Top 5 Deadliest Bugs

Size matters in some areas, but when it comes to dangerous and deadly insects, we should take precaution when near even the tiniest of creatures. Stings and bites from insects can be fatal. These bugs might inject a poisonous venom, infect us with a disease or leave a deadly parasite behind. Quite a few horrifying bugs are out there like the tongue-eating sea louse (yes, it eats your entire tongue; but don’t worry—fish are its main prey), but some more common insects are dangerous to humans.

5 Mosquitoes

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In some parts of the world, simple bug spray is enough to ward off this irritating, bloodsucking bug responsible for itchy, bumpy bites. In others, especially where there is standing water, mosquito nets are needed to save lives because some species of mosquitoes can kill. The mosquito can carry the blood-borne disease malaria, which affects hundreds of million people each year. In fact, malaria causes more deaths than all other insect-caused illnesses combined. Mosquitoes also can cause West Nile Virus, yellow fever and encephalitis in humans and heartworm in cats and dogs.

4 Assassin Bugs

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Triatoma, more commonly called “assassin bugs” or “kissing bugs,” can cause Chagas disease, a parasitic infection that is being likened to HIV/AIDS in Central and South America. This bug, found most often in tropical environments, usually bites the unsuspecting host on the lips, which is how it earned the moniker “kissing bug.” After they bite and suck blood, they poop into the hole; their feces contain parasites. As the bite itches, the feces spread. The CDC explains that the first symptoms are fever, malaise and swelling of just one eye, but over time—even up to 30 years — it moves on to infect the heart, esophagus and intestines. The CDC reports that eight to 11 million people are infected, and about 300,000 of those live in the United States. It is estimated that more than 20,000 people die each year from Chagas. The disease is spreading in similar ways to HIV/AIDS: transfusions, childbirth and organ transplants.

3 Scorpions

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Scorpions look like a mix between a shellfish and an insect. This creature, usually 1 to 4 inches long, has 10 legs, and perhaps its most recognizable feature is the scariest part, too: the larger, curled-up tail, which also holds its stinger. A typical scorpion sting is not fatal to a healthy adult, but some species are more poisonous than others. The only deadly-to-humans scorpion in the United States is the Arizona bark scorpion. The fat-tailed scorpion, found in southwest Asia, also is deadly. The deadliest of all scorpions is aptly named the “death stalker” and is found in the Middle East and northern Africa. According to Orkin, a death stalker sting causes quick symptoms, and death is usually a result of heart or respiratory failure.

2 Killer Bees

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Any bee sting can be deadly to someone who is allergic, but there is one type of bee that can “be” dangerous to anyone. Africanized honeybees, given the apt nickname “killer bees,” are more aggressive than other honeybees. One sting might not kill you, but these bees swarm—their strength is in numbers and speed. They can chase people for up to a quarter-mile, and their sting releases a pheromone, which attracts more bees, thus more stings. While they are not responsible for a large amount of human deaths each year, they should not be provoked because they are quite dangerous.

1 Fleas

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A list of deadly insects would not be complete without the flea. While the bubonic plague has been over since the Middle Ages, the massive death toll and extent of the disease reminds us that these little pests pack power. The Center for Disease Control reports that the last urban outbreak of the plague bacteria—transmitted from fleas to rats—happened in 1924 in Los Angeles. The plague bacteria still exist, but it usually is transmitted between rodents and other mammals. Sometimes, though, humans can be affected. In the United States, we see this in the southwest most often. The illness can be transmitted by a bite, handling contaminated fluids or through the air. Fleas, unbelievably, can post a risk to national security; as a biological warfare tactic, infected fleas can be dropped by plane.

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