Identify and Deal with Dangerous Insects – Camping Safety

Identify and deal with dangerous insects

When you’re enjoying activities such as hiking, backpacking or camping in the outdoors, there are some real dangers that you need to be aware of. While insects are annoying and troublesome, not all of them are just pests. Some are dangerous and can make your excursion miserable or worse. It’s important to be prepared before you go. This guide will help you to identify and deal with some of the most common dangerous insects.

Fire Ants

Fire ant

If you come across a few black ants that crawl across your boots, there is really nothing to worry about. While these small little soldiers could bite you, it’s not likely to cause any harm. If you come across the small red ones, this is reason for concern. Fire ants are dangerous ants that will climb up your pant legs and sting you all over your body. Their stings are very painful and are much worse than a bite. Their color may range from a distinct red to a reddish orange. They live together in colonies and if one is around, there are likely to be hundreds or even thousands in the area. Stings burn like fire and leave a welt that itches. If you’re allergic, the area will also swell.

Treatment: The best treatment for the pain is ice, but it should be wrapped in a soft cloth, and never applied directly to the skin. If you experience a severe allergic reaction, you must seek emergency medical assistance as quickly as possible.


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Chiggers are pests in the wilderness that prefer to live in grassy areas. They are tiny in size and when they bite, they leave toxins beneath your skin. This causes an intense itching. You’re not likely to see chiggers because of their size as they are mite larvae. It’s best to avoid walking through tall grass. If you have to walk through grassy areas, you can help to keep chiggers out by tucking your pants into your socks. Try to stay on the path and try not to brush up against plants and grassy areas. When you’re done hiking, a cool shower will remove any chiggers that may have gotten through. If they are on your clothing, washing them in warm water will kill the insects.

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Treatment: If you’re bitten by chiggers, calamine lotion, hydorcortisone cream and dice help with the itching. The bites should go away within a week, but if they do not, or if infection sets in, you should seek medical assistance.


One of the most common dangers in the outdoors is an encounter with bees. They usually hang out around flowers, but there are breeds which can be found anywhere. Among the most dangerous are Africanized bees. They tend to swarm and chase their victims, stinging as you run. It’s difficult to distinguish them from other bees as they resemble a honeybee. Don’t bother jumping into water if they’re after you because they even stick with you under water. The best courses of action is to find a car, tent or house.

Treatment: If you’re stung by a honeybee, the first thing to do after you reach safety is to get the stinger out because they are left behind under the skin. Don’t pinch the stinger because it will squeeze more of the venom into you. Scrape it sideways with a credit card or similar object. Ice can help with the pain. If you are allergic to bee stings or if you are stung multiple times, you should seek medical treatment immediately. It’s important that you carry an emergency bee-sting kit with you if you are allergic.


Black Widow

Some spiders are just pests, while there are a few varieties that are dangerous. Black widows are black and have a red hourglass on the underside of her belly. Only the females bite, but these shiny black hairless spiders can make you very ill if they bite. Brown recluse spiders are hairier and a little under an inch in size. This spider is fast. You’ll know it by the pattern of a violin on it’s back, which also gives the spider its nickname, “fiddleback.” Spiders like to hide inside of shoes or in other dark areas. It’s best to shake clothing out before you put it on.

Treatment: If you’re bitten by a poisonous spider, you should see your physician as soon as you can. Some people experience mild symptoms while for others, it becomes serious or even life threatening, requiring medical intervention and treatment.


Horse Fly

There are a few different kinds of flies that can become a problem. Bites from a horsefly can be painful as they leave a mark that is more like a scissor cut. They don’t usually travel in large groups, so they are not as dangerous, but the bites are large and painful.

Black Fly

Another type of fly is the black fly. They like to hang around areas with water. They are entirely black in color and bite to retrieve your blood. These flies generally travel in swarms and are even worse than horseflies.

Treatment: The best treatment for fly bites is calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, Benadryl or ice.

Hornets & Wasps

European Hornet

Hornets live in nests that are very big and gray in color. It’s best to avoid the areas around the hive because it could stir them up and lead to a swarming attack. Hornets are black and white and have the most painful sting.

Wasps don’t usually swarm or travel in groups, but they can keep stinging you multiple times. Wasps can be any color and some of them have two sets of wings.

Yellow Jackets

Hornet Nest

Yellow jackets are a variety of wasp, but they live in the ground and they do tend to swarm. They are yellow and black with a skinny waist.

Velvet Ant

The velvet ant isn’t an ant at all, it is a wasp. It has a furry covering that is bright red in color. It has an extremely painful sting. Another name for this powerful flying stinger is the “cow killer.”

Treatment: If you’re stung by a flying stinger of any type, ice can help to reduce the pain and itching. If you have an allergic reaction, or if you have trouble breathing or other unusual symptoms, you should seek emergency medical help right away.

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