As forewarning for the squeamish, this article is not for the faint of heart. It describes, in graphic detail, 7 of the world’s most dangerous insects and just how badly these little buggers can ruin your day.
Do take note that this is not a top 10 deadliest insects list, it is a list of the most dangerous insects. Going just by number of deaths per year, for example, the average honey bee is far “deadlier” than any of the dangerous insects listed here.
This is a list of the creepy crawlies waking around with the most dangerous insect bites and stings, horrifying hunting patterns, and otherwise frighteningly dangerous behavior, regardless of the number of deaths they cause. With that said, let’s take a look at 7 of the most dangerous insects in the world.
Dangerous Insects — The Japanese Hornet
This huge bug is one of the most terrifying and dangerous insects you’re likely to ever hear about. Because of that, this enormous flying hornet, up to three inches long fully grown, gets top billing on the list. As the name implies, it is a hornet from Japan and it is extremely aggressive. The only real way to avoid it is to keep far away from its hives where possible and hope they don’t notice you when avoidance isn’t an option.
Like any other hornet, the Japanese Hornet has a smooth barb that allows it to sting you as much as it wants to and, believe me, it wants to sting you a lot. Unlike other hornets, however, its stings pump an extremely nasty toxin into its victim.
What makes it so nasty? First of all, it has the highest concentration of Acetylcholine, a chemical that causes extreme pain, of any stinging insect in the world. This means that each and every sting is the most painful insect sting you’ll ever feel.
If that’s not enough, the venom actually dissolves human tissue and, for an encore, produces a pheromone that tells all the other Japanese Hornets to dog-pile you. Death is neither swift nor painless as, if you’re lucky enough to be allergic, you swell up and suffocate. If you’re not allergic, you suffer prolonged and repeated as of what could possibly be the most pain you’ll ever feel as your flesh is literally dissolved.
The Siafu – or African Driver Ant
Again, the name gives away that this insect is an ant. If you live anywhere but East or Central Africa, it’s easy to think “What can an ant do? They’re tiny little things.” Well, think again. On a one by one basis, Siafu Ants aren’t actually that bad. They have an extremely painful venomous bite, yes, and their jaws are strong enough that said bite can be used as an emergency suture, but that’s about it. However, when food runs low, they send off enormous columns of up to 50 million ants in search of more food. Now, as long as you can get out of this column’s way, you’ll be safe. They pack tightly together so you can see them coming from a good distance off.
However, if, for whatever reason, you can’t, you will not survive.Imagine someone dumping a load of dirt on you, except that dirt, every speck of it, is biting you with the intent to pull pieces off. Luckily, again, you’re likely to asphyxiate from the rush of ants going into your mouth, nose, and throat long before the bites have a chance to kill you. They’re not particularly aggressive when they’re not in columns and, even when they are in columns, they’ll leave you alone as long as you’re not in their path. Make that mistake, and they will consider you a combination of hostile and lunch.
Lonomia – or Assassin Caterpillar
The Lonomia Caterpillar is proof that you can’t trust a pretty face – it is on the list of the most dangerous insects. Found in the Amazon Basin, this caterpillar has a gorgeous display of what looks like horns or antennae spread all over its body. Unfortunately, simply brushing against it is a death sentence without the anti-venom. Those horn-like structures all over its body are, essentially, clusters of barbed hypodermic needles. Simply touching it causes the fine points to pierce the skin and start pumping in venom. It starts as an intense burning sensation that spreads throughout your body, the anticoagulant in the venom causing you to start bleeding internally and externally.
In a relatively short time, your whole body will be in pain as blood leaks from your mouth, nose, the site of injection, and even under your fingernails. Sadly, you’ll be in this state for up to 15 hours before you finally die.
The Assassin Caterpillar is not aggressive, the venom is a defense mechanism, but you need to exercise extreme caution if you’re in a part of the basin where this bug is found. Cover as much skin as you can and keep your eyes open for the caterpillar’s bright colors lest you be its next victim. In this context it is also very intersting to know more about the most dangerous millipedes.
Most people are familiar with the Tsetse Fly, at least to some degree, thanks to several campaigns aimed at awareness of the issue they cause. Tsetse flies, found in central Africa, take the middle spot because they’re not exactly venomous in the traditional sense but they are still quite deadly. A biting parasite that lives off of blood, they’re obviously fairly aggressive. The only real defense against them if you’re in their hunting area is bug netting and bug spray that can keep them away from you.
While venom isn’t an issue with tsetse flies, they do carry a chemical called trypanasome. If you’re not familiar with the name, you may be more familiar with the disease it causes; sleeping sickness. The disease can be treated, of course, but without that treatment death will occur within six months.
Yellow or Maricopa Harvester Ant
So far, most American readers have been thinking to themselves, “Well, that’s easy, I’ll just stay in the US, no problem!” Well, let’s bring things a bit closer to home, shall we? A quick trip to Arizona will bring you to the doorstep of what is, in a technical sense, the most lethally venomous insect in the world that has currently been tested.
The Yellow harvester ant, a type of harvester ant found only in Arizona, has a venomous bite with an LD50 (a measurement of the dosage necessary to have a 50% mortality rate) of .12 milligrams. Luckily, they tend to make their homes in the desert and they don’t release much venom in a single bite, so fatalities are rare. This is not to say, of course, that a single bite isn’t worrying. Even one bite can cause massive swelling, intense pain, and even nausea to the point of vomiting. For the most part, though, they stick close to their nests, which makes them relatively easy to avoid if you keep an eye peeled for them. Just don’t go walking around barefoot.
The Yellow harvester ant, while frightening, still isn’t close enough to home for most Americans. After all, they’re all stuck in Arizona. The Paper Wasp, on the other hand, is all over America and parts of Europe.
They are, like all wasps, very aggressive if you get too close to their hive. Because of this, your best defense is avoidance or calling an exterminator. For “regular” wasps, they’re also fairly lethal, causing about 30 deaths per year.
Their sting can cause the general skin reactions you’d expect – swelling, redness, etc. – but they can also cause convulsions, diarrhea, and even full on kidney failure. In extreme cases, they can even cause an anaphylactic reaction that can be lethal within a half hour. So, the next time you see a wasp nest in your backyard, you might want to keep your distance.
Africanized Honeybee – Killer Bee
You all knew this one was coming. While the average honeybee would be laughed right off of this list, the Killer Bee has proven itself deadly enough to earn a spot, albeit one at the very bottom. Found throughout huge regions of North and South America, the Killer Bee has managed to make the news quite often due to its 600+ yearly death toll.
While most of those are, of course, due to allergic reactions, it actually has a toxic venom that causes intense pain, redness, and swelling and is even capable of causing respiratory failure. This is a real problem since, if you make them angry, the whole hive will get together and make certain that you get enough of said venom to do the job.
Again, avoidance or exterminators are really your only options to stay safe from these bugs. Normal honeybees can be forced away with smoke with no repercussions once it’s cleared, but killer bees will hunt you down for what they’ll see as an attack if you try it with them.
These are, of course, not the only dangerous insects around. As mentioned earlier, this list completely avoided all the insects, dozens and dozens of them, that have gained a reputation for deadliness due to allergic reactions.
In reality, those are the more likely types of insects to kill the average person but, if you’re allergic to a common insect’s bite or sting, you’re probably already aware of it and know what to avoid. This list is simply a guide to help you remember that, no matter where you are, there’s most likely an insect fairly close by with a heavy dose of venom just waiting for you. Wear a long sleeved shirt.