Insect Bites – Clues on What Bit You


This Straight, No Chaser focuses on insect bites and offers clues as to what type insect may have stung or bit you.


One of the really interesting things about being a physician is the privilege and power patients willingly assign to you. I’ve always found it humorous and disconcerting at the same time. Seriously, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a room to find a patient’s buttocks or genitalia (prematurely) fully exposed with no modesty, admittedly because they’re in a rush to know what’s wrong. But still…

Another example is when patients are bitten by insects. It seems like I always get asked “What bit me, Doc?” Well…I wasn’t there… but ok… Of course, we usually don’t say such things, so many put on the stern doctor face, hem and haw and proceed with some fancy medical jargon. Various insect bites have been discussed in detail previously. Here are links to mosquito-borne diseases, bed bugs and ticks.

Fortunately, most insect bites are harmless, so more often than not, it’s not a big deal. That said, there are clues that give us an educated guess as to what insect might have been involved in stings or bites, and that’s the topic of today’s Straight, No Chaser.

Clues as to What Bit You

  • If your bite hurts, you may have been stung by a bee, wasp or hornet. Fire ant bites also hurt.
  • If your bite itches, fleas, mites and mosquitos should come to mind.
  • If you get a disease other than just a rash a short period of time after being bitten, a mosquito bite is likely. Mosquito-borne disease have been discussed in this post and include malaria and West Nile disease.

Tendencies found in Different Insect Bites

Looking at it from the other direction, here are some tendencies of individual insects and their bites/stings.

 bedbug insect bitebed-bug-insect-bites-arm

Bedbugs: likely in cracks and crevices, furniture and bedding, at night and in the cold

  • Bites produce itchy red bumps, usually in a row and occasionally topped by a blister.

beeStinger01  beesting 

Bees and Wasps: likely near flowers and plants, or beaches and near picnic areas

  • Stings produce immediate pain and rapid swelling.
  • Difficulty breathing and hives/swelling all over one’s body may occur in severe reactions.


Fire Ants: likely in the south near parks, lawns and pastures

  • Bites produce immediate pain and burning, followed by swelling with cloudy fluid buildup in the area of bite.

Ctenocephalides felis OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 

Fleas: likely in home with pets; usually found on rugs or otherwise on the floor

  • Bites typically produce small bumps clustered together and tend to be located near the waist and buttocks.

flybites flybite 

Flies: likely around food, garbage or waste

  • Bites produce painful, itchy bumps usually lasting less than a day; small blisters may develop.

 mosqbite1 Mosquito-Bites-Itch

Mosquitoes: likely to be found around water; they like your sweat and brightly colored clothing

  • Bites tend to sting and itch; they produce a red mound with a tiny puncture mark at the center of the bite site.


Ticks: likely in the woods

  • Bites may be hidden on hair and skin, making discovery more difficult.

Remember, most insect bites are harmless, but given the ability to transmit diseases, it’s reasonable to have your concerns addressed.

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