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Tuesday, June 03, 2008
11 Most Dangerous Bugs in North America

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By Grace Chen

Depending on how you feel about crawling creatures, bugs can be really interesting or rather creepy. Get bitten or stung by one, however, and you might start worrying about how dangerous they are. Thankfully, the majority of bugs will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Get on their bad side, and you could end up with a painful or even deadly bite. Here is a look at some of the commonly found dangerous bugs of North America.

The Most Unknown Dangers:Sac Spider

  1. Sac Spiders - There are several varieties of sac spiders living in North America. They can come in a variety of colors, but tend to have a large round abdomen and thin legs. These spiders are thought to be responsible for the majority of indoor spider bites. Since sac spiders are nocturnal, the majority of bites happen at night. They only attack when provoked or trapped against the skin. A yellow sac spider has a very intense, stinging bite that feels like a sting. It can cause redness and burning for an hour, a rash or blistering soon after, and swelling for a few days. In some cases, an ulceration may occur. Secondary infections are also common from sac spider bites.

  2. Hobo Spider - The hobo spider is hard to identify and not native to the U.S., though it can now be found in the Pacific Northwest. Suspected Hobo spiders should be caught and taken to a specialist if possible. Bites of the hobo spider are thought to possibly cause necrotic ulcers.

  3. Harvester Ants - Harvester ants have a very tenacious bite and painful sting when disturbed. The reaction can spread along the lymph channels and last for hours. Most harvester ants are found west of the Mississippi river.

  4. Browntail Moth - The browntail moth can cause an allergic rash, similar to poison ivy if touched. The rash can last for weeks in sensitive individuals. Inhaled hairs can also cause respiratory distress.

The Most Dangerous:

  1. Black Widow - The black widow spider is one of the more infamous spiders, recognized by the shiny black body with a red hourglass shape on the abdomen. She is also known for eating the male after mating. The bite of an adult female black widow spider can be fatal, and they are most aggressive when they are protecting an egg sac. The male black widow spider is much smaller and not dangerous.

    The black widow is generally not a risk for adults with healthy immune systems, though there is still a risk of death particularly in children and the elderly. The victim may or may not feel the bite, but pain becomes intense within a few hours and can last for a few days. The victim may experience cramping, nausea, vomiting, excessive perspiration, difficulty speaking or breathing, and even unconsciousness and convulsions.

  2. Tarantulas - Tarantulas look dangerous enough, with large, furry bodies and thick legs that give them a very recognizable appearance. The venom of a tarantula is similar to that of a bee sting, and they will usually only bite if provoked or picked up. Some tarantulas can release clouds of hair that is irritating to the nose, throat, and eyes of their attackers.

  3. Recluse spiders - While there are several species of recluse spiders found in North America, the brown recluse is the most infamous. Brown recluses are small, with evenly colored legs void of stripes or spines. A few species have a marking shaped like a violin on them, and all have only six eyes. They are nocturnal and prefer to hide in secluded places.

    The bite of recluse spiders can lead to skin necrosis if left untreated, but most cannot bite through clothing. The bite itself is painless for several hours after the attack, followed by intense pain and the development of a necrotic ulcer. Most of these will heal, leaving a sunken scar, but in rare cases, patients can suffer from kidney failure and blood clots and tissue loss.

  4. Scorpions - Living in the dessert areas of the Southwest are a variety of species of scorpions. Most will only sting if provoked or stepped on, causing the victim localized pain and swelling. However, there is at least one species that has been known to cause death by stinging, primarily in children.

Common and Painful:

  1. Fire Ants - An import from South America, fire ants have an intensely painful and burning sting. Even worse, fire ants attack in mass when disturbed. The stings cause a painful wound that turns into a pustule, which can become infected and tends to itch while it heals.

  2. Bees - Bees can cause a painful sting if disturbed. While not a danger to many people, they can be deadly to persons who are allergic to their venom. The most aggressive ones are the Africanized, or killer, bees that are highly aggressive and attack in large swarms.

  3. Wasps - Like bees, wasps can cause a painful sting that is not dangerous unless the person is allergic to them. Unlike bees, wasps do not lose their stinger when they sting a victim, allowing them to sting repeatedly.

Many species have intensely painful stings that do little to no lasting damage.

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