What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

The Big 5 are five potentially dangerous bugs.  Though we do not by any means endorse any wholesale extermination of the creatures on this list, we would caution all of our readers to treat these guys, though more are actually gals, with the utmost respect.  They will all bite and or sting, and they are all venomous.  There are no doubt deaths that can be associated with most if not all of them, though we would also add that the death to survival rate is very low.  We would now like to introduce you to The Big 5, though we expect that there will eventually be more than five creatures so tagged.

#1:  Tarantula Hawk
It’s really big, it flies, it announces itself with a buzz that sounds like a small airplane, and it advertises with aposematic coloration (orange and black), an it has a really big stinger, at least the female does.  There are not many creatures that can take on a Tarantula and win, but the Tarantula Hawk seems to have no problems perpetuating the species by feeding upon the meat of a tarantula during its formative period.

Tarantula Hawk

Update:  August 9, 2011
We just received this comment on a Tarantula Hawk Posting:
“Went back to the location where I took the Tarantula Hawk Pic hoping to see a bit more. Saw one dragging a male tarantula along and got to close. You are correct they have a very painful sting, got me on the hand twice. I dropped the camera went back to get it and got zapped again, this time on my calf. Being handicapped and unable to run, though I did a fairly good impression of all three stooges melded into one trying to make my escape, I will take appropriate measures next time I try to get that close to something and its food. I almost had to have my ring cut off my hand it swelled up so fast. The only pics taken that day were of me after a shot of benadryl, not so hilarious pics taken by my ‘firends’ while I was passed out from the benadryl and drooled on the sofa. Those stings are about on par or worse with the few scorpion stings I have had in the past. A regular wasp or bee sting pales in comparison. I am just glad that I did not have a very severe allergic reaction. So be warned do not attempt to get to close to these flying strike force wasps once they have their prey in ‘hand’.”

#2:  Bark Scorpion
Bark Scorpions in the genus
Centruroides are among the most dangerous North American Scorpions.  Here is what BugGuide has to say about the sting of several species of Bark Scorpions:  “The sting of most scorpions is not serious and usually causes only localized pain, some swelling, tenderness and some discoloration. Systemic reactions to scorpion stings are rare.
The sting of one of our scorpions, however, Centruroides sculpturatus(until recently thought to be the same as Centruroides exilicauda), the Arizona Bark Scorpion, can be fatal. Most healthy adults are not at significant risk- only children, with their smaller body size, are in danger (treatment with antivenom has pretty much put a stop to deaths where available, but bark-scorpion stings should still be taken very seriously). The site of the sting does not become discolored.  Another scorpion known to have an intense sting is Centruroides vittatus, but no deaths have been attributed to it directly.”

Bark Scorpion


#3:  Red Headed Centipede
Most of our reports of Red Headed House Centipedes,
Scolopendra heros, come from Oklahoma and Texas and they are reported to grow as large as 8 inches in length.  All Centipedes have venom, but the Tropical Centipedes in the order Scolopendromorpha are generally considered the ones with the most virulent venom.  There are several subspecies of Scolopendra heros, and there are also numerous color variations.  Not all individuals have a red head.

Red Headed Centipede


#4: Black Widow
With her glossy black body and red hourglass marking, the Black Widow Spider is an icon of warning coloration.  The venom of the Black Widow is a powerful neurotoxin, and according to Emedicine Health, it is described as:  “Local pain may be followed by localized or generalized severe muscle cramps, abdominal pain, weakness, and tremor. Large muscle groups (such as shoulder or back) are often affected, resulting in considerable pain. In severe cases, nausea, vomiting, fainting, dizziness, chest pain, and respiratory difficulties may follow.  The severity of the reaction depends on the age and physical condition of the person bitten. Children and the elderly are more seriously affected than young adults.   In some cases, abdominal pain may mimic such conditions as appendicitis or gallbladder problems. Chest pain may be mistaken for a heart attack.   Blood pressure and heart rate may be elevated. The elevation of blood pressure can lead to one of the most severe complications.   People rarely die from a black widow’s bite. Life-threatening reactions are generally seen only in small children and the elderly.”

 

Black Widow


#5:  Cowkiller
The Cowkiller is a female Velvet Ant, a flightless wasp that is alleged to have a sting painful enough to kill a cow.

Cowkiller


Runner-Up:  Creechie
Unlike the Big 5, the runner-up, the Paederus Rove Beetle, does not bite or sting, but it can cause an horrific skin reaction by merely touching it.  Most of our reports of Creechie (African name) where it is also called the Acid Bug, AKA Cari-Cari in Malaysia, Potó in Brazil  and potentially Bicho de Fuego in Panama, come from tropical countries.  Though most of our reports of Paederus Rove Beetles have come from Africa, Asia and South America, we did receive a report from Arizona two years ago and one from West Virginia in 2008 in December which we imagine means Creechies can survive the cold.  Paederus Rove Beetles also sport aposematic coloration.

Creechie in Camaroon or Cari-Cari in Malaysia

 Runner-Up:  Muskmares
Walkingsticks in the genus Anisomorpha are commonly called Two Striped Walkingsticks or Muskmares. The second common name is due to the frequency that these Walkingsticks are found in the act of mating.  These Muskmares are capable of spraying a noxious substance with great accuracy over some distance, and they are good at hitting the eyes of a potential threat.  The effects wear off shortly, but will cause the eyes to water and blur as well as sting.  The latest information posted to BugGuide has the potential for harm as more serious:  “Members of this genus can deliver a chemical spray to the eyes that can cause corneal damage.” 

Mating Muskmares

Update:  August 10, 2014
Runner-Up:  Asp
A comment today has prompted us to add the Asp, or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar, to The Big 5 tag.  This stinging caterpillar is reported to have a very painful sting.

Asp or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar

Asp or Southern Flannel Moth Caterpillar

 


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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

12 Responses to Announcing a New Tag: The Big 5

  1. Ben says:

    Hi Bugpeople!
    I think that perhaps you should add one insect to the Big 5 list. Although not a single species, and has no venom, mosquitos still kill more people worldwide each year than any other animal by transferring diseases.
    Just a suggestion!
    Ben

  2. kvndoom says:

    I remember the first velvet ant I ever saw, as a boy of maybe 9 or 10. No doubt like many boys my age, past and future, was foolish enough to pick up the “pretty furry ant.” It didn’t kill me, and I doubt i made me stronger, but certainly wiser!

  3. Mark says:

    The post about aggressive stinging Tarantula Hawk wasps is concerning. We live in central San Antonio just a little north of downtown and have noticed 10 to 12 of these wasps flying sorties in our front yard. Most I’ve read is they are not aggressive and have not worried about my kids playing in the yard. However, these guys fly right under and between my legs when I walk to get the paper and worry about the kids. They have not been aggressive but I haven’t stepped on one yet either. I’ve never seen so many around our house and neighborhood. Why the sudden escalation and numbers. Are they waiting for the cicadas to come out? Course of action?

    • bugman says:

      Tarantula Hawks do not prey on Cicadas. Cicada Killers prey on Cicadas. It is our understanding that neither is aggressive, but the sting of a Tarantula Hawk is reported to be quite painful.

  4. Curious Girl says:

    Oh, maybe you can add the Pine & Oak Processionary Tent Caterpillar here. There are warnings in rural areas all over Europe about these. If I can find them I will send you the pictures I took of the bulletin in Istanbul on the Prince’s Islands. You do not even have to come in contact with the caterpillar itself, just the urticating hairs (can even be inhaled!) that are left behind in their tents, or even on the marches they make (plus they can eject them like harpoons!). These hairs can also cause a severe allergic response in some people.

    • Curious Girl says:

      Here’s a little more about the dangers of the Processionary Caterpillars

      http://www.theportugalnews.com/news/devastated-dog-owner-warns-of-lethal-effects-of-pine-processionary-caterpillars/30777

      The article states that the urticating hairs blow in the wind so we don’t even have to see or be near the actual caterpillars to be affected by them.

      And (from the comments):

      “Plus the most important thing to remember, if there is no service to remove them and you have to burn/blowtorch them in an emergency, you must use hairspray first to stop the hairs being released when burned. Otherwise the hairs will go airborne and can remain toxic for a year.”

      “Most small dogs die from contact with the poisonous caterpillar, some even within 1 hour! Due to necrotic reaction even the surviving dogs often loose half of their tongue, and may keep a devastated face.”

  5. Brian Henley says:

    What about Harvester Ants? I hear that their sting is the most painful when it comes to North American Ant species.

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