Scorpions - Centruroides vittatus
Scorpions have 4 pairs of legs, two pinchers and a segmented tail ending in a poison gland with a stinger. This scorpion is found throughout Texas and often under rocks or boards and other litter. This scorpion is commonly found in homes and feeds on insects, spiders, centipedes and other scorpions and is active mostly at night.
Similar to a bee sting, the sting from a scorpion causes pain and local swelling but usually is not serious except for rare instances of allergy for which medical attention should be sought.
Centipedes - Scutigera coleoptera
Centipedes are long, multi-segmented arthropods that have one pair of legs for each segment. They have poison claws located directly under the jaws. Centipedes prefer moist or humid areas like basements and cellars. The House Centipede who lives primarily indoors eats small insects such as cockroaches, clothes moths, houseflies and other insects found in homes.
Their bite is similar to a bee sting, but because allergic reactions can occur, it is advised to consult medical care in the event of more serious symptoms.
Learn more about Scorpions and Centipedes:
Centipedes and Millipedes
Desert USA: Scorpions
Scorpions - pdf from Texas Cooperative Extension
Spiders Top of PageThere are almost 900 species of spiders in Texas. Only 2 groups of spiders in Texas are considered poisonous to humans. Spiders eat insects and other arthropods. A physician should treat bites from either of these two spiders as soon as possible.
Brown Recluse - Loxosceles reclusa
So named for it's shy nature, the Brown Recluse spider tends to hide during the day and is most active at night. It lives in and around buildings in warm, dry places, like closets, barns, etc. Often called 'the fiddleback' spider because of the design of a violin on it's back between the eyes and the abdomen, the spider's venom causes death and decay of the tissue surrounding the site of the bite.
How to Avoid:
Be aware that these spiders like to hide in dark, undisturbed places and can be fairly common in houses. Shake out shoes first before putting them on. Wear gloves while dusting or reaching into places where visibility is not good, especially if you notice a lot of cobwebs.
What to Do
Seek medical attention.
Black Widow - Latrodectus mactans
Black Widow spiders are found all across the United States. It prefers protected cavities outdoors, often in portable toilets, abandoned sheds, cellars and other undisturbed places. It is the only shiny black spider (males and juveniles may show more color) and has a red hourglass pattern on the underside of it's abdomen. The Black Widow gets its name because of the reputation of some of the species females to devour the males after mating, but this is not true of all species. Only the female is dangerous to humans.
The bite feels like a pin prick or may not be felt. There may be slight local swelling and two faint red spots surrounded by local redness at the bite. Pain may become intense within one to three hours and may continue up to 48 hours.
Pain usually localizes in the abdomen and back. There may be pain in the muscles and soles of the feet, and eyelids may become swollen. Other symptoms include nausea, profuse perspiration, tremors, labored breathing and speech, and vomiting. During this time, a feeble pulse, cold clammy skin, unconsciousness, convulsions and even death may result if the victim does not receive medical attention immediately. Additional complications may occur due to the infection of the bite. Bites are uncommon and serious long-term complications or death are rare.
What to Do
Seek medical attention. Those at most risk of serious reaction to Black Widow venom are small children and older or infirm persons.
Learn more about Spiders:
Black Widow Spider Facts
Spiders - pdf from Texas Cooperative Extension
Insects Top of Page
Imported Red Fire Ants - Solenopsis wagneri
There are over 210 species of ants in Texas. Several are considered common lawn pests, but only one is considered a serious nuisance to humans-the Imported Red Fire Ant. Introduced in the 1930's, this ant has spread to infest 9 southeastern states including Texas. These ants deliver a painful sting that produces a red pustule that itches and burns. These stings are usually not serious except for the rare instance of serious allergy. Red Fire Ants build mounds that can reach 18 inches in height depending on the soil.
Each mound may contain literally millions of ants that can move very quickly when the mound is disturbed. The good news is Red Fire Ants actually eat a lot of insects that are considered pest species. In urban areas fire ants feed on flea larvae, chinch bugs, cockroach eggs, chiggers, ticks and other pests.
How to Avoid:
There is not much in the way of precaution to take until one becomes aware of the presence of Fire Ants and then moving away from them. Care should be taken with small children and newborn or confined pets, since their ability to escape attack are limited. Because Texas has a native fire ant species that is not a pest species, identification of the kind of fire ant present is important before treating an area with any chemical controls. Using the least toxic product is also strongly recommended.
What to Do:
Bees and Wasps Preventing Stings Top of Page
Fire Ant stings should be kept clean and intact to prevent secondary infections, topical analgesics can help the itching and burning that may persist for up to several days
Bees are furry insects that usually live together in colonies or hives. They are commonly seen during the summer, wherever there are flowers, gardens, fields, and forests. Bees are the world's most important plant pollinators. Wasps are often confused with bees. They are not usually furry and many are predators. Wasps have unbarbed stingers that can be used again and again. Bees have barbed stingers which are left in the victim. After using it's stinger, a bee soon dies. Bees only use their stingers in self-defence, while wasps can use them repeatedly to obtain food.
How to Avoid
When eating outdoors, keep food covered, especially fruit and soft drinks. Should a bee or wasp fly near you, slowly raise your arms to protect your face and stand still or move slowly to escape.
What to Do
Try this home remedy: Mix one part bleach to nine parts water. Saturate a cloth with the solution and place it on the sting. If the stinger is still in, scape it out with a credit card or a piece of cardboard. Don't pull it out because it will release more venom.
Some people have severe reactions including swelling, breathing difficulties, severe drop in blood pressure and shock. See a doctor immediately or call 911.
Sting Prevention Top of Page
Persons, especially allergic to stings, should practice certain simple precautions to avoid being stung.
Spray the patio, picnic and garbage areas with permethrin (Astro, Dragnet, Flee, Permanone, Prelude, Torpedo) or pyrethrins (Kicker, Microcare, Pyrenone, Pyrethrum, Synerol). Some formulations are restricted use. A licensed pesticide applicator or pest control operator can apply restricted use pesticides such as bendiocarb + pyrethrins (Ficam Plus), bifenthrin (Biflex), cyfluthrin (Tempo), cypermethrin (Cynoff, Cyper-Active, Demon, Vikor), deltamethrin (Suspend) and tralomethrin (Saga). Other labelled pesticides include acephate (Orthene), amorphous silica gel (Drione), bendiocarb (Ficam), carbaryl (Sevin), chlorpyrifos (Dursban, Empire, Tenure), diazinon, propoxur (Baygon) and resmethrin (Vectrin).
If you destroy the nests (aerial and ground) yourself, use a commercially available stinging insect control aerosol containing Baygon, pyrethrin, permethrin or resmethrin which can shoot a high-volume spray stream 15 to 20 feet, giving excellent quick knockdown and kill of wasps and bees hit. After dark or in the evening, most have returned from foraging to the nest. Thoroughly saturate the nest with spray, contacting as many insects as possible. Do not stand directly under an overhead nest, since some insects receiving some of the spray may fall but retain their ability to sting for some time. Repeat treatment if reinfestation occurs.
Again, it is always best, if allergic, to hire a professional exterminator to remove a nest. Never try to burn or flood a nest with water since this practice will only make these stinging insects angry and aggressive.
When eating outdoors, keep food covered until eaten, especially ripe fruit and soft drinks. Any scent of food, such as outdoor cooking, eating, feeding pets or garbage cans, will attract many bees and wasps (especially yellowjackets).
Keep refuse in tightly sealed containers. Dispose of refuse frequently (two times per week or more) during late summer and early autumn when most activity occurs.
Be careful not to mow over a nest in the ground nor disturb a nest in a tree or eaves of the home. Any disturbance often will infuriate and provoke stinging.
Should a bee or wasp fly near you, slowly raise your arms to protect your face and stand still or move slowly away through bushes or indoors to escape. Never move rapidly, which often provokes attack. Never strike or swing at a wasp or bee against your body since it may be trapped causing it to sting. If crushed, it could incite nearby yellowjackets into a frenzied attack. The wasp venom contains a chemical "alarm pheromone," released into the air, signaling guard wasps to come and sting whomever and whatever gets in their way.
If a bee or wasp gets into a moving car, remain calm. The insect wants out of the vehicle as much as you want it out. They usually fly against windows in the car and almost never sting the occupants. Slowly and safely pull over off the road, open the window and allow the bee or wasp to escape. Unfortunately, many serious accidents have resulted when the driver strikes or swings at the insect during operation of the vehicle. A small insecticide aerosol can for control of stinging insects, kept in the car away from children and pets, can be used in an emergency.
Pick fruits as soon as they ripen. Pick up and dispose of any fallen fruit rotting on the ground. Keep lawns free of clover and dandelions, which attract honey bees. Avoid close contact with flowering trees, shrubs and flowers when bees and wasps are collecting nectar. Vines, which may conceal nests, should be removed from the house, if practical.
Individuals Top of Page
Since perfume, hair spray, hair tonic, suntan lotion, aftershave lotions, heavy-scented shampoos, soaps and many other cosmetics attract insects, they should be avoided. Avoid shiny buckles and jewelry. Wear a hat and closed shoes (not sandals). Don't wear bright, colored, loose-fitting clothing, which may attract and trap insects. Flowery prints and black especially attract insects. To avoid stings, the beekeeper wears light-colored (white) clothing, preferably cotton (never wool).
Beginning beekeepers use bee gloves, a head veil, long sleeves and coveralls with the pant legs tucked into boots or tied at the ankles to prevent unnecessary multiple stings. A bee smoker is always used before opening up an established hive. To avoid stings, stay away from any bee hives for an hour or more (depending on weather) after the beekeeper has gone. Bees are more angry on cloudy, dark rainy days in early spring of the year.
Hypersensitive persons should never be alone when hiking, boating, swimming, golfing, fishing or involved outdoors since help is likely needed in starting prompt emergency treatment measures if stung. It is wise for the person to carry a card or to have an identification bracelet or necklace, such as "Medic Alert," identifying the person as hypersensitive to an insect sting. It will alert others to the condition in an emergency when sudden shock-like (anaphylactic) symptoms or unconsciousness (fainting) occurs after one or more stings.
Normal Reaction Sting Treatment Top of Page
For stings causing itch, irritation, redness and swelling at the sting site, the following may be useful:
- Baking Soda
- Meat Tenderizer--for people not allergic to bee stings. Use any brand with Papain. Make a paste with a few drops of water to a teaspoon of meat tenderizer and quickly apply to the sting to reduce pain and inflammation (breaks down components of sting fluid).
- Ammonia Solution--Apply a 1 to 2.5 percent solution no more than three to four times daily.
- Oral Antihistamines--Tablets may be chewed for faster relief, but liquids are more readily absorbed after oral ingestion (Chlortrimeton, Dimetane, Teldrin).
- Epinephrine Inhaler (Bronkaid mist, Primatene, Medihaler-Epi)
- Topical Steroids (Cortaid, Dermolate, Lanacort, etc.)
- Local Anesthetics (Benzocaine, Americaine, Dermoplast, Bactine, Foille, Lanacaine, Solarcaine)
- Oral Steroids--Prescription only.
These medicines can be located in a tackle box, in camping gear, in the car and in the home. Store at room temperature away from room lighting or sunlight.
Emergency Kits for Insect Stings Top of Page
Highly-sensitive persons should have two emergency kits prescribed for them by their physician within easy access at all times. One kit should be carried at all times and the other kept in the family car. It is best to store kits in a cool, dry place (refrigeration) with easy access. The kit contains one sterile syringe of Epinephrine (adrenalin) EPIPEN, ready for injection, four chewable, yellow tablets of Chlortrimeton (antihistamine), two sterile alcohol swabs for cleaning the injection site and one tourniquet. Inject the syringe into the thigh (subcutaneously) under the skin as soon as the first sting symptoms show. A tourniquet placed above the sting site, when on an arm or leg just tight enough to obstruct blood return but not so tight as to stop circulation, will help until medical treatment is obtained. Loosen the tourniquet every 10 minutes.
Other kits include ANA Emergency Insect Sting Kit and Insect Sting Kit available by prescription only at the drugstore or pharmacy.
Hypersensitivity Testing and Desensitization Program
Diagnostic skin testing with insect venom(s) is recommended for those who have experienced immediate systemic reaction to an insect sting. About half of adult patients will react similarly or worse to another sting unless desensitized with a series of appropriate venom injections. The percentage of serious reactions to another sting is less with children, but may still occur. Immunotherapy is given about every four weeks, indefinitely, unless skin tests indicate the patient is no longer sensitive. Freeze-dried venom from honey bee, yellowjacket, baldfaced hornet, etc. is available. They are believed to be 98 to 99 percent effective.
The first year of insect sting shots costs about $1,000 for a single venom. Subsequent years, when shots are given less often, run about $500 each. Sometimes shots are stopped after five years, if one has had a negative skin test, never had a life-threatening reaction and received several stings without ill effect. Shots are not stopped on those who have had a life-threatening reaction and there is uncertainty about the patient being resensitized.
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