It is now summer and when the heat rises, the bugs come out.
I am constantly walking into spider webs and fighting off no-see-ums all season. Encountering yellow jackets when I mow is definitely not on my favorite things list. And, I am also not a fan of the red ants that seem to enjoy building near our rose bushes.
You folks have surely read of the invasion of the Asian hornets, also called “murder” hornets. Supposedly they are vicious enough to actually kill humans.
They feed off honey bees and are much more deadly in late summer and early fall. Since they are over two inches long and have a bright orange face, I hope to see them before they see me.
A gentleman named Justin O. Schmidt published an interesting article in 1983, called the Schmidt sting pain index, that described pain levels from insect stings and bites.
As an entomologist in Arizona, he subjected himself to about 78 species of stinging insects of the order Hymenoptera. He based his pain reactions on amount of time the hurt lasted, the degree of pain and side effects.
Level 1 usually lasts five minutes or less and can be caused by the Southern fire ant, paper wasps and small bees.
Level 2 can last five to 10 minutes and is more in line with regular wasps, bees and yellow jackets.
Level 3 is much more pronounced and can be the result of paper wasps and the violent ant (really another form of wasp). This pain lasts up to 30 minutes.
Level 4, the maximum, can last 24 to 48 hours and is a “blinding, fierce and electric” pain due to a tarantula hawk insect. The worst sting on the planet is from the “bullet ant.” Its venom produces a sensation like “walking over charcoal with a three inch nail in your heel.”
According to Schmidt and other sources, the 10 most painful stings/bites come from the following:
• Bullet ants
• Bot flies who lay their eggs under human skin.
• Fleas that can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a short lifespan.
• Fire ants — 285 different species
• Kissing bugs that bite the lips of humans at night. These
supposedly cause 12,000 deaths around the world yearly.
• Asian hornets
• Tsetse flies that produce sleeping sickness killing over 500,000 people in Africa yearly.
• Killer bees that are African honey bees. Over 80,000 per
• Driver ants that form the largest insect homes in the
world, some 22 million per colony!
• Mosquitoes are truly the most dangerous of all because they cause malaria, dengue fever, West Nile Virus, encephalitis and yellow fever.
On top of all of these critters we have to avoid, the 17 year locusts are due back this year in various parts of the country. Our Tennessee invasion isn’t until 2021 so we have a bit of a reprieve in this already crazy 2020.
I am heading to the store to stock up on Off Spray, Backyard Bug Control and those sweet smelling citronella candles. And, since I have been deer ticked twice already this spring, I am extra cautious with all the other flying, crawling, slinking, waddling and scooting insects around our place.
In the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on that classic show, “Hill Street Blues,” my advice to all of you this summer is “be careful out there.”
Until next time: “I don’t care how small or big they are, insects freak me out.” — Alexander Wang, fashion designer
“We hope that when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.” — Bill Vaughan, columnist
Dr. Shelley Griffith is a retired Athens physician who writes this column for The DPA.