Biting/Stinging Anthropods


An arthropod is an invertebrate animal having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Arthropods are members of the phylum, and include the insects, arachnids, and crustaceans.

Ants, Wasps and bees

Bald-Faced Hornet

Dolichovespula maculata is a North American wasp commonly called the bald-faced hornet, white-faced hornet, white-tailed hornet, blackjacket or bull wasp. Its well-known features include its hanging paper nests and the females' habit of defending them with repeated stings.

The bald-faced hornet belongs to a genus of yellowjackets in North America, but unlike many congeners it lacks yellow coloring. Instead, it is called a hornet in the American sense of a wasp that builds paper nests. It is large compared to other yellowjackets, with adults averaging 2-3 cm long. It is sometimes confused with the similar-sized European hornet, the only true hornet in America, but is distinguished by its mostly white "baldfaced" head and three white stripes on the end of its abdomen.

It is best known for its large, football-shaped paper nest, which it builds in the spring to rear young. The nest, one of the largest of wasp nests, can be up to 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter and 23 inches (60 cm) in length. The population of a nest varies from 100 to 700 individuals, averaging around 400. The bald-faced hornet is protective of the nest and will sting repeatedly if it is disturbed. This wasp is more aggressive than most yellowjackets of Dolichovespula and the genus Vespula, and the nest should be observed only from a distance.

Yellow Jacket

Yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory wasps of the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula. Members of these genera are known simply as "wasps" in other English-speaking countries. Most of these are black and yellow; some are black and white like the bald-faced hornet, Dolichovespula maculata. Others may have the abdomen background color red instead of black. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging. Despite having drawn the loathing and fear of humans, yellow jackets are in fact important predators of pest insects.

Yellow jackets are sometimes mistakenly called "bees" or more often "meat bees," as they are similar in size and appearance and both sting, but they are actually wasps. Yellow jackets may be confused with other wasps, such as hornets and paper wasps. Polistes dominula, a species of paper wasp, is very frequently misidentified as a yellow jacket. A typical yellow jacket worker is about 12 mm/0.5in long, with alternating bands on the abdomen; the queen is larger, about 19 mm/0.75in long (the different patterns on their abdomens help separate various species). Workers are sometimes confused with honey bees, especially when flying in and out of their nests. Yellow jackets, in contrast to honey bees, are not covered with tan-brown dense hair on their bodies, they do not carry pollen, and do not have the flattened hairy hind legs used to carry it.

These species have lance-like stingers with small barbs, and typically sting repeatedly, though occasionally a stinger becomes lodged and pulls free of the wasp's body; the venom, like most bee and wasp venoms, is primarily only dangerous to humans who are allergic or are stung many times. All species have yellow or white on their faces. The mouthparts are well-developed with strong mandibles for capturing and chewing insects, with probosces for sucking nectar, fruit, and other juices. Yellow jackets build nests in trees, shrubs, or in protected places such as inside man-made structures, or in soil cavities, mouse burrows, etc. They build them from wood fiber they chew into a paper-like pulp. Many other insects exhibit protective mimicry of aggressive, stinging yellow jackets; in addition to numerous bees and wasps (Müllerian mimicry), the list includes some flies, moths, and beetles (Batesian mimicry).

Paper Wasp

Paper wasps are 0.7 to 1.0 inch (1.8 to 2.5 cm)-long wasps that gather fibers from dead wood and plant stems, which they mix with saliva, and use to construct water-resistant nests made of gray or brown papery material. Paper wasps are also sometimes called umbrella wasps, due to the distinctive design of their nests or other regional variants such as Trinidad & Tobago's use of Jack Spaniard.

The nests of most true paper wasps are characterized by having open combs with cells for brood rearing, and a 'petiole', or constricted stalk, that anchors the nest. Paper wasps secrete a chemical which repels ants, which they spread around the base of the anchor to prevent the loss of eggs or brood.

Nests can be found in sheltered areas, such as the eaves of a house, the branches of a tree, or on the end of an open pipe (for example, of an old clothesline).

Unlike yellowjackets and hornets, which can be very aggressive, polistine paper wasps will generally only attack if they themselves or their nest are threatened. Since their territoriality can lead to attacks on people, and because their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals, nests in human-inhabited areas may present an unacceptable hazard.

Cicada Killer

Sphecius speciosus, often simply referred to as the cicada killer or the cicada hawk, is a large digger wasp species. Cicada killers are large, solitary wasps in the family Crabronidae. The name may be applied to any species of crabronid which uses cicadas as prey, though in North America it is typically applied to a single species, S. speciosus. However, since there are multiple species of related wasps, it is more appropriate to call it the eastern cicada killer. This species occurs in the eastern and midwest U.S. and southwards into Mexico and Central America. They are so named because they hunt cicadas and provision their nests with them. In North America they are sometimes called sand hornets, although they are not hornets, which belong to the family Vespidae. Cicada killers exert a measure of natural control on cicada populations and thus may directly benefit the deciduous trees upon which their cicada prey feed.

Adult eastern cicada killer wasps are large, 1.5 to 5.0 centimetres (0.6 to 2.0 in) long, robust wasps with hairy, reddish and black areas on the thorax (middle part), and are black to reddish brown marked with light yellow stripes on the abdominal (rear) segments. The wings are brownish. Coloration superficially resembles that of some yellowjacket and hornet species. The females are somewhat larger than the males, and both are among the largest wasps seen in the Eastern United States, their unusual size giving them a uniquely fearsome appearance. European hornets (Vespa crabro) are often mistaken for Eastern cicada killers.

Adults emerge in summer, typically beginning around late June or early July and die off in September or October. They are present in a given area for 60 to 75 days, usually until mid-September.

Although cicada killers are large, female cicada killer wasps are not aggressive and rarely sting unless they are grasped roughly, stepped upon with bare feet, or caught in clothing, etc. One author who has been stung indicates that, for him, the stings are not much more than a "pinprick". Males aggressively defend their perching areas on nesting sites against rival males but they have no sting. Although they appear to attack anything that moves near their territories, male cicada killers are actually investigating anything that might be a female cicada killer ready to mate. Such close inspection appears to many people to be an attack, but male and female cicada killers do not land on people and attempt to sting. If handled roughly, females will sting, and males will jab with a sharp spine on the tip of their abdomen. Both sexes are well equipped to bite, as they have large jaws; however, they do not appear to grasp human skin and bite. They are generally non-aggressive towards humans and usually fly away when swatted at, instead of attacking.

Bumblebee

A bumblebee is any member of the bee genus Bombus, in the family Apidae. There are over 250 known species, existing primarily in the Northern Hemisphere although they also occur in South America. They have been introduced to New Zealand and the Australian state of Tasmania.

Bumblebees are social insects that are characterised by black and yellow body hairs, often in bands. However, some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black. Another obvious (but not unique) characteristic is the soft nature of the hair (long, branched setae), called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear and feel fuzzy. They are best distinguished from similarly large, fuzzy bees by the form of the female hind leg, which is modified to form a corbicula: a shiny concave surface that is bare, but surrounded by a fringe of hairs used to transport pollen (in similar bees, the hind leg is completely hairy, and pollen grains are wedged into the hairs for transport).

Like their relatives the honey bees, bumblebees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young. Queen and worker bumblebees can sting. Unlike a honey bee's stinger, a bumblebee's stinger lacks barbs, so it can sting repeatedly without injuring itself. Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but will sting in defence of their nest, or if harmed. Female cuckoo bumblebees will aggressively attack host colony members, and sting the host queen, but will ignore other animals (e.g. humans) unless disturbed.

Honey Bee

Honey bees (or honeybees) are a subset of bees in the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis. Currently, there are only seven recognised species of honey bee with a total of 44 subspecies, though historically, anywhere from six to eleven species have been recognised. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees.

Honey bees appear to have their center of origin in South and Southeast Asia (including the Philippines), as all but one (i.e. Apis mellifera), of the extant species are native to that region. Notably, living representatives of the earliest lineages to diverge (Apis florea and Apis andreniformis) have their center of origin there.

Most species have historically been cultured or at least exploited for honey and beeswax by humans indigenous to their native ranges. Only two of these species have been truly domesticated, one (Apis mellifera) at least since the time of the building of the Egyptian pyramids, and only that species has been moved extensively beyond its native range.

Velvet Ant

The Mutillidae are a family of more than 3,000 species of wasps (despite the names) whose wingless females resemble large, hairy ants. Their common name velvet ant refers to their dense pile of hair which most often is bright scarlet or orange, but may also be black, white, silver, or gold. Black and white specimens are sometimes known as panda ants due to their hair coloration resembling that of the Chinese giant panda. Their bright colours serve as aposematic signals. They are known for their extremely painful stings, hence the common name cow killer or cow ant. Unlike a real ant, they do not have drones, workers, and queens. However, velvet ants do exhibit haplodiploid sex determination similar to other members of Vespoidea.

Mature mutillids feed on nectar. Although some species are strictly nocturnal, females are often active during the day. Females of Tricholabiodes thisbe are sometimes active up to two hours before sunset. Guido Nonveiller (1963) hypothesized the Mutillidae are generally stenothermic and thermophilic; they may not avoid light, but rather are active during temperatures which usually occur only after sunset.

In mutillids, as in all Hymenoptera, only the female is capable of inflicting a sting because the stinger itself is a modified female organ called an ovipositor; female mutillids have unusually long and maneuverable stingers. In both sexes, a structure called a stridulitrum on the metasoma is used to produce a squeaking or chirping sound when alarmed. Both sexes of mutillids also bear hair-lined grooves on the side of the metasoma called felt lines. Only one other vespoid family, the Bradynobaenidae, has felt lines, but the females have a distinct pronotum and an elongated ant-like petiole.

Non-Insect Anthropods

Black Widow Spider

Latrodectus is a genus of spider, in the family Theridiidae, which contains 32 recognized species. The black widow spider is perhaps the best-known member of the genus. The venomous bite of these spider species is considered dangerous because of the neurotoxin latrotoxin, which causes the condition latrodectism, both named for the genus. The female black widow has unusually large venom glands and her bite is particularly harmful to humans; however, Latrodectus bites rarely kill if proper medical treatment is provided.

The prevalence of sexual cannibalism, a behaviour in which the female eats the male after mating, in some species of Latrodectus has inspired the common name "widow spiders". The female's venom is at least three times more potent than that of the males, making a male's self-defense bite ineffective. Research at the University of Hamburg in Germany suggests this ultimate sacrifice strategy has evolved to promote the survival odds of the offspring; however females of some species only rarely show this behavior, and much of the documented evidence for mate cannibalism has been observed in laboratory cages where the males could not escape

Females of most Latrodectus species are dark or black in colour usually exhibiting a red or orange hourglass on the ventrum underside or bottom of the abdomen — some may have a pair of red spots or have no marking at all. They often exhibit various red or red and white markings on the dorsal or top side of the abdomen, ranging from a single stripe to bars or spots. Females of a few species are paler browner shades and some have no bright markings. Juveniles and adult male Latrodectus are half the size of the females, and are often grey or brown and usually lighter in colour than females; while they may sometimes have an hourglass marking on their ventral abdomen, it may be yellow or white, not red. Variation in specifics by species and by gender is great.

Brown Recluse Spider

The brown recluse spider or violin spider, Loxosceles reclusa, Sicariidae (formerly placed in a family "Loxoscelidae") is a spider with a venomous bite.

Brown recluse spiders are usually between 6–20 mm (1⁄4 in and 3⁄4 in), but may grow larger. While typically light to medium brown, they range in color from cream-colored to dark brown or blackish gray. The cephalothorax and abdomen may not necessarily be the same color. These spiders usually have markings on the dorsal side of their cephalothorax, with a black line coming from it that looks like a violin with the neck of the violin pointing to the rear of the spider, resulting in the nicknames fiddleback spider, brown fiddler, or violin spider.

A brown recluse's stance on a flat surface is usually with all legs radially extended. When alarmed it may lower its body, withdraw the forward two legs straight rearward into a defensive position, withdraw the rearmost pair of legs into a position for lunging forward, and stand motionless with pedipalps raised. The pedipalps in mature specimens are dark, quite prominent, and are normally held horizontally forward. When threatened it usually flees, seemingly to avoid a conflict, and if detained may further avoid contact with quick horizontal rotating movements. The spider does not usually jump unless touched brusquely, and even then its avoidance movement is more of a horizontal lunge rather than a vaulting of itself entirely off the surface. When running the brown recluse does not appear to leave a silk line behind, which at any rate might make it more easily tracked when it is being pursued. Movement at virtually any speed is an evenly paced gait with legs extended. When missing a leg or two it appears to favor this same gait, although (presumably when a leg has been injured) it may move and stand at rest with one leg slightly withdrawn. During travel it stops naturally and periodically when renewing its internal hydraulic blood pressure that, like most spiders, it requires to renew strength in its legs.

Brown recluse spiders build asymmetrical (irregular) webs that frequently include a shelter consisting of disorderly thread. They frequently build their webs in woodpiles and sheds, closets, garages, plenum spaces, cellars, and other places that are dry and generally undisturbed. When dwelling in human residences they seem to favor cardboard, possibly because it mimics the rotting tree bark which they inhabit naturally. They have also been encountered in shoes, inside dressers, in bed sheets of infrequently used beds, in clothes stacked or piled or left lying on the floor, inside work gloves, behind baseboards and pictures, in toilets, and near sources of warmth when ambient temperatures are lower than usual. Human-recluse contact often occurs when such isolated spaces are disturbed and the spider feels threatened. Unlike most web weavers, they leave these lairs at night to hunt. Males move around more when hunting than do females, which tend to remain nearer to their webs. The spider will hunt for firebrats, crickets, cockroaches, and other soft-bodied insects.

Scorpion

Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognised by the pair of grasping pedipalps and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger. Scorpions range in size from 9 mm (Typhlochactas mitchelli) to 20 cm (Hadogenes troglodytes).

Scorpions are found widely distributed over all continents, except Antarctica, in a variety of terrestrial habitats except the high latitude tundra. Scorpions number about 1,752 described species, with 13 extant families recognised to date. The taxonomy has undergone changes and is likely to change further, as a number of genetic studies are bringing forth new information.

Scorpion venom has a fearsome reputation, but only about 25 out of almost 1500 species are known to have venom capable of killing a human being.

They are nocturnal and fossorial, finding shelter during the day in the relative cool of underground holes or undersides of rocks, and emerging at night to hunt and feed. Scorpions exhibit photophobic behavior, primarily to evade detection by predators such as birds, centipedes, lizards, mice, possums and rats.