Biting and Stinging Insects of Summer



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Warm weather brings with it longer days, beautiful breezes, time outdoors, and bugs! There are a whole host of bugs in the summer. Some have a very distinctive sound that send people running for cover. Others you can barely see and don’t even know they’re there until they bite your or your child.

As we take a look at these bugs, I have included pictures so you know what you’re dealing with.

What stinging and biting insects of summer look like

Black Flies

Black flies are small…well…black flies which are usually found in wet, wooded areas where there is standing water. Black fly season starts around Memorial Day and lasts until the Fourth of July.

Black fly bites will itch and swell. For most, the bites are just a nuisance, while others can have a stronger reaction. Black flies have a habit of “swarming”—that is, traveling in clusters. They often look like clouds.

So long as you keep moving, black flies will not settle on you. Black fly bites are less likely if there is a breeze. Wear long pants and shirts when hiking and wear insect repellent containing DEET.

Africanized (“Killer”) Bees

Africanized bees are often indistinguishable from native honeybees to the naked eye, but their bodies are actually longer and have different measurements. They are yellow with brown bands. They can be found in Arizona, California, Texas, Nevada, southern Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida and New Mexico. An Africanized honeybee’s sting is actually no more harmful than native honeybees, but Africanized bees are far more aggressive when protecting their hives and can attack in swarms of hundreds and even thousands.


If you are attacked by killer bees:

1)      RUN. Don’t stop until you reach a vehicle or building.

2)      Pull your shirt up over your head to protect your face

3)      If some bees follow you inside, go to a well-lit area. The bees will naturally gravitate to windows.

4)      DO NOT jump into water because the bees will wait for you to come up.

5)      Cover up if possible with blankets, sleeping bags, clothes or whatever else might be nearby.

6)      DO NOT swat at the bees or flail your arms. Your movements will attract the bees.

7)      DO NOT squish the bees. Crushed bees give off a smell that will attract other bees.

8)      To remove the stingers, DO NOT pull out with tweezers or your fingers because this will squeeze out more venom. Use your finger nail or other edge (credit card, dull knife blade) to lift it out.

9)      If you see someone being attacked, DO NOT attempt to assist. Call 9-1-1.

10)   If you are allergic to bee stings or if you have been stung more than 15 times, seek immediate medical attention.

“The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings per pound of body weight. This means that although 500 stings can kill a child, the average adult could withstand more than 1100 stings.” (USDA)

Bald-face Hornets & Yellow Jackets

Bald-face Hornets

Bald-face hornets are actually a variety of wasp, like the yellow jacket, the main obvious difference being their coloring. The bald-face hornet is black with white markings. The bald-face hornet has a smooth stinger and can sting multiple times. Bald-face hornets only sting when they’re protecting their nest, which can have up to 800 wasps in it. The best way to avoid being stung is to not come within 3 feet of a nest.

Bald-face hornets are found in the United States, Canada and into Alaska, and are usually active in the late summer.


Yellow Jackets

Yellow jackets (also yellowjackets) are the most common type of wasp and are found throughout the U.S. and Canada. The designs on the abdomen actually tell whether the wasp is a male, a worker or a queen. Yellowjackets build their nests in eaves and attics, and can frequently be found wherever there are sweets and proteins, which is why they tend to hang around trash cans at places that serve ice cream. Yellowjackets are more aggressive in the autumn when the colony starts to die.

Their stingers look like a lance with small barbs on it, which can sting repeatedly. Queens start laying eggs in late spring with worker wasps emerging 18 to 20 days later. A colony can easily reach 5,000 workers. Eventually, as the workers dwindle in number, the colony will be abandoned and rarely used again. Colonies in areas in the southeastern U.S. may last throughout the winter.

Yellowjacket stings are not any more or less dangerous than other bees or wasps. The main threat is the fact that they can sting repeatedly, and to those who are allergic to the venom.

Deer Flies & Horse Flies

Deer Flies

It is only the female deer and horse flies that bite. “They feed on the blood of cattle, horses, deer, humans and other warm-blooded animals. Because they can fly from host to host, they can carry and spread disease, particularly Lyme disease. Deer flies can be found around water and on the edge of wooded areas. Allergic reactions are to the deer fly saliva. Deer flies have pointed wings with dark markings, and dark or yellow markings on their abdomen.


Horse Flies

Horse flies are bigger than deer flies. They have heavy bodies, huge heads and can measure from ¾ inch to over an inch long. Horse flies have been known to bite humans, although they are usually more interested in livestock.

To avoid getting bitten, wear DEET- or Permethrin-containing insect repellents, wear nylon head nets to keep flies away from the neck and face, and wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and pants. Horse flies are attracted to shiny surfaces, and both flies are more active on warm, sunny days when there is little or no wind. With this in mind, plan your outdoor activities for the evening or morning when the temperature is cooler. Citronella and Napththalene are good for keeping the flies away if you’re out on a patio or in the yard or a cabin.

Deer Ticks & Lyme Disease

 Deer Ticks

Deer ticks or blacklegged ticks feed on the blood of white-tailed deer. Their flat oval bodies are dark brown or black in color and they are about the size of a sesame seed. They are usually found in the Western, North Central  and Eastern United States and Canada. They will hide in grass and shrubs. The main threat to humans is deer ticks can spread Lyme Disease, which most commonly appears from May through September.



Lyme Disease

Approximately 50% of those people infected with Lyme disease develop a bull’s-eye-looking rash within 1 to 4 weeks of being bitten. Other symptoms can include flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and headache, but the presence and severity of symptoms can vary from person to person which makes Lyme Disease hard to diagnose. If it is not treated early enough, you can develop joint swelling (arthritis), and pain and weakness in the arms and legs due to nerve inflammation, and slow or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)—although heart problems associated with Lyme Disease usually happen only in those with pre-existing heart conditions.

To prevent tick bites, avoid wooded and areas with bushes and high grass and piles of leaves, and if you’re walking along paths, walk down the center. Wear DEET-containing or Permethrin-containing insect repellent. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming inside. Check “under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially…[the] hair.” (CDC)

Obviously there are more bugs out there than I can cover in a single article. Please click on any one of the source links at the end of this article to find out more about stinging and biting insects.

Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for


Stinging/Biting Insects. Web. June 8, 2012.

Stinging Insect Allergy. American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. Web. June 8, 2012.

The Buzzz About Insect Bites and Stings. Boyles, Amy & Olin, Bernie. Auburn University School of Pharmacy. Web. June 8, 2012.

What about Black Flies and other Flying Pests I have heard about. Web. June 8, 2012.

Africanized Honey Bees: What to do if Attacked by Africanized honey bees. United States Department of Agriculture. Web. June 8, 2012.

Yellow Jackets. Johnson Pest Control. Web. June 8, 2012.

Horse and Deer Flies. Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet Entomology. Web. June 8, 2012.

Lyme Disease Rash. WebMD. Web. June 8, 2012.

Preventing Tick Bites. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web. June 8, 2012.


Empowher Links:

Insect Bites and Stings. McCoy, Krisha.

Bug Bite Prevention Tips for Kids. Kelby, MC.

Home Remedies for Bug Bite Relief. Serrano, Danielle.


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