St. Charles Herald-Guide

DANGER BUGS of St. Charles Parish

By Jennifer Nall - November 8, 2006

BOUTTE - Centipedes can send you to the hospital with their sting and so, too, can the buck moth. But the intense pain associated with their attacks is a walk in the park compared to the bite of a brown recluse spider - that little guy can kill you.

And those are just three of the "danger bugs" that you can stumble on in a closet, under a rock - even hiding in an old shoe or under a stack of magazines or newspapers under a kitchen sink.

There are at least seven more that can cause you a world of trouble right here in St. Charles Parish simply because you poked your hand or foot in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Most of the bites by caterpillars and spiders are due to accidental encounters," Rene Schmit of the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, told the Herald-Guide exclusively.

"That's why you have to be careful when you go sticking your hands or toes in places where they might be hiding. All of the insects, whether you are bitten or stung, lash out as a result of a defense mechanism. These bugs aren't attacking you for the fun of it. They're trying to stay alive."

Here, from Schmit, are the 10 most dangerous creepy-crawlies in the parish, followed by the damage they can do to you if they sting or bite.

He also runs down a few "good-guy" bugs that are so beneficial to humans that it's safe to say we couldn't live without them.

1, 2. Stinging caterpillars such the saddleback and buck moth are two critters to be wary of. The saddleback caterpillar is slug-like and sports a brown spot in the middle of a green, saddle-shaped marking on its back.

The buck moth caterpillar is black with a red head and features small, round white spots all over its body.

Most of the caterpillars can be found in trees such as oak, rose, willow and in other plants.

These caterpillars produce a burning and itching sting when touched. The spines puncture the skin allowing the venom to enter. As a result, the area where affected will become red, swollen and will cause one to itch.

3. Centipedes are plentiful and they are usually found under rocks and in cracks and crevices. This segmented, elongated creature looks like a worm with hundreds of legs, and its bite causes immediate pain with redness, swelling, burning to the affected area.

4. Wheel bugs are rough customers, too. They are gray and have a small, narrow head. Wheel bugs are generally found in garden areas and their bites are identified by immediate intense pain.

5., 6. Two spiders to be on the look out for are the black widow and the brown recluse. The black widow can be found in every state but Alaska. They are usually found in an irregular shaped web near the ground. A bite from this spider will leave a pinprick sensation which will cause a numbing pain. Two red puncture marks will be at the site of the bite. Severe muscle pains and spasms will occur. A bite from a black widow spider can lead to death if untreated.

The brown recluse spider is medium sized and its color ranges from yellow tan to dark brown. There is very little immediate pain, but between two to eight hours after bitten, mild pain with redness around the area of the bite will occur. One should seek immediate medical attention if bitten by a brown recluse.

7., 8., 9. The velvet ant, hornet and yellow jacket pose a danger because of their stinging, which can kill sensitive individuals by causing them to go into shock. The velvet ant is wingless and ant-like in appearance, which is how it gets its name. These insects are covered in a bright red, orange or yellow "velvety" coat.

The hornet and yellow jacket are well known for their stings and bites. Immediate pain and intense swelling can occur when a person is stung. Reactions can vary from mild to severe.

"You can take steps to protect yourself from these dangerous bugs and keep them from setting up shop in your home or yard," Schmit told the Herald-Guide.

"First and foremost, you should remove old, decaying materials that maintain a damp, wet climate. That's the single most effective thing you can do to keep them at bay."

If you are bitten by a danger bug, don't try to "act brave" or "be a hero," says Schmit. Call your doctor or get to an emergency room for treatment without delay.

Here are the good guys

WHILE danger bugs are sending people to the hospital or worse with their stings and bites, St. Charles Parish's "good-guy bugs" are working double overtime to make our part of the world a safer and more pleasant place to live by pollinating flowers and producing food or killing dangerous bugs before they can hurt a human.

Here, from LSU ag-agent Schmit, are four of them

1. Walking sticks.

2. Ladybugs.

3. Assassin bugs.

4. Honeybees.

"The reason that they are called ‘good bugs’ is that they are beneficial insects to society. They eat harmful bugs," Schmit says.


DANGER BUGS of St. Charles Parish