For Better or Worse, Eight of the World’s Most Dangerous Bugs Can Be Found in KY
I have been bitten or stung (and whatever ticks do) by four critters that find themselves on a list of the deadliest insects in the world. Now, we're going to need a little clarification.
The list about which I am speaking does say "deadliest," but Field & Stream, the online publication where I found it, admits that not every creature ON said list is deadly...or even an insect. So that's why my title says "most dangerous" and "bugs." And I don't think you care too much; I doubt you want much to do with any of them, whatever we're calling them here.
Plus, the fact that I'm still breathing also indicates that not all the multi-legged creatures on this list can necessarily do you in. But some can, under certain circumstances. So let's dig in, and we'll do this in alphabetical order.
Field & Stream puts ants on the list in sort of "blanket fashion." By that I mean they cover all types of ants. Fire ants are the big concern in Kentucky. You've probably seen the big mounds. The biggest ones I've seen are out West, but these pain-inducing insects are still prevalent in the Commonwealth and pack a wallop.
Driver ants--their jaws are so strong they can leave puncture wounds in your flesh--and bullet ants--their bites can produce waves of long-lasting burning pain--are species we don't have to worry about in the United States, thank heavens.
It's a shame bees are the on the list, because they are so important to our survival. Think about what would happen if they were all wiped out and there was no more pollination. Eventually, there wouldn't be anymore food. Yeah, let's not think about it. Bees are actually ON this list because Field & Stream has lumped some pretty nasty Asian giant hornets--not a concern in Kentucky--and Africanized killer bees--neither are they--in with the rest of them. But if you have an allergy to stings, yes, regular old bees can present a very serious problem. However, since they'll die if they sting you, they probably want no more to do with you than you do with them.
I've only ever seen black widows in person twice in my life. Both occurrences happened about six years apart, and both black widows were in the exact same place. The lesson? Don't stick your hand there. Anyway, while F&S placed black widows on the list, they admit that these arachnids rarely actually kill. But that muscle rigidity, vomiting, pain, and sweating are no picnic, so, yes, we avoid them.
Brown Recluse Spiders
Two years ago, we found ourselves in the midst of a brown recluse problem. I counted six of them in one week. Or maybe it was six APPEARANCES and not six brown recluse spiders. Regardless, ONE is too many, so we employed the services of an exterminator. Nobody wants any part of the potential pain and necrosis of a brown recluse bite. Again, F&S admits they're not really killers, but what they CAN do is something you want to avoid. So here's how you can identify one AND its bite:
Several years ago, a couple of friends of mine took off on a vacation and asked if I could come in periodically and water their plants. No problem. What neither they nor I knew was what was lurking in their carpet. They had boarded their dogs, but not their dogs' FLEAS, apparently. I walked across their bedroom floor with the watering can when, all of a sudden, my legs started itching furiously. That's because they were covered in fleas which had been lying dormant in the carpet. I flew outside and hosed off and hoped against hoped nothing would happen. And it didn't. But fleas can be nasty business. They carry all kinds of diseases and, during the 14th century, were ultimately responsible for the deaths of more than 25 million people. You may know it as the Black Plague.
Thankfully, I've never had the pleasure. And the reason kissing bugs make the Field & Stream list is because of their propensity for being a carrier of Chagas disease. A few cases have been reported in the U.S., but it's endemic in Central America. Here's what we deal with in Kentucky regarding this nuisance:
The Eastern bloodsucking conenose is a type of kissing bug that can be found across Kentucky. Kissing bugs are blood feeding parasites and are members of the Hemiptera, also known as true bugs. Hemiptera includes other insects like aphids, stink bugs, bed bugs, cicadas, and many more.
This should come as no surprise. West Nile Virus, Zika, yellow fever, and malaria are just a few of the deadly diseases transmitted by mosquitos. Frankly, I consider myself lucky; mosquitos LOVE me during the summertime. I can't pack ENOUGH repellant around. This also gives me an opportunity to say how much I hated those commercials where someone would stick their arm into a box of mosquitos to prove the advertised repellent would work. Just awful. (Btw, he can KEEP his money.)
I guess Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are the two biggies you can get from ticks, but there are quite a few more. However, if it's all the same to you, I'm not embedding a video or a graphic. I can't stand ticks, and I'd just as soon not have to look at them here.
But I do hope this has been informative. Do I think we have a huge problem because these things are present in the Commonwealth? No, but I do think it's important to know what these eight insects/arachnids COULD cause to happen. Better safe than sorry.
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Gallery Credit: Andrea Vale
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Gallery Credit: Andrew Vale