Florida is home to thousands of bug species. Some of these bugs can sting or bite.
Things are so bad that there are certain periods or locations (such as beaches) travelers stay away from.
While large-scale biting bug invasions are rare in Florida, certain species can inflict a painful bite which may or may not require hospitalization on their own.
As with all types of bug bites, bug stings in Florida come with mild to severe reactions. Mild pain or red skin on one end and anaphylaxis on the other end are the extremes of these reactions.
Florida is home to microscopical bugs that bite, various biting flies and mosquitoes, spiders, scorpions, and even ants that bite, sometimes repeatedly!
The hot-humid climate of the state and its multiple marshes also favors biting bugs that lay eggs in the water or in mud.
While these bites can happen throughout the year, each species has its own specific peak period of risk.
In some cases, biting bugs of Florida can be found in the backyard. Here are some of these species, where to stay clear of them, and the most common reactions their biters or stings come with.
Table of Contents
1. Biting Midges
Florida is among the states where Biting Midges (family Ceratopogonidae) are frequent.
These types of flying and biting insects are problematic for humans from a small to a large extent.
Large numbers of Biting Midges can even limit the types of activities you can enjoy outdoors in some areas of the state.
The bites of the species aren’t the most painful, but they can lead to all types of reactions, depending on each individual.
From red skin to itchy skin, Biting Midges can cause different types of skin-level reactions. Even allergic reactions are possible with these types of insects.
These types of bugs are still studied for there are thousands of species they come in. Most are gray and partly red when fed.
Since they feed on blood, they carry the risk of possibly transmitting diseases.
Swamps and grasslands are some of the most common areas of Florida where chiggers can be biting problems.
Mostly too small to spot with the naked eye, chiggers are a type of bug similar to ticks, but smaller.
They attach themselves to a host such as a human or various animals and latch onto the skin.
Chiggers feed on dead skin cells and are even capable of injecting itchy enzymes into the skin to free up dead skin cells.
Their bites are painful, and itchy, and can lead to problems such as eczema.
Chigger bites may be even more problematic when these tiny bugs decide to bite open wounds.
Unlike most other bug bites, chigger bites are in-line, particularly on exposed skin areas.
Chiggers can be picked up on the skin around the ankles, hands, neck, and face.
3. Fire Ants
Fire Ants are abundant in Florida and in the Southeast. These types of ants can be found in many areas across the state, including at home, in gardens.
Fire Ant bites can be painful and their effects can last long.
Red skin or itchy skin is among the first symptoms of these bites. You can suffer from severe rashes or burning sensations in the case of multiple bites.
Within a few hours, the skin will start to show bumps or blisters. Small pockets of fluid are specific to the area of the bite.
Fire Ant bites continue to show itchy skin sensations for at least several days. They tend to go away on their own.
These sensations can be alleviated by applying antihistamines available over the counter.
More extreme reactions to these bites are also possible. They are identified by monitoring symptoms such as dizziness.
Flea bites are serious but typically require no visit to the hospital as their symptoms mostly go away on their own.
In extreme cases, flea bites can be a major cause of concern but they can also lead to hospitalization and even death.
Fleas normally bite animals but can sometimes bite people as well.
They are picked up on bare skin when out in nature. Using their tiny claws on their legs, fleas attach themselves to the skin and bite.
Saliva is introduced in the skin which may lead to itchy sensations or even to skin-level pain.
Most flea bite symptoms don’t require antihistamines or a visit to the doctor unless there are complications.
These tiny brown or black creatures leave red bumps on the skin which they can bite multiple times.
Ticks are a type of biting bug similar to spiders. With its 8 legs and red or black coloring, ticks are among the typical species that cause itching and pain when biting, in Florida.
Small bugs such as ticks are picked up in nature.
Tick bites often result in different types of complications which range from mild rashes to diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
There are various symptoms to follow after being bitten by ticks and after removing the bug still attached to the skin.
These symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, or headache. They are a sign of a possible complication and a good reason to follow up on the general health condition at a hospital.
Unlike ticks and fleas which can be picked up in nature, lice can also be picked up by contact with a person already carrying lice.
These small biting bugs are found all around the state and they can be categorized by the area of the body they bite.
Head lice bite the skin of the scalp while body lice can bite other areas of the body as well.
Most types of lice bites don’t cause severe health reactions but they need proper management.
Properly washing up the bitten area and physically removing the lice is mandatory. In severe cases, even trimming the hair is needed in case of head lice bites.
Washing up all clothes and bed sheets that have been in contact with a person with lice is mandatory.
High water temperature and a long washing cycle should be enough to kill all types of lice.
Bedbug bites are as common in Florida as in other nearby states.
These small bugs end up in homes from contact with an infected person. They can also come indoors through furniture, clothes, or bed sheet purchases.
Bedbug bites mostly go unnoticed until you see small red skin patches on the body.
These bites are normally located on the exposed area of the skin, at night. This is why bed bug bites are common on the face and on the hand.
Bedbug bites don’t go away on their own until all bed bugs are cleared from the home.
Spotting blood marks on the sheets is an indication these bites still occur in sleep, even if you can’t feel them.
Properly washing up textiles and even discarding old mattresses are among the common management techniques to deal with bed bugs.
Miami, Tampa, and West Palm Beach are some of the most common areas with high mosquito populations in Florida.
Almost any area with some degree of humidity, water, and animals or humans nearby can be infested by mosquitoes.
Female mosquitoes bite as they need a blood meal to lay eggs.
The bite itself is an injection with the proboscis. This is how they draw blood out of the skin and how they manage to multiply.
Some of the typical signs of a typical mosquito bite include red skin, itchy skin, and slightly swollen skin.
These symptoms can be worse, on the other hand. For example, mosquito bites can lead to more severe body-wide itchy sensations in children.
Wasps have some of the most painful stings of all bugs and insects in Florida.
These types of stings may even require medical attention and pain or itchiness associated with the bite can last for days.
Itchy skin and even other sensations such as warmness in the area of the sting are sensations that can last days in the case of a sting.
Some of the first steps to consider after a wasp bite include washing the area of the sting and applying ice packs on the area.
If the itchy sensation lasts more than a few hours, it might be a good time to consider over-the-counter antihistamines.
Extreme reactions to wasp stings prompt a visit to the doctor.
Some of these extreme reactions include difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, and even excessive sweating.
While wasps can sting without any warning, most stings happen when their nests or the wasps themselves are disturbed.
Bee stings are common in Florida, especially since the state is home to more bee species compared to other states.
The reactions to bee stings are different and range from red skin to anaphylaxis in extreme cases.
Some common misconceptions exist about bee stings. For example, it’s only the females that sting as males don’t have stingers.
There’s also a misconception about honey bees stinging and dying. Partly true, but this isn’t the case for all of the animals it stings.
If the skin of the stung mammal is thick, such as in the case of humans, the stinger can break indeed.
While barbed, it doesn’t break when bees sting thin skin animals.
The venom of bees often contains histamines and other proteins which may cause allergic reactions.
Some of the more common instances of allergic reactions are seen in people who’ve been stung by multiple bees.
11. Deer Flies
Deer flies (subfamily Chrysopsinae) are found around Florida’s swamps and woodlands. These types of large biting flies need water or damp soil to lay eggs in.
Larger than other types of biting flies, Deer flies can even grow to a size of just over 1 inch.
Their colorful appearance is also matched by visible large mouthparts.
These act like scissors and inflict painful bites as the female fly bites through the skin to get to the blood.
Deer flies are seen all around the state’s humid habitats in their thousands, as there are no applicable management techniques against them.
You can stay away from them and learn to avoid them simply by assessing their size, as they are larger than the typical housefly.
Deer flies are also different from horse flies as they have larger eyes and a bit more coloring across their wings.
12. Horse Flies
Swamps and lakes tend to attract the highest populations of Horse flies (subfamily Tabanidae) in Florida.
These types of flies are known to be aggressive and to bite large animals as well as humans.
Not backing down from a quick blood meal, these flies can bite while camping or while out in nature next to ponds, lakes, and other water sources.
These flies are particularly aggressive when hungry and may bite multiple times.
Painful bites lead to red skin in the area of the bite and possible swelling.
Extreme reactions and diseases are rare when it comes to these bites, but still possible.
Horse fly bites can also lead to more severe allergic reactions in people prone to allergies.
Staying away from these flies is one of the best preventive measures against the bites. They are identified by their black and white upper and black ventral side coloring.
Early hours of the morning and late hours of the evening mark peak activity periods for the species.
13. Yellow Flies
Yellow Flies (Diachlorus ferrugatus) are only familiar to those in the Southeastern US states, including Florida.
Yellow Flies are native to tropical regions and are currently expanding their territory in the Southeastern parts of The United States.
As their name suggests, these flies are yellow and have distinguishing blue-green eyes.
They represent one of the few flies that bite indoors as they make their way into homes seeking their next blood meal.
Aggressive females bite indoors or outdoors from March to fall, in Florida. They are active during the late hours of the day or on cloudy days.
Yellow flies possess painful bites which lead to red skin, swollen skin, and prolonged pain symptoms.
Keeping these flies away is almost impossible on a large scale as they live next to swamps and forests where they like the higher humidity provided by shade trees.
14. Stable Flies
Especially a common problem in Florida, Stable Flies (Stomoxys calcitrans) are named after their cattle-feeding habits in stables.
However, the flies are found all around Florida, even on beaches, as they get carried away by wind.
Mostly found on farms around cattle, and to a lesser extent, around horses, these types of flies bite.
Unlike other biting flies or bugs of Florida, the bites of Stable Flies don’t result in swollen skin.
However, the economic impact of the species is higher as they are known to drive tourists away from the state’s multiple beaches.
Stable Flies can bite all types of animals and humans. Since they feed on blood, Stable Flies can be problematic in transmitting diseases.
Biting flies of this species are mostly known for their impact on animals and outbreaks typically require control measures.
15. Human Bot Flies
Human Bot Flies (Dermatobia hominis) are some of the most painful flies to deal with in terms of impact on humans and animals in Florida.
This species bites and lays its eggs in the skin of its host where its larva lives.
Flies of this type aren’t native to North America but they make their way into Florida with travelers from Central and South America.
The flies are known to bore into the skin where larvae grow and cause swollen skin and pain.
In some cases, people with Human Bot Fly larvae in their skin can even feel the larvae moving.
One of the classic ways of eliminating the larvae is by applying petroleum jelly on the skin which suffocates the larvae.
However, the species still needs to be removed from the skin. Popping the larvae out may be difficult with fingernails and some research suggests spatulas instead.
Even wooden spatulas may not completely remove the larvae of this species from the skin. A visit to the doctor typically comes with the benefit of anesthesia for proper medical-grade removal.
16. Southern Black Widow
One of the most dangerous types of spiders in Florida is The Southern Black Widow (Latrodectus mactans).
This is also a spider found in the wider Southeastern region of The US.
Spiders of this genus can often be found around homes as they can live around stored wood or around the shelter of other animals.
Not all Southern Black Widow bites are reported across the state. Only people with severe reactions typically reach hospitals for care.
However, children and pregnant women should seek the nearest hospital when bitten by The Southern Black Widow for medical treatment that can last up to 5 days.
Found almost anywhere out in nature and even in gardens, these spiders can’t be controlled.
Assessing typical preventive measures is always best. These measures vary from one individual to another.
Those into gardening might need to wear long-sleeve clothes and gloves when out gardening.
Campers should also assess the area they camp in. Campsites should be away from wood piles, piles of leaves, burrows of rodents and bees, or other animal shelters.
17. Brown Widow
Technically even more venomous than The Black Widow, The Brown Widow (Latrodectus geometricus) is seen as a lesser threat.
It injects lesser venom, although its venom is still highly potent.
As its name implies, this is a mostly brown spider but its bite should still be taken seriously.
For most people, the bite (albeit rare) comes with mild symptoms which are limited to skin-level reactions.
Brown Widows can be avoided by frequently vacuuming, and cleaning the house, yard, basement, garage, and the nearby premises.
Some of the best places for these venomous spiders to hide are those in the yard, in debris, in piles of leaves or wood, in old mailboxes, or even in the garage.
In case of a bite, it’s always best to clean the area of the bite and monitor general symptoms just to be sure there are no complications.
18. Recluse Spiders
Recluse spiders come in tan or tan to brown colors and are some of the most dangerous when it comes to the effects of their bites.
They are part of a handful of North American species that can require hospitalization in the unlikely event of a bite.
These spiders have different traits such as showing 6 eyes instead of a more common 8-eye appearance on other species.
It can be an important detail if visiting the hospital with the trapped spider in the event of a bite for correct species identification.
Mild bite symptoms include red skin or even skin necrosis in the area of the bite. These are symptoms that should eventually go away in a few hours.
There’s always a risk of showing severe symptoms in the event of a bite. These range from nausea, vomiting, or joint pain to fever, chills, and a general feeling of body or muscle weakness.
19. Wolf Spiders
Wolf Spiders aren’t seen as a dangerous spider species to humans. They are even tied to positive roles in the ecosystem as they get to eat roach nymphs and other bugs.
These spiders are larger than others, on the other hand. This means their bite can actually feel a lot more painful than the bite of other species and even trigger panic attacks.
While larger, this spider doesn’t have venom that’s lethal or dangerous to humans.
Most symptoms associated with the bite are the pain from the bite itself, which may last up to several hours.
On the other hand, there are still rare cases where allergic reactions follow Wolf spider bites.
Some of these reactions include feeling dizzy or vomiting. Fewer is already a symptom of a more severe allergic reaction.
Centipedes can also bite and they are present in many inhabited areas of the state.
The bite is actually pink, as the mouthparts of centipedes are modified and similar to pincers.
The bite itself poses no major health risk for humans. It can be painful, however.
Short-lasting but sharp, the pain associated with centipede bites usually subsides on its own and it doesn’t require medical intervention.
Some of the lesser reactions (still documented) of centipede bites include bruising. Anaphylaxis is even rarer than bruising, as an extreme reaction to centipede bites.
The State of Florida is home to 6 species of scorpions. Bark scorpions, Hentz Striped scorpions, and Guiana Striped scorpions are often found here.
The Bark Scorpion is the largest and most venomous. This is a species that reaches a size between 2 and 4 inches. Seeking out medical attention is recommended after the bite of the species.
Hentz Striped Scorpions are the most common in The US and also live in Florida. They are smaller than Bark Scorpions, growing to a maximum size of 2.5 inches. Medical attention is still recommended in the event of a bite.
Guiana Striped Scorpions are only found in a few Florida counties, including around Miami. These small and black scorpions are found under leaves or rocks, but may still sting.
22. Saddleback Caterpillar
Not all stinging species in Florida are bugs. Caterpillars can also sting, sometimes with longer-lasting effects.
The Saddleback Caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) is often considered the most painful stinging caterpillar in the state, although not confirmed by actual comparison data.
It’s the spines on the caterpillar that are responsible for pain and their inner toxins that are responsible for urticaria.
Accidental stings lead to long-lasting urticaria. It can sometimes be days for the urticaria to revert after the spikes of the caterpillar break into the skin.
This is a species that’s commonly found in gardens. Handling plants and leaves with bare hands increases the risk of a sting, especially since this green-backed caterpillar may not always be easy to spot.
23. Puss Caterpillar
Some caterpillars, while friendly-looking, can actually be quite dangerous.
This is also the case with Puss Caterpillars (Megalopyge opercularis), known for their fuzzy appearance.
Caterpillars of the species have fur-like spines connected to venom glands. This is why they can trigger mild to severe adverse reactions when in contact with the skin.
Skin irritation and sharp pain are among the first reactions to its sting. Some of the more adverse reactions of the species include nausea and swollen skin.
All of these adverse reactions should be dealt with seriously and followed by a visit to the nearest hospital.
24. Io Moth Caterpillar
Io Moth Caterpillars (Automeris io) are known for causing erucism. This is a term used to describe envenomation by caterpillars.
Its hairy spines are the ones triggering the skin-level reaction.
Unlike most bugs in Florida which need to bite, simply touching the spines of Io Moth Caterpillars can trigger these allergic-like reactions.
Loaded with toxins, the spines of these caterpillars are among the most irritating among all North American caterpillars.
Skin-level dermatitis caused by Io Moth Caterpillars typically goes away on its own, without any specific medical treatments.
25. Hag Moth Caterpillar
The varying reactions to touching this type of caterpillar (Phobetron pithecium) even trigger a fierce debate on its status.
Some people show skin-level irritation simply when touching the hairy Hag Moth Caterpillar while others show no reactions at all.
Those that say the hairy spines on the caterpillar trigger reactions typically complain about mild pain, stinging, and even burning sensations.
Red skin is also a more common symptom but all of these are rare reactions.
The spiny appearance of the caterpillar is also an adaptation to keep predators away and a sign the caterpillar doesn’t want to interact.
26. Blister Beetles
Feeding on various flowers, Blister Beetles can cause skin blisters.
Bugs of the species secrete a type of chemical that causes skin blisters. The chemical is released when the bug is under threat.
One or multiple skin blisters can occur simply when touching or when in contact with the species.
There’s a total of 26 Blister Beetle species in Florida. These types of bugs don’t sting or bite as they cause blisters by touch.
All of the Blister Beetles of Florida are found along the coast.
27. Kissing Bugs
Cone-shaped Kissing Bugs are a common sight in Florida, as well as in other Southern States.
These types of bugs can sting as they feed on blood from an animal host.
Dealing with Kissing Bugs indoors is often mandatory for homes with pets and other animals around, such as rodents.
Bites of these bugs are typically painless. Many people don’t even know they have a problem with biting Kissing Bugs until they notice blood on the sheets.
Some of the most common areas these bugs are found in around the house include the bed itself and the area around the bed.
Even the name of the species is inspired by their tendency to bite humans around the mouth, as they guide themselves by breath.
28. Wheel Bugs
Wheel Bugs are types of assassin bugs found across Florida. Multiple sightings of gray and black Wheel Bugs have been documented here.
This is a type of predator that often goes for prey larger than itself which includes caterpillars.
While Wheel Bugs may also be seen as beneficial as they control bug outbreaks, they can also sting when handled or disturbed.
Wheel Bugs stings aren’t something to overlook either. Many of those stung by the bug report pain levels as high or even higher than the pain of wasps or bee stings.
It’s also the mild venom of the species which may lead to skin inflammation.
While of no particular threat to humans, the venom of Wheel Bugs is sufficiently-potent to paralyze insects and other types of prey of these bugs.
Simply staying away from these bugs is recommended.
There are no particular management techniques to consider either, especially since Wheel Bugs are beneficial creatures to the ecosystem and to plants and legumes in the garden.