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News : Biting, stinging insects threaten to spoil summer fun, according to Ralph Williams

Biting, stinging insects threaten to spoil summer fun, according to Ralph Williams
By Taya Flores Journal and Courier
Ralph Williams, Purdue University, prepares to examine some insects.

Rebecca Miller of West Lafayette hates bugs, especially mosquitoes.

"For some odd reason they seem to be very attracted to me," the 37-year-old said. "I'm not a big fan of flies or wasps -- wasps because they can sting you and flies are just a nuisance."

Although warmer weather brings all the pleasantries of summer fun, it is also a time to be on the lookout for insects that bite, sting or annoy.

"Because we had a lot of rain, mosquitoes are very active right now," said Ralph Williams, professor of entomology at Purdue University.

However, the mosquitoes that breed in rain water are nuisances more than anything. Their bites can be irritating and itchy, but the type of mosquitoes that can transmit diseases such as West Nile virus breed in stagnant water held in discarded tires or other containers.

Also, with lots of rain, biting midges or no-see-ums can be more prevalent. These insects are smaller than mosquitoes but leave similar bites and breed in the same types of habitats as mosquitoes.

Williams said to prevent mosquito infestation around your home, remove standing water and open containers and keep high grass and weeds cut low.

Also, he recommended wearing lightly-colored clothing and using insect repellents to prevent mosquito bites from occurring.

Dr. Salman Husain, urgent care physician with Clarian Arnett Health, said insects that sting such as wasps and honeybees are of more concern than those that bite.

"The stinging ones are the ones that cause the most discomfort because you end up getting hives..." he said.

Also, depending on how many times a person is stung, he or she can suffer from more severe reactions such as anaphylaxis or swelling around the lips and throat.

This can cause respiratory problems or cause an individual to go into shock, where blood vessels dilate and blood is detoured away from the heart and brain.

Williams said other bugs that bite include some types of flies such as black flies, which breed in flowing streams, and deer and horse flies, which breed in wetland or marshy areas and can be an issue around recreational and outdoor areas.

Chiggers are always an issue, especially in the summer, he said. These are mites that live in grassy areas and are usually more prevalent in June and July.

These bugs cause itching and irritation and can cause an infection from scratching.

Williams said by the time a person notices the itching from chiggers the bug is already gone because it feeds on the host for a day or less. "They do not burrow into the skin," he said.

Ticks can also be an issue and these insects can transmit human diseases, he said. There are two primary species in this part of Indiana -- the American dog tick and the deer tick. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and the deer tick, which is common in Tippecanoe County, can transmit Lyme disease.

If people are outdoors, check daily for ticks on clothing and the body, he said.

Williams said fleas, which are more common in warm weather, can bite people but they prefer dogs and cats as their hosts.