Insects And Their Bites

The majority of insects will defend themselves if they feel threatened. This is fairly amazing when you think about how big insects are compared to the mammalian interloper. Most insects will only atttack if you roam into their territory. There are also insects that have to drink blood and they actively seek their prey. This sort includes insects like mosquitoes and fleas.

Ants make up the largest segment of biters. All ants will try to bite if they feel the requirement, but most black ants just do not have big enough mandibles (or jaws) to get a grasp. The big exception in all ant and ant-like species are the soldiers, which have huge mandibles compared to the workers.

Red ants can bite with or without poison and some sting too. Formic acid is their usual chemical weapon. Some ants inject it, which is what we feel when we get bitten by red ants, but other ants spray it into the eyes of its aggressors.

The most agonizing sting of any insect is delivered by the Bullet Ant of Central and South America. The Bullet Ant's sting has the top rating possible on the Schmidt Sting Pain Index. The scale goes from zero to four; zero being painless (to humans) through two for bees and wasps to four for excruciating pain.

The Fire Ant, which is renowned for its agonizing bite ranks a 1.2 on this scale, but level 1.8 is likened to having a staple fired into your cheek. The European honey bee is on level two and the Red Harvester Ant is on level three.

Some bites and stings are not so high on the scale but can still be deadly. The Jack Jumper Ant is in this group and individuals, especially hypersensitives, have been known to die from Fire Ant stings, which inject piperidine alkaloids rather than formic acid.

The mandibles of the Trap Jaw Ant are the fastest closing jaws in the animal world. They have been measured at 230 KPH (143 MPH). Another unusual ant defence is carried out by a Malaysian species: it ejects its stomach over its aggressor. The stomach acids contain acetophones which totally immobilize insects. Regrettably, the soldier dies because its stomach has been torn out.

Bees, ants and wasps are all related in the order known as Hymenoptera. Bees and wasps only sting although some wasps do have substantial jaws too. One definition of a wasp is 'any insect of the order Hymenoptera that is neither a bee nor an ant' (Wikipedia).

Not all wasps are black and yellow. There are not a lot of insects that do not have a type of wasp preying on it, which makes them very important in the biocontrol of destructive insects. A lot of wasps do not sting their prey to kill it for food, they sting it to immobilize it.

While paralyzed, the wasp lays her eggs in the prey, which becomes fresh food for her young when they hatch out. This is normally the only time that a wasp eats flesh in its whole life, because adult wasps eat nectar and honey like bees.

When a bee stings it releases pheromones which encourage other bees close at hand to sting as well. The most aggressive stingers though are vespid wasps (common black and yellow wasps).

Fleas, ticks and bed bugs, unlike mosquitoes, really feed on blood, that is they use it for food, whereas the mosquito needs it as the 'white' of her eggs. There have been times in our history when losing a couple of drops of blood to a flea was not the worst thing about being bitten by them. They also carried the Plague, which wiped out a substantial percentage of the population of Europe a number of times.

Spiders and scorpions make up the causes of the majority of insect bites although they are comparatively rare.

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