“Ouch! What just bit me?”
This is a phrase uttered by hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans each and every day. Bug bites occur regularly and can happen almost anywhere on your body you can imagine.
Of course, some bug bites are more common than others, especially here in the United States. Are you looking for a good guide on bug bite identification? Then you’ve come to the right place.
This article is not only dedicated to bug bite identification, but we are also going to cover treatment methods, talk about some of the best products to keep bugs at bay, and learn how to soothe those itchy (and sometimes painful) bug bites in the process.
Bug Bite Identification – Why Do Certain Bugs Bite?
Many different types of insects and pests bite, but why they bite may vary.
If you’re desperate to find out what bit you, scroll down to our bug bite identification list below. But if you’re wondering exactly why a bug bit you, keep reading.
Not all bugs bite, but many do. That said, not all bugs that bite will wind up leaving any indication they did so. In fact, reactions to bug bites can vary from person to person, and this is one of the reasons bug bite identification can be so difficult.
But before we get into that, let’s talk about why bugs bite.
Insects bite for a number of reasons. Some bite or sting as a way to defend themselves when they feel threatened. Bees and wasps are a common example of this. While many of us like to think of these flying critters as aggressive bullies, the truth is that most species of bees and wasps are docile and will only sting if they feel that they or their colony is in danger.
This is true for many biting pests. Spiders, while not technically insects at all, will bite if handled or provoked, and often these bites are the result of an accidental encounter. (Like when a person slips a shoe on that a spider has built its web in – YIKES!).
Other bugs bite to feed on human hosts. Insects like bed bugs, mosquitos, and fleas require blood to survive and will seek out a living hoste like an animal or person. And, just like different bugs bite for different reasons, different bugs can also cause different reactions, as we mentioned above.
Bug bite identification can be tough because the same insect can bite can cause different reactions in different people . For example, when my sister is bitten by mosquitoes, her bumps become golf-ball sized and painfully itchy. When I am bitten by a mosquito, I hardly notice.
Why? Well, experts say it all comes down to our individual genetics and immune systems.
When a bug bites, our bodies release histamine. This is a compound our immune system creates to help protect us from foreign antigens. Some people release more histamine than others, which can lead to a more serious reaction and sometimes even anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening.
That said, there are some ways you can use bug bite identification to differentiate from other common skin conditions.
Let’s find out more.
Proper Bug Bite Identification – Do You Really Have A Bug Bite?
Pimples are commonly misdiagnosed as bug bites.
When it comes to bug bite identification, we must first determine if you’re actually dealing with a bug bite.
With that in mind, let’s go over the term “bug”. Not everything that bites you is actually considered a true bug. Spiders, for example, are not insects at all, though they are responsible for some of the most commonly diagnosed bites in the United States.
That said, spider bites can look very similar to other insect bites, which is another reason bug bite identification is a bit tricky. Furthermore, most bug and spider bites are often misdiagnosed as they can also look quite a lot like other skin ailments like infections, pimples, and allergic reactions or abrasions.
So, how do you know if you have a bug bite and need to do some bug bite identification research? Well, bug bite identification or identifying a bite from a pimple, for example, can come down to monitoring your symptoms as opposed to looking at the physical appearance of the bite itself.
Skin conditions commonly mistaken for bug bites include:
Everyone has experience with pimples, unfortunately. Worse yet, bug bites and pimples can look an awful lot alike. The best way to use bug bite identification to rule out a pimple is to pay attention to what the bite or pimple feels like and note that bug bites generally itch, and are puffy and red.
Pimples, on the other hand, can be sore to the touch and feel compacted. They usually do not itch and go away on their own or with over the counter skin care products.
Chicken pox is becoming less and less common in modern day society, but it’s not completely quelled. Chicken pox can initially look like bug bites and even feel like bug bites as they are itchy and red.
So, how do you use bug bite identification to rule out chicken pox? Many people who get chicken pox also get other symptoms including fever, aches and pains, swollen lymph nodes, a scabby rash all over the body, and an overall feeling of being unwell.
When people think of allergies, they often think of watery eyes, a runny nose and an itchy throat. But allergies can present themselves in a multitude of ways. A common symptom of allergies is a body rash, which can produce hives that are itchy, red and swollen. If you are using bug bite identification to determine if you have an allergy or a bug bite, try taking an antihistamine like benyrdal. If it is an allergy, benhydrel should help ease the rash.
Staph infections are one of the most commonly misdiagnosed skin infections as they often look so similar to bug bites. Generally caused by an abrasion to the skin, a staph infection can be dangerous if it goes undiagnosed and can lead to a number of other problems. For this reason, be especially careful when using bug bite identification to rule out staph infections.
The below video discusses bug bite identification vs a staph infection and talks about the importance of properly diagnosing the two.
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Alright, now that we’ve gone over some common skin conditions that may be mistaken for bug bites, let’s talk about something most people want to know right off the top – how to tell a venomous bug bite from a non venomous bug bite during the bug bite identification process.
Bug Bite Identification – Venomous Bites Vs Non Venomous Bites
Paying attention to your symptoms can tell you whether you’ve been bitten by something poisonous vs non-poisonous.
When using bug bite identification to identify bug bites, many people are really wondering how to identify venomous bites.
While many bugs and creepy crawlies can bite and sting, not all of them are venomous but many are. According to experts, there are a number of medically important insects in the US that can cause a plethora of health problems in people and pets.
These insects and critters range from spiders to ticks to mosquitoes.
Yes, you read that correctly. While we often don’t think of mosquitos as being venomous or medically important, they can be dangerous as they carry a number of deadly diseases. On the contrary, the greatly feared brown recluse spider bite, known for a venom that causes decaying skin and infection, is actually rarely cause for concern and only requires medical attention 10% of the time.
What does this mean for bug bite identification when it comes to determining if you’ve been bitten by something venomous or not?
Well, experts suggest that you pay attention to your symptoms first and foremost, especially when deciding if you need medical attention. Remember, not everyone reacts to bug bites the same way, and symptoms can vary from person to person.
Bug Bite Identification And Anaphylaxis – When To Seek Medical Attention
If you are experiencing any symptoms of anaphylaxis, seek medical help immediately.
As we just mentioned, even common insect bites and stings can become serious in the right person. For most of us, we won’t know we’ve been bitten until we begin to feel the symptoms of a bite.
When going through bug bite identification, the most common way to identify a bite is by the symptoms you feel.
Common, non-life threatening symptoms of a bug bite include:
- Swelling at the bite site
- Fluid build-up in the bite
- Minor pain or irritation
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience:
- Shortness of breath
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, eyes, or throat
- Fever or flu-like symptoms
- Redness that rapidly spreads beyond the bite site
- Severe pain that does not dissipate
- Severe swelling
- Signs of infection including pus or skin deterioration
Remember, while most bug bites are self-diagnosed and often do not require medical attention, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are unsure of the severity of your bug bite or your bug bite identification leads you to believe you have been bitten by a venomous critter like a brown recluse, black widow, or hobo spider, we always suggest contacting a medical professional for advice.
Now, with that all covered, let’s go over the bug bite identification of the top ten most common biting insects in the United States.
1 Mosquito Bites
Mosquitos are some of the most common biting insects in the US.
Practically everyone has experienced a mosquito bite. With over 176 species of mosquito in the United States, these pesky insects are one of the most common to blame for those small, itchy red bumps on your arms and legs. These insects are most active in warm weather and prefer bodies of stagnant water.
Bug Bite Identification
Mosquito bites are generally small, round bumps that appear on your skin shortly after you’ve been bitten. They commonly itch and can sometimes even sting or burn. If you were in an area rich with mosquitoes, you may notice multiple bites all over your body and wherever your skin was exposed.
While mosquitoes are not considered to be a venomous insect, they can be dangerous to people and pets. When it comes to bug bite identification, identifying a mosquito bite is generally quite easy. However, identifying a mosquito-borne illness can be more difficult.
Mosquitoes are known to spread diseases through their bites including West Nile Virus, Dengue, Yellow Fever, Zika, Malaria, Chikungunya, Dog Heartworm, St. Louis Encephalitis, Western Equine Encephalitis, and more.
If you have used bug bite identification to diagnose a mosquito bite and you notice that you became ill after being bitten by a mosquito, it’s important to seek medical attention to rule out any serious diseases.
Otherwise, you can treat mosquito bites using a combination of home remedies like baking soda and water along with over the counter treatments like creams, ointments, and antihistamines.
2 Bed Bug Bites
Bed bug bites often appear in clusters and can show up anywhere on the body.
Are you waking up with small, red bumps or welts on your body? Well, according to our bug bite identification experts, you may have bed bugs. Bed bugs are a common pest in the United States and can infest homes in the thousands. They prefer human blood hosts and can be incredibly difficult to get rid of.
Bug Bite Identification
Depending on the person, these pests can leave absolutely no sign at all on your body or they can leave itchy bumps in clusters, lines, or zig zags.
Bed bug bites may appear small, flat and red, or even leave behind swollen welts. Sometimes they can even blister. These bites can occur on any area of exposed skin and happen at night while you are sleeping. One of the best bug bite identification methods you can use to identify bed bug bites to look for small blood spots on your pillow or sheets in the morning.
Luckily, bed bugs are not dangerous. They do not carry diseases and often only leave behind itchy, sometimes painful bites. Though they are related to ticks and spiders, bed bugs are not venomous and even carry a numbing agent in their saliva so that their bites are less painful. How very kind of them. (Gag).
Treatment for bed bug bites typically goes hand and hand with bed bug removal. While you can use any over the counter creams or ointment for itching or rashes that you would use for a mosquito, the treatment will not help if you are continuously getting bitten each night.
3 Non-Venomous Spider Bites
Spider bites are generally harmless and go away on their own.
Trying to use bug bite identification to rule out spider bites? Though spiders are not insects, they are still one of the most common culprits of “bug bites” in the United States. Luckily, there are only three medically important spiders in the US, according to experts, which means most spider bites are harmless.
Bug Bite Identification
Spider bites can range in size depending on the spider. There is typically just one bump, which can be swollen, puffy and red. These bites may itch and can even be painful. Upon closer inspection, you may even be able to see two small fang holes in the center of the bump where the spider bit you.
Non-venomous spiders are generally nothing to worry about. While bite reactions can vary from person to person, if you are bitten by a non venomous spider you will generally only have a reaction at the bite site, which will go away on its own within a few days.
If your spider bite is itchy, we suggest using over the counter anti-itch medications like creams, ointments or antihistamines. You can also use a combination of baking soda and a water or an ice compress.
4 Black Widow Spider Bite
Black widow bites hurt right away.
Black widow spiders are found throughout the United States and are certainly not a spider to be messed with. If your bug bite identification leads you to believe you are dealing with a black widow bite, we suggest you contact your doctor.
Other spiders that fall into the black widow category are brown widows. The female black widow spiders are venomous and cause an array of symptoms that can be mild to very serious.
Bug Bite Identification
If you’ve been bitten by a black widow you’ll likely know it. These bites are painful from the get-go, so even if you are sleeping when you are bitten you will likely wake up. On the off chance you do not realize you’ve been bitten, you can use bug bite identification and look for some telltale signs including a bull’s eye-type bite that is initially red with fang marks in the center. Within 2 to 8 hours of the bite, you may notice muscle cramps, vomiting, fever, nausea, and severe pain.
While black widow bites can be dangerous, they are rarely fatal. That said, if you are bitten by a black widow it is best to seek medical attention right away, as we mentioned above.
Upon using bug bite identification to diagnose a black widow spider bite, your doctor will advise you on how to treat the bite and symptoms.
5 Brown Recluse Spider Bite
Brown recluse bites are not often raised and can, in rare cases, cause tissue decay.
Brown recluse spiders are most commonly found throughout Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Nebraska and Iowa. While they are greatly feared for their tissue devouring bites, the truth is that brown recluse spiders rarely bite and only 10% of their bites require medical intervention.
Bug Bite Identification
How do you use bug bite identification to diagnose a brown recluse bite? Most brown recluse bites will go unnoticed because the bite is generally painless. However, a bad bite can lead to symptoms within 2 to 8 hours that include redness at the bite site, mild pain or burning, and a flat, open sore that is concave and grows larger. While tissue decay is a symptom of a brown recluse bite, this symptom is rare.
Brown recluse spider bites can cause necrosis, which is a fancy term for skin death. Though these bites are rarely serious, they can be dangerous in some instances. If your bug bite identification has determined you have a bite that is similar to a brown recluse spider bite and you notice any signs of infection, tissue decay, or are feeling unwell, contact a medical professional.
If you are experiencing serious symptoms of a brown recluse bite, your doctor will be able to advise you of best treatments. Otherwise, you can treat the bite using over the counter anti-itch medications and antihistamines.
6 Hobo Spider Bite
Hobo spiders are generally outdoor spiders.
Hobo spiders are a venomous spider commonly found throughout the Northwestern United States. While this venomous spider is sometimes referred to as the aggressive house spider, it is neither aggressive (unless provoked) nor is it a house spider. Also known as the funnel spider, this arachnid commonly lives outdoors near train tracks and beneath the ground in abandoned rodent holes, beneath debris, along your home’s foundation and in cracks and crevices.
Bug Bite Identification
In the US, hobo spider bites are generally painless and often result in little to no reaction. However, in some instances you can use bug bite identification to identify a hobo spider if the bite leaves a bump or inflammation at the bite site, itching, redness and pain.
Hobo spiders were once greatly feared, although the more experts learn about them the more they realize the US species of hobo spider are less dangerous than originally thought. They are perhaps the least venomous of the three medically important spiders in the United States. Still, in some instances there have been reports of pain, swelling, and muscle spasms after 2 to 8 hours of the initial bite.
Since most hobo spider bites go unnoticed, you’ll likely not require any treatment. However, if you do notice any symptoms of a hobo spider bite like muscle spasms, severe pain, swelling or shortness of breath, contact your doctor immediately.
7 Tick Bites
Tick bites are famous for their bull’s eye style rash they leave behind on some victims.
Though small, ticks can be some of the most dangerous biting pests in the United States. They carry and spread a number of diseases and feed on human and animal hosts. Common throughout the United States, you can use bug bite identification to help identify the unique bite of a tick below.
Bug Bite Identification
Tick bites are generally painless and are often identified when a person physically finds a tick on their body. An engorged tick on your body means it has been feeding for a while, while a tick who is not yet engorged likely just bit you. If you did not notice a tick was feeding on you and only later found the bite, you may notice a small, red bump that is itchy or inflamed and feels similar to a mosquito bite. Ticks are also known for their specific bull’s eye style rash they leave behind.
Depending on the species, ticks can carry and transmit serious diseases like lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Anaplasmosis, babesoisis, ehrlichiosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever, and tularemia.
If you have used bug bite identification to diagnose a tick bite, remember that many tick bites do not require treatment beyond over the counter medications and ointments to soothe itching and pain. However, if you notice signs of infection at the bite site, develop a fever or muscle aches after being bitten, or generally feel unwell, it is best to contact a medical professional.
8 Bee Stings
Bees can only sting once and often leave their stinger inside your skin after they sting you.
While bees do not bite, they can sting if provoked and their sting is usually quite painful, which is why you don’t usually need to use bug bite identification methods to know you’ve been stung by a bee. That said, only female bees can sting and they can only sting one time before they die.
Bug Bite Identification
Bee stings hurt immediately, though the severity of the pain generally goes away within a few minutes. Bee stings can leave behind red, itchy bumps or welts that generally go away on their own in a matter of days.
All bee stings are venomous to a point, though most are not dangerous. However, both people and animals can develop a serious allergic reaction to bee stings known as anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening and needs medical attention immediately.
Upon being stung, you may find that the stinger is left behind inside your skin and you will need to get it out with a flat surface like a credit card or butter knife. Never use tweezers to remove a stinger as this can push more venom into the wound. Most bee stings can be treated at home using ice, baking soda, and over the counter medications like creams, ointments and antihistamines.
9 Wasp and Hornet Stings
Wasps and hornets can sting multiple times.
Unlike bees, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times. Their stings are also quite a bit more painful. For this reason, you will again likely not need to use bug bite identification methods to know what you’ve been stung by.
Bug Bite Identification
As we said, if you’re stung by a hornet or a wasp, you will know immediately. The sting is severely painful at first and you may even get stung multiple times. After the sting, you may have several itchy, painful bumps where the sting occurred. These bumps can be red on the outside with a white spot in the middle where the stinger went inside your flesh.
While most hornet and wasp stings are more painful than dangerous, they can lead to anaphylaxis, just like in some common bee stings. Anaphylaxis is serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Most wasp and hornet stings are painful and can be treated using ice compressions and over the counter medications to soothe itching and swelling. You can also take antihistamines like benadryl to soothe itching and take tylenol or Advil for pain.
10 Ant Bites
Ant bites are typically found on the lower extremities and often in clusters.
Many types of ants in the United States do not bite, like common black ants, sugar ants and pavement ants. However, fire ants and a few other types of red ants can bite and their bites can be quite painful.
Bug Bite Identification
Like a wasp or bee sting, an ant bite is noticeable off the top. These bites can range in pain from a small pin prick to a burning pain similar to a bee or wasp sting. Depending on the species of ant, your reactions can range from mild itching and swelling to a serious allergic reaction. If you stumbled onto an ant hill and this is where you received your bites, you will often notice a cluster of red, painful or itchy bumps where the ants bit you.
Most ants are not considered dangerous, although if you suffer an allergic reaction to an ant bite, you may need medical attention.
Did you use bug bite identification to identify ant bites? Ant bites can often be treated using common creams and medications over the counter, though some do not require treatment at all.
Some Products We Love To Soothe Treat Bug Bites
Cortozone cream is a popular itch reliever.
Once you’ve used bug bite identification to identify a bug bite, your next focus should be on treatment and healing.
While some bug bites require medical attention, most can be soothed using over the counter medications like creams, ointments and antihistamines. If you are wondering which products would be best for soothing itchy, painful bug bites, take a look at some of our favorite products listed below.
Emu Joy On The Go Bug Bite Stick
This little product is perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors and has used bug bite identification to identify a bite. This stick is about the shape and size of a chapstick product but is designed to be applied directly to bug bites, rashes, scrapes and cuts.
It soothes pain and relieves itching and is safe for adults and children of all ages. Best of all, it is all natural and contains soothing emu oil
After Bite Ointment
This product is designed for kiddos but it helps soothe bug bites on adults as well. It is an over the counter cream you can use to apply to bee stings, bug bites and other skin abrasions. The product contains natural ingredients like aloe vera, baking soda, and tea tree oil. It also does not sting or cause any pain, even when applied to areas that have been scratched.
Tec Labs Anti-Itch Gel
We love any product that can be used for a multitude of purposes, which is one of the reasons we have listed this anti-itch gel by Tec Labs. This gel can help soothe and relieve pain and itching from bug bites and it can also help alleviate skin rashes and sunburns.
This is a topical gel that does not stain and dries quickly. It also has a cooling effect for quick relief.
Cortizone 10 Creme
Cortizone has long been used to help relieve minor burns, abrasions, rashes and insect bites. While there are many different products you can use to help soothe bug bites after making the proper bug bite identification, many people still come back to cortizone cream.
The above product contains aloe vera and vitamins A and E which help to soothe burning, itching and pain quickly and effectively.
Benadryl Anti-Itch Gel
Benadryl is one of the most popular over the counter antihistamines you can find and is highly effective against bug bites and minor allergic reactions. We like this Benadryl anti itch gel because it contains diphenhydramine hydrochloride, which commonly reduces inflammation and helps alleviate itching, pain, and burns.
The above product is a topical gel that helps soothe outdoor ailments caused by insects, poison ivy, oak or sumac, and can also help heal and soothe sunburns, scrapes and cuts.
How To Avoid Bug Bites In The Future
Keep bites from happening by wearing protective sprays and gear while out and about.
Unfortunately, there is very little you can do to avoid bug bites 100% of the time. Bugs outnumber us humans greatly, and there is a reason there are so many products, articles, and companies boasting pest control remedies and products.
However, there are a few tricks and tips you can use to help avoid bugs and bug bites in the future.
Essential Oils That Repel Bugs
You can use essential oils to help repel bugs in and around your home. Some of the most popular essential oils that can help prevent bugs and bug bites include:
- Peppermint oil
- Cedarwood Oil
- Citronella Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- And Eucalyptus Oil
You can apply some essential oils directly to your skin when out and about to help repel bugs like mosquitoes, wasps, bees, chiggers, fleas and ticks. You can also soak cotton balls in essential oil and place them around your home to keep bugs at bay.
This is a wonderful and natural method you can use that is not only effective, but safe for people, pets and the environment.
Bug Sprays and Repellents
When hiking or camping, we recommend using an over the counter bug spray to help keep bugs off. The best bug sprays can often be used on clothing and skin. If you are wary of using DEET bug sprays, don’t worry. There are plenty of natural bug sprays you can use as well.
Keep Your Home Tidy
Keeping bugs and spiders out of your home will help reduce your chances of being bitten by something unpleasant. Keep your home organized, clean and tidy. Sanitize surfaces often using a vinegar or citrus-based cleaner and vacuum, dust, and remove clutter.
We also recommend investing in a form of year-round pest control like an ultrasonic pest repeller product or perimeter repellent like Diatomaceous Earth powder or a pest repellent spray.
Keep Your Yard Landscaped
Biting bugs like mosquitoes, ticks and fleas can be attracted to overgrown yards. Keep bugs away by keeping your yard nice and landscaped. Trim your grass, remove excess debris, and don’t let fruits or veggies from gardens or fruit trees become overripe or rotten.
Wear Clothing That Covers Your Arms And Legs
When gardening or hiking during bug season, we recommend wearing long sleeves and pants. Many biting critters like mosquitoes cannot bite through tightly woven fabrics. It’s also best to avoid wearing darker clothing, as some biting insects are attracted to colors like black, dark blue and purple.
Remove Excess Water Sources Around Your Home
Fleas, mosquitoes, and many other flying insects that bite are attracted to stagnant water sources. These pests can also attract other bugs and critters that bite. Remove excess water from around your home like buckets, pet water bowls, bird baths, and kiddy pools.
Keep Up With Routine Home Maintenance
Last but not least, keep up with year-round home maintenance to help keep biting bugs at bay. Caulk and seal cracks and crevices around your home and ensure window screens are fitted well and do not have tears. We also suggest filling gaps in doorways and ensuring all entry and exit points close and seal.
And remember, while most bug bites are not dangerous, using proper bug bite identification is important to ensure you are treating a bug bite correctly.
Best of luck and be careful out there!
Jack founded our blog after two decades of working in the pest control industry. His vast experience dealing with a wide array of pests allows him to diagnose issues quickly and get to the heart of pest problems quickly and effectively. He has serviced more than 2,000 homes over his career and there is hardly any pest situation that he has not seen before.