What Bit Me? Arrow’s Guide to Bug Bites
While threats of lions, tigers and bears have given us nightmares for years, it’s often the smallest creatures you really have to look out for. Though we could easily squash them with our shoe, pests like spiders, scorpions, ticks and mosquitos often carry life-threatening diseases or have deadly venom. Unfortunately for us, the key to curbing these winged, fanged and stinging critters is to become familiar with the bites they leave behind.
Any eight-legged crawly thing can give you the heebie-jeebies, but only two spider species have venom powerful enough to threaten your health: black widows and brown recluses.
Black Widow: With shiny black bodies and a red hourglass marking on their abdomen, black widows prefer warm, dark and dry haunts like woodpiles, basements, tree stumps and cluttered closets. Abundant in the American South, these arachnids build large, messy webs close to the ground. Black widow bites typically appear as two clean puncture wounds, and the painful aftermath can include muscle cramps, nausea, weakness, dizziness, chest pain and trouble breathing.
Brown Recluse: Ranging from yellow to dark brown, with a violin-shaped marking on their back, brown recluses find shelter in dark barns and basements throughout the Southeast, where they build their disorganized webs at ground level. Depending on the amount of venom injected, brown recluse bites can cause anything from mild skin irritation, redness, swelling and itching, to nausea, fever, muscle pain and, in the worst cases, tissue death.
Small, red in color and ready to bite repeatedly, it’s hard to miss fire ants taking over your yard, and harder still to forget the sting they leave behind. These aggressive bugs swarm in colonies of up to 250,000 and are common throughout the South in warm, dry and sunny conditions.
Though they grip with their mandibles, they inject their alkaloid venom through a stinger at the base of their abdomen. While their bites only pose a serious threat if you experience a severe allergic reaction, the small red bumps still carry a painful stinging and burning sensation.
We almost got rid of these buggers in the 40s, but unfortunately they’re back and stronger than ever. Their bites can cause rashes and allergic reactions, but they’re relatively harmless. The real threat comes from trying to send them packing — getting rid of bed bugs is enough to drive a sane person crazy, and these guys are almost impossible to exterminate without professional help.
With flat, oval-shaped bodies the size of an apple seed, bed bugs find homes near their sleeping victims — on baseboards, mattress seams, sheets, headboards, luggage and even purses. They can be spotted with the human eye during any of their lifecycle stages, or through the black and brown blood and waste stains they leave behind. Their bites tend to cluster in lines on the upper body, resulting in itchy red bumps similar to those of a mosquito.
Before you fall victim to the scorpion’s sting, it’s important to know they crave dark, cool and moist environments like trees, basements, garages, sheds and bathrooms. Fortunately for us, most North American scorpions are minute pests whose sting can cause mild symptoms such as pain, numbness, swelling, tingling, warmth and redness.
If you live in the Southwest, watch out for the Arizona Bark Scorpion, a deadly variety ranging from light brown to yellow-brown in color, whose venom can cause a range of life-threatening symptoms like muscle twitches, frothing at the mouth and trouble breathing.
These tiny blood feeders have been around for 90 million years, and though there are over 800 species of ticks around the world, only hard and soft ticks are known to transmit disease. Grabbing hold of their hosts as they pass by, these buggers can be found on pets, wildlife and in weeds and tall grasses. These rust-brown, oval-shaped pests are found throughout the Eastern U.S., and once they implant themselves on a host’s neck or another hard-to-see place, they must be removed slowly with tweezers or forceps.
Some tick bites can be detected by a bulls-eye pattern around the bite wound, and symptoms can include anything from a full-body rash, neck stiffness and headache to nausea, vomiting and fever. Infections aren’t common, but ticks can transmit a whole host of nasty diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease and tularemia.
If you live on planet earth, you’re no stranger to mosquitos and the diseases they transmit, like malaria, Zika, West Nile virus and Dengue fever. Known for their prominent proboscis and large wings, mosquitos prefer stagnant waters and the cool, dark cover of dusk and dawn. To keep your bites to a minimum, try to eliminate standing water in potted plants, birdbaths, drain spouts, gutters and kiddie pools.
While most bites are undetectable at the moment of inception, mosquito saliva can cause itchy red bumps that swell and pose a serious risk to people with immune disorders.
While we often associate bees with spring blossoms, late fall is when these buzzy critters pose the most risk. By late fall, when populations reach their peak, a single mature wasp nest can hold up to 5,000 wasps.
Hornets, bees, yellow jackets and wasps are armed with stingers that can inflict small red puncture wounds that result in stinging pain, itching and warmth that can last up to a week. A severe allergic reaction can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, swelling of the face and mouth, difficulty swallowing or breathing and even cardiac arrest.
While you will almost always hear, see and feel these critters in the moments before, during and after a stinging event, you can catch them early by spotting their nests, which can be made from wax, bark paper, branches or mud. Some stinging species prefer to nest underground in shallow holes, sidewalk cracks and below porches, but the more social varieties build visible nests in sheltered, hidden locations like low-hanging branches, the eaves of structures, light fixtures and tree hollows.
If you are feeling under the weather after an encounter with a spider, tick or mosquito, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. But if you suspect your home may be haunted by pests and you want to prevent an infestation before you suffer the consequences, Arrow is on your side and ready to help!