ones that do can hurt and cause serious disease. Allergic reactions are rare, however.
- Biting Flies: The Illinois Dept. of Public Health’s list of some types of flies and directions for how to keep them from biting you.
- Fly Bites: An abstract describing what a bite might look and feel like.
Fleas are very small. Some people are mistaken and think that they are microscopic, but they are around 1/6 inch long and can be seen with the human eye. They’re also jumpers and can bounce up to eight inches in the air. You often hear about pets having fleas, but they won’t hesitate to bite humans either. Fleas like to get into tight spaces. It is not uncommon to find flea bites around the waistline or where your socks hug your ankles.
- Flea Bites: Where do fleas bit and how sensitive can people be to them?
- Fleas: All of the basic information you will ever want to know about fleas. Great site for kids too.
Fire ants are mostly located in the southeastern United States, but their habitat expands each year. They are wingless, red and very aggressive. If a fire ant bites you, it will burn and form a small, painful pus legion. Getting bitten by fire ants in excessive quantity can cause an allergic reaction that may compromise your life.
- Fire Ants Background: Where did fire ants come from and why are they so threatening?
- Fire Ant Health Concerns: Learn about what the bites look like and how to treat them.
Ticks look like small brown spiders, but their bites are very different. Ticks not only bite, but they burrow into your skin ad feed on blood for up to a week. This is usually painless so you won’t notice a tick is on you. Always be sure to check for ticks on your skin when outdoors and after returning inside. If you discover a tick has dug into you, you need to be careful in removing it. It is easy to rip their blood-filled sac from their body, leaving the living tick under your skin. The recommended removal process involves tweezers. They also may back out by themselves if exposed to fire, but this needs to be done extremely carefully. Ticks are dangerous because they can carry a number of diseases including Lyme Disease and the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
- First Aid for Tick Bites: Learn about the types of ticks and how to remove them from your skin.
- Tick Bites: What diseases can come with tick bites?
While fleas, ticks, ants, flies and mosquitos bite, bees and wasps sting. They stick their pointy hind appendages into your skin. There are a number of different types of bees, but each is one of the scariest-looking living creatures on planet Earth. Bumble bees are fat and fuzzy and they are rather lax unless intentionally threatened. Yellow jackets are the ones that tend to swarm around during your outdoor barbecue. Ground bees are like yellow jackets but they live below the earth’s surface, they’re smaller and they’re easier to agitate. Honey bees are somewhat fuzzy and their pollination habits are critical to the environment. However, since they’re so important they will sting if their job is interrupted. Finally, there are hornets. These little guys are perhaps the toughest of all bees. They chew through wood to make homes and they both sting through clothing and shoot venom. A single bee sting is painful and in the best scenario will only leave an unsightly lump on the skin. Many people are allergic to bee stings, but even those who aren’t can be killed if stung too many times.
- Types of Bees: Learn more about the different types of bees.
- Bee Stings: How should you treat a bee sting?
Wasps are yellow and black and look much like bees and the two are often confused. One difference is that some types of bees die when they sting, but wasps do not. Wasp stings are venomous, but will only cause itching, swelling and some pain for most people. However, a lot of people are allergic to wasps and may swell up severely, causing the throat to close or hives to pop up.