LivingWithBugs Logo

Bugs that Bite or Sting

- click on links below for more information -

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? Bed bugs or bird mites (aka nest mites, rodent mites) are possible causes.

    See Bed bug bites.

    See Bird/nest/rodent mite bites.

    Both are caused by an allergic reaction to antigens in the bug's saliva.
  • Do bites occur indoors mostly on ankles and lower legs, caused by small, jumping insects? See fleas for id and control information.
  • Do bites occur mainly on scalp or in the pubic area? This is a pretty good indication that some type of lice are involved. If the bites are confined to the scalp and neck areas than head lice are likely the cause.

    On the other hand, pubic lice bites are generally confined to the pubic area and/or areas around eyelashes.
  • Do you have red scaly areas on hands, feet or elsewhere that itch? There are many causes but scabies mites might be involved.

    If these symptoms occur on an animal, with accompanying hair loss, then the possibility of mange mites should be investigated.

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 there are no bugs? In certain areas tiny biting midges are severe outdoor pests. This is especially true in damp climates and where the soil is poorly drained. Another occasional "biting pest" that people sometimes describe as "slivers that bite" is 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 for life history and protection.
  • Are bites from large, sometimes colorful, flies? See horse flies and deer flies. These large flies are very common in some areas and can be persistent biters especially around livestock
  • Do bites occur outdoors, morning or evening, by small, "buzzing" insects? See mosquitoes. Most people are familiar with these annoying summer pests.
  • Do you get red, intensely itchy bites following outdoor activity in dry, brushy habitat? Chigger mites are tiny red mites that occur in this type of habitat and, see chigger mites for more information.

Spider and Tick Bites

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 on this page) and encountered ants that build large mounds, and are highly aggressive with a very painful sting? These are fire ants, see fire ants for biology and control information.
  • Have you found wasp nests where individual "cells" are exposed (see picture on this page) 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 are closely related and very common in homes. Dust mites feed on microscopic skin flakes and other debris found in house "dust" while:

Mold mites occur wherever mold grows. Both 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".

Don't forget to bookmark us for next time - press ctrl-D in most browsers.

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.

Please see the Disclaimer statements as well.

Copyright © 2004-... LivingWithBugs, LLC. All rights reserved.