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Bugs that Bite or Sting

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Summary: Use the questions below to track down the identity of bugs that bite or sting, then follow the links for pictures and suggestions for control.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Urban Entomologist (ret.)

Got Bug Bites?

The most common bugs that bite are grouped below by when or where bites most often occur. If you answer "yes" to a question follow the links for a description and pictures.

Do Bites Occur Mainly Indoors?

  • Do bites occur indoors, mostly at night and leave red, itchy, mosquito-like bite marks? See bed bugs or bird/nest/rodent mites.
  • Do bites occur indoors mostly on ankles and lower legs, caused by small, jumping insects? See fleas.
  • Do bites occur mainly on scalp or in pubic area? See head lice and pubic lice.
  • Do you have red scaly areas on hands, feet or elsewhere that itch? There are many causes but see scabies mites; if these symptoms occur on an animal, with accompanying hair loss, see mange mites.

Mysterious Bites

Do bites occur indoors, but you can't find any insects or mites, symptoms often affect eyes and nose? See unknown and mysterious bites.

Do Bites Occur Mainly Outdoors?

  • Do bites occur outdoors, but no visible bug? See biting midges or thrips. 
  • Do bites, which often bleed, occur near flowing water such as creeks and rivers, and caused by a small, black, "hump-backed" fly? See black flies.
  • Are bites from large, sometimes colorful, flies? See horse flies and deer flies.
  • Do bites occur outdoors, morning or evening, by small, "buzzing" insects? See mosquitoes.
  • Do you get red, intensely itchy bites following outdoor activity in dry, brushy habitat? See chigger mites.

Spider and Tick Bites

  • Do you live in the midwestern US (see map) and have open, slow-healing bite wounds? See brown recluse spider.
  • Do you live in the northwestern US (see map) and have open, slow-to-heal wounds? See hobo spiders.
  • See this page for help with spider identification in general.
  • Have you found a "fat" mite-like bug attached to your skin? See ticks.

Insect Stings

Insect stings are usually defensive. The insect's stinger is equipped with a venom gland so that a dose of venom is injected along with the sting. This venom causes some of the pain and the allergic reaction that often follows a sting.

  • Do you live in the southwestern US (or certain parts of South America) and encountered highly aggressive honey bees? See Africanized bees (so called "killer bees").
  • Do you live in southern US (see map) and encountered ants that build large mounds, and are highly aggressive with a very painful sting? See fire ants.
  • Have you found wasp nests where individual "cells" are exposed (see picture) rather than enclosed within a papery envelope ? See European paper wasps.
  • Have you found yellow/black or all black wasps associated with large, papery, completely covered (enclosed) nests? Wasps can be highly aggressive if the nest is disturbed. See social (yellowjacket) wasps.

Phobias and Allergies

Insects and spiders sometimes cause fears and phobias, and an even more serious condition called delusional parasitosis can develop.

Dust mites and mold mites cause a large percentage of indoor allergies and people often mistake rashes, allergic skin reactions, chemical/physical skin irritation and even drug side effects with "bug bites".

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Mission: To provide accurate, up-to-date and unbiased information for solving common insect and mite problems around your home, business and landscape using least-toxic methods.

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