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Insect Bites

Facts on Insect Bites

  • Stings and bites from insects are common. They often result in redness and swelling in the injured area. Sometimes a sting or bite can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction or transmit pathogens (viruses, bacteria or parasites, for example) to humans.
  • Arthropods are insects that live primarily on land and have six legs. They dominate the present-day land fauna. They represent about three-fourths of known animal life. In fact, the actual number of living species is not known and is estimated to be over 10 million.
  • The orders that contain the greatest numbers of species are:
    • Coleoptera (beetles),
    • Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths),
    • Hymenoptera (ants, bees, wasps), and
    • Diptera (true flies).
  • However, the majority of people lump insects, arthropods, and anything small that bites or stings as a "bug" or an insect. The goal of this article is to provide an overview of biting and stinging insects or bugs without making strict scientific definitions of insects or bugs. The article covers the predominant biting and stinging bugs seen or imported to the US recently, but does not cover every possible stinging or biting bug or insect worldwide.

Black widow spider. Note the characteristic hourglass abdominal markings
Black widow spider. Note the characteristic hourglass abdominal markings. Click to view larger image.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/1/2016

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Insect Bites:

Insect Bites - Experience

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Insect Bites - Treatment

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Insect Bites - Symptoms

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Black Widow and Brown Recluse Spider Bite

Treatment of spider bites depends heavily on what kind of spider bit the patient. Black widow and brown recluse spider venom has very different effects, and both species have specific, identifying characteristics.

Below are some tips on how to identify each species:

  • Black widow spiders (Latrodectus mactans) may be black or brown with a leg span of approximately one to two inches. They usually have a red hourglass marking on the abdomen.
  • Brown recluse spiders (Loxosceles reclusa) are brown with a 1-inch leg span. Many have a violin-shaped marking on the chest.
  • Both black widow and brown recluse spiders are common in North America and throughout the world

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Bites, Insect »

Insects comprise the most diverse and numerous class of the animal kingdom, Insecta.

Read More on Medscape Reference »


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