The World’s Scariest and Deadliest Bugs
Take a closer look at some of the scariest looking and deadliest arthropods from around the world.
Female black widow spider
What makes some bugs scarier than others? Is it the number of legs and eyes they have? Does it have to do with whether they come out in the day or at night? Or is it the pain their bites and stings inflict? After searching the world for some of the deadliest and most frightening bugs, it seems there’s a wide variety of reasons we fear some bugs more than others.
A worker bullet ant
The bullet ant is an inch-long neotropical species — a species relating to the tropical region south, east and west of Mexico — that’s rated as having one of the most painful stings of any bee, ant, wasp or hornet. The pain from just one of their stings has been likened to a gunshot wound or a burning nail being driven into your flesh. Some tribal rituals involve wearing gloves of bullet ants to demonstrate toughness and manhood.
An army ant living bridge
Another ant made it to the list, not because of what a single ant can do, but what the colony as a whole is capable of accomplishing. Army ants, sometimes in colonies exceeding a million ants, swarm over anything and everything in their way. To collect enough food for the massive colony, army ants raid and ravage leaf-litter arthropods and small reptiles, amphibians or mammals in their path. Although it can be intimidating to suddenly find yourself amongst a swarm, it’s important to get out of their way so their piercing mandibles stay out of your leg.
The human botfly may not look scary, but when you find out you have larvae living under your skin feeding on your flesh, you may change your mind. Found mostly south of Mexico, human botfly larvae can live in the flesh of your body until they fall out to complete the next state of their lifecycle.
Goliath Bird-eating Spider
A Goliath Bird-eating Spider
The goliath bird-eating spider, a member of the tarantula family, is scary in a more obvious way. This spider is large and hairy, has lots of legs and eyes and inch-long fangs. If you can look past those features, you’ll learn that their venom is only about as toxic to humans as a bee’s venom. Some tarantulas can be kept in captivity as pets. The goliath bird-eating spider lives in South American forests and feeds at night on small rodents, snakes, insects and the occasional lizard. While these arachnids are frightening for reasons other than being deadly to humans, others have a scary reputation because of the number of people they kill each year.
Black Widow & Brazilian Wandering Spiders
Brazilian wandering spider
The black widow and Brazilian wandering spider are two spider species that evoke fear — and rightfully so because they posses potent venom. Widow spiders can be found in many parts of the world. The infamous black widow can be identified by the red hourglass on its abdomen. Although this spider is small and unassuming, its bite contains a neurotoxin that often requires immediate medical treatment. The Brazilian wandering spider has one of the most potent venom of all known spider species. Fortunately, an antivenin exists to limit the number of deaths from this arachnid’s bite. They typically are only found in South America.
Giant Japanese Hornet
For some, the giant Japanese hornet is a nightmare come to life. This giant hornet has a stinger over half an inch in length and can fly great distances. Although 30 of these hornets can decimate a 30,000 member honeybee colony in a matter of hours, there are only around 40 confirmed deaths a year from these hornets. They are found primarily in Asia.
This next group of fearsome insects isn’t scary for their physical characteristics or the immediate pain they can inflict, but rather because they can infect you with a variety of diseases. The mosquito, tropical rat flea, assassin bug and tsetse fly, all known as vectors, can transmit infectious pathogens to humans. These insects pick up pathogens from a host animals or the egg receives them from the parent insect and then spread the pathogens to humans when they feed on them. The mosquito is the most notorious malaria carrier, responsible for more human deaths than every other insect combined. Malaria continues to ravage Africa and there’s still no effective vaccine. The tropical rat flea is responsible for the bubonic plague of the 1300s, which killed 25 million people. In addition to carrying plague, the rat flea is also capable of transmitting murine typhus. The Central and South American Assassin bug is a vector for Chagas disease, a disease that targets organs and leads to cell death. Chagas is responsible for more than 10,000 deaths a year. The tsetse fly in Africa is a medium-sized biting fly that transmits African sleeping sickness. While it’s harmless in appearance, this insect vector is also responsible for deaths numbering in the thousands each year.
Clearly you should steer clear of some insects and spiders, but it’s also important to remember most insects and arachnids normally don’t pose a medical threat to humans but all of them should be treated with respect. So the next time you see a scary bug or spider, just snap a pic and keep your hands to yourself.