Nine helpful tips on how to identify bug and insect bites

Updated February 21, 2017

With its warm weather and sunny days, summer is a season popular for camping, playing ball, having picnics and boating, among other outdoor activities. Spending time outside is an integral part of summertime life and, unfortunately, along with it inevitably comes the itchiness and irritation of getting any number of insect bites.


Ticks are one of the outdoor's most hated insects. Once a tick has found you, it buries its head in your skin, feeding on your blood. Because ticks have direct contact to the bloodstream, they can spread diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Identifying a tick bite is easy, as more often than not, the tick will still be attached to your body. If you find a tick on you, remove it properly. Use tweezers to grasp the tick, as closely to your skin as possible, and pull it straight out with a slow, steady motion. If not pulled out correctly, its mouthpiece may remain buried in your skin.


Mosquitoes are similar to ticks in that they also feed on your blood. Luckily, it is much more rare to contract a disease from a mosquito. Mosquito bites are quite common and are identified as small red bumps on the skin that can often cause extreme itchiness. The bump will develop at the entry point of the mosquito's bite and irritation will normally last 4 to 6 days.

Black widow spiders

Black widow spiders are one of nature's most poisonous spiders. Their bites tend to cause shooting pain up the arm or leg, but can also be painless. The bite itself will appear as two small red dots. The area surrounding the bite may become red and tender. Soon after you have been bitten, you may experience any of the following symptoms: vomiting, nausea, severe muscle cramps and seizure. Seek medical help immediately.


Chigger bites appear in clusters of 6 to 15 small red welts on the skin. Although the initial bites are not painful, the cluster of bumps becomes very itchy. The welts can last up to 10 days, although their itchiness typically wears off after 5 to 7 days. Creams can be purchased over the counter at your local pharmacy to reduce itchiness.

Brown recluse spiders

Brown recluse bites can also be very dangerous, luckily, they can be treated and are very easily identified. Brown recluse bites turn red and white, taking the shape of a bull's-eye. They will then blister over and become very painful.

Fire ants

Fire ants are another common summertime pest. Fire ants, stinging from their abdomen, can cause small, red, hivelike irritations on the skin. The initial sting will burn, hence its name. A fire ant sting looks like a small red bump, normally with a tiny white cap on its top, appearing similar to a pimple.

Bees and wasps

Bees and wasps are some of the most common bites experienced during the summer months. Bees and wasps are easily identified as you typically see the bee or wasp sting you. Also, upon contact with the stinger, you will feel a sharp prick. Bees and wasps deliver painful stings, but more dangerous is the possibility of an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to bees or wasps, the area of contact is likely to become swollen, and in the case of a severe allergy, your throat may close up. If you have a known allergy to bees and wasps, carry around an Epinephrine autoinjector, also known as an EpiPen, whenever you are outdoors.


Fleas are another external parasite that feed off mammal blood. Fleas are similar to the tick in that they bury their head deep in your skin. Although their actual bites are rarely felt, flea bites will turn red and begin to itch severely. Like chiggers, flea bites normally occur in large clusters. Fleas can inhabit animals, such as dogs and cats, and it is common for them to be brought indoors via pets that spend a lot of time outside.

Bed bugs

Bed bugs are small, parasitic insects that get their name from their habit of calling mattresses home. Because of this, they are commonly picked up in the beds of hotels. Bed bug bites also appear in clusters. They are smaller in size than chigger bites and they become very red and irritated. Sometimes the bites can appear defined and other times the bitten area will be red and blotchy. If you have a bed bug infestation, properly disinfect your mattress and sheets right away.

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About the Author

Kelly Berry began writing in 2008. Her work has appeared in Harvard University publications, "Southeast Ohio Magazine" and online at the CIMMYT website. Berry graduated from Ohio University's Scripps School of Journalism with a degree in magazine journalism and Spanish.