Insects are often overlooked as a danger to the survivor. More people in the United States die each year from bee stings, and resulting anaphylactic shock, than from snake bites. A few other insects are venomous enough to kill, but often the greatest danger is the transmission of disease.
Description: Dull brown, yellow, or black. Have 7.5- to 20-centimeter long lobsterlike pincers and a jointed tail usually held over the back. There are 800 species of scorpions.
Habitat: Decaying matter, under debris, logs, and rocks. Feeds at night. Sometimes hides in boots.
Distribution: Worldwide in temperate, arid and tropical regions.
Scorpions sting with their tails, causing local pain, swelling, possible incapacitation, and death. The most venomous in America is the Arizona bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus,) a small light brown scorpion common to the Sonoran Desert in southwest United States and northern Mexico.
Its venom can cause severe pain (coupled with numbness, tingling, vomiting, and stool) in adult humans, typically lasting between 24 to 72 hours. Temporary dysfunction in the area stung is common; e.g. a hand or possibly arm can be immobilized or experience convulsions. It also may cause loss of breath for a short time. Due to the extreme pain induced, many victims describe sensations of electrical jolts after envenomation.
Fatalities from scorpion envenomation in the USA are rare and are limited to small animals (including small pets), small children, the elderly, and adults with compromised immune systems. Extreme reaction to the venom is indicated by numbness, frothing at the mouth, paralysis, and a neuromotor syndrome that may be confused with a seizure and that may make breathing difficult, particularly for small children.
Description: Brown to black with obvious “fiddle” on back of head and thorax. Chunky body with long, slim legs 2.5 to 4 centimeters long. It has three pairs of eyes.
Habitat: Under debris, rocks, and logs. In caves and dark places.
Distribution: North America.
Brown recluse spiders are usually between 6–20 millimetres (0.24–0.79 in), but may grow larger. While typically light to medium brown, they range in color from cream-colored to dark brown or blackish gray. The cephalothorax and abdomen may not necessarily be the same color. These spiders usually have markings on the dorsal side of their cephalothorax, with a black line coming from it that looks like a violin with the neck of the violin pointing to the rear of the spider, resulting in the nicknames fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, or violin spider.
Description: Brown, black, reddish, hairy spiders. Large fangs inflict painful bite. Tarantulas sizes range from as small as a fingernail to as large as a dinner plate when the legs are fully extended.
Habitat: Desert areas, tropics.
Distribution: Americas, Southern Europe, Africa. Tarantulas of various species occur in the southern and western parts of the United States, in Central America, and throughout South America.
Tarantulas comprise a group of very large and often hairy arachnids belonging to the Theraphosidae family of spiders, of which approximately 900 species have been identified. This article only describes members of Theraphosidae, although some other members of the same suborder are commonly referred to as “tarantulas”. Most species of tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, and some species have become popular in the exotic pet trade.
Though all tarantulas are venomous and some bites cause serious discomfort that might persist for several days, so far there is no record of a bite causing a human fatality. In general, the effects of the bites of all kinds of tarantula are not well known. While the bites of many species are known to be no worse than a wasp sting, accounts of bites by some species are reported to be very painful and to produce intense spasms that may recur over a period of several days.
Before biting, tarantulas may signal their intention to attack by rearing up into a “threat posture”, which may involve lifting their front legs into the air, spreading and extending their fangs, and (in certain species) making a loud hissing by stridulating. Their next step, short of biting, may be to slap down on the intruder with their raised front legs. If that response fails to deter the attacker, the tarantulas of the Americas may next turn away and flick urticating bristles toward the pursuing predator. The next response may be to leave the scene entirely, but, especially if there is no line of retreat, their final response may also be to whirl suddenly and bite. Some tarantulas are well known to give “dry bites,” i.e., they may defensively bite some animal that intrudes on their space and threatens them, but they will not pump venom into the wound.
New-world tarantulas (those found in North and South America) are equipped with urticating hairs (technically bristles) on their abdomen, and will almost always throw these barbed bristles as a first line of defense.
Habitat: Under logs, rocks, and debris. In shaded places.
Distribution: Varied species worldwide. Black widow in United States, red widow in Middle East, and brown widow in Australia.
Females are the poisonous gender. The female black widow has unusually large venom glands and her bite can be particularly harmful to humans. Due to the presence of latrotoxin in their venom, black widow bites are potentially dangerous and may result in systemic effects (latrodectism) including severe muscle pain, abdominal cramps, hyperhidrosis, tachycardia, and muscle spasms. Symptoms usually last for 3–7 days, but may persist for several weeks. Contrary to popular belief, most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage, let alone death. Anti-venin is used
Habitat: Under bark and stones by day. Active at night.
Centipedes of the United States, especially the larger ones such as the giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros) and the banded desert centipede (Scolopendra polymorpha), can inflict an intensely painful, though rarely (if ever) fatal, bite, or more accurately, a pinch. They puncture your skin with a powerful pair of modified, hollow, clawed legs located on the first body segment, immediately behind the head. They use the legs and claws like hypodemic syringes to draw venom from poison sacks within the body trunk and inject it into your flesh.
Although the pain may last for no more than several hours to a several days – some compare it to a bee sting – you might suffer more serious symptoms, for instance:
- Intense itching, local tenderness, headache, swollen lymph glands, dizziness, nausea, palpitations, anxiety and increasing blood pressure, and
- Local tissue damage.
In addition to the bite, you might also experience small puncture wounds, laced with blister-causing venom, in the tracks where the clawed centipede crawled across your skin.
Wash the wound with soap and water and ice. Visit a hospital if you have severe symptoms.
Habitat: Hollow trees, caves, dwellings. Near water in desert areas.
Note: Bees have barbed stingers and die after stinging because their venom sac and internal organs are pulled out during the attack.
If bitten by a bee:
1. Remove the Stinger
- Scrape the area with a fingernail or use tweezers to remove it.
- Don’t pinch the stinger — that can inject more venom.
2. Control Swelling
- Ice the area.
- If you were stung on your arm or leg, elevate it.
- Remove any tight-fitting jewelry from the area of the sting. As it swells, rings or bracelets might be difficult to remove.
3. Treat Symptoms
- For pain, take an over-the-counter painkiller like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to anyone under age 18.
- For itchiness, take an antihistamine. You can also apply a mixture of baking soda and water or calamine lotion.
- It might take 2-5 days for the area to heal. Keep it clean to prevent infection.
Seek emergency care (911) if the person has any of these symptoms or a history of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), even if there are no symptoms:
- Difficulty breathing or wheezing
- Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
- Hoarseness or trouble speaking
- Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
- Fast heartbeat or pulse
- Skin that severely itches, tingles, swells, or turns red
- Anxiety or dizziness
- Loss of consciousness
WASPS and HORNETS
Description: Generally smooth bodied, slender stinging insects. Many nest individually in mud nests or in paper nest colonies. Smooth stinger permits multiple attacks. There are several hundred species worldwide.
Habitat: May be found anywhere in various species.
Note: An exception to general appearance is the velvet ant of the southern United States. It is a flightless wasp with red and black alternating velvety bands.
Although wasps are considered a pest for beekeepers wasps are the tigers of the air and eat a large number of aphids and caterpillars, which is good for gardeners.
Hornets have a scary reputation for their powerful and painful sting, but are rarely aggressive other than when they or their nest is threatened. They consume a large number of insects such are horseflies and crane flies and caterpillars.