Have you recently discovered a series of red bite or sting marks on you or your family? Although many insect bites may look similar, understanding their shape and placement helps in understanding what insect is wreaking havoc within your household. There are a number of insects that may leave a bite or sting mark on your body, including:
Bed Bug Bites
What are bed bugs?
Everyone has heard the saying 'Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite'. In reality, bed bugs can be found anywhere, whether it's in your bed or on your furniture, they can even hide in alarm clocks by your bedside table! Adult bed bugs resemble apple seeds, with flattened bodies that are oval shaped and a length of about 4 to 5 mm. You will most likely have a bed bug infestation if you discover dark patches on your bed sheets, skin or cuticles left behind after they shed, and/or live bed bugs hiding on your mattress, near the head board, and in other furniture.
What do bed bug bites look like?
Bed bug bites are small, red dots that appear on your body after a bed bug has sucked on your blood. Most often, you won't notice the bed bug has bitten you as their saliva produces a natural anaesthetic. If you think that you've been bitten by a bed bug you must look out for:
- red, slightly swollen, and sometimes itchy bumps
- red bumps in clusters or in a line on your body
- for some, blisters and hives on the skin
It is recommended that individuals should refrain from scratching the bed bug bite site, as scratching can cause swelling and/or bleeding. The bed bug bite is often mistaken for flea bites or mosquito bites, but mosquito bites are random around the exposed areas of the body, while flea bites are smaller and concentrated on your leg or ankle area.
What are fleas?
Fleas are small insects, frequently associated with domestic pets. The small insect only grows to be 1.5-3mm log, brown in colour and laterally flattened so they can pass easily through the dense hairs of animals. Although they're associated with pets, fleas can find their way into homes that don't have any pets. Fleas, like bed bugs and mosquitoes, suck blood, causing irritation and even transmit tapeworm amongst dogs.
What are flea bites like?
Flea bites are very small, have a distinct deeper red centre and a red halo around the bite site. Bites sites are usually in a straight line and will most often appear around the ankles or legs. Bites can also be found on the waist, armpits, and fold of elbows and knees. Symptoms associated with flea bites include:
- Soreness or pain
- Hives and rashes for some
It is advised that those bitten by fleas should refrain from scratching to avoid damaging the skin and even potentially causing bacterial infections.
What are mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes are actually the world's deadliest animal, killing approximately three million people per annum. Female mosquitoes are the bloodsuckers and are capable of causing irritation and spreading a variety of diseases that affect humans. They are capable of spreading bacteria that causes dengue fever, Ross River virus, or Zika virus, which is why they're considered the world's deadliest animal.
What are mosquito stings like?
Upon stinger to skin contact, you may feel a slight sting at the 'bite site'. Mosquito stings are notorious for being extremely itchy, resulting in rounded and puffy red bumps. For some, mosquito bites may cause hives, swelling, or an allergic reaction, but in worst case scenarios, the mosquito will transmit a harmful disease.
Bees & Wasp Stings
What are bees and wasps?
Bees and wasps are small flying insects, who instead of bite, can use their stinger as a defense mechanism. Bees are pollinators, making them very beneficial to the ecosystem. While wasps are also beneficial to the ecosystem, studies show that they are not as frequent pollinators as bees (their bodies are not covered in fur which is necessary to carry pollen). A European wasp is identifiable due to their black body with yellow markings, while bees are usually golden brown or a dull yellow colour, with black stripes.
What are bee/wasp stings like?
Most bees are harmless and if not provoked they won't attempt at stinging the aggravator, but wasps are generally considered more aggressive. The European wasp is the most widespread introduced wasp species and can sting several times when disturbed or agitated. The venom from the sting of a bee or wasp is very painful. Some people can experience an allergic reaction to the sting, which in rare cases can cause difficulty breathing, unconsciousness and more. The sting site will be painful and swollen for a few days or a week, but the majority of the pain is a result of the venom being injected into your skin.
What are spiders?
There are a variety of spider species in New Zealand, who all have the capacity to bite humans and animals. The differentiating factor between spiders in regards to their bites, is their venom and the length of their fangs. Some spiders have the ability to bite humans if provoked, but their fangs may not be long enough to penetrate the skin. Other spiders have very painful and venomous bites, like the white-tail spider.
What are spider bites like?
Spider bites commonly look like red welts, but they vary according to which spider has bitten you. Symptoms associated with spider bites include:
- Pain around the bite site
- Fever, chills, sweating and difficulty breathing
- Headaches, muscle pain, cramping, and nausea (sometimes leading to vomiting)
We would like to stress the importance of calling the appropriate medical professionals in the event of a dangerous or deadly spider bite.