Insects are perhaps the epitome of the cliché “small but terrible.” Though they may not be the deadliest creatures in the animal kingdom, insects still cause many diseases and deaths each year. Insects are animals with segmented bodies that are supported by exoskeletons. Their bodies are composed of three segments, which include the head, thorax and abdomen. They are also equipped with six legs. Below are the top ten deadliest insects, their weapons, and how they can inflict harm on humans.
Top 10: Locusts
The plague of locusts was the eighth plague inflicted upon Egypt as depicted in the Bible. The locusts came in bands, and they had scorpion tails and human faces.
Destroying and turning everything into pieces and ashes along their way, locusts are known to put both crops and human lives in danger.
Deadly weapon: Locusts do not come one by one; they swarm. Their appetite for plants is known to be deadly and they leave farmlands barren and devastated.
Why they are deadly: These insects belong to a sub-family of grasshoppers. They are deadly mostly to plants like crops. When they invade farmlands, they can strip bare that piece of land and claim all the crops. This then becomes deadly for humans as it indirectly contributes to starvation.
Top 9: Hemiptera or Kissing Bugs
Not all kisses are sweet. Also known as “kissing bugs,” the Hemiptera group of insects can give stinging bites that cause diseases. They are called true bugs and they can be a millimetre to over 10 centimetres in size. Examples are aphids, cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, and shield bugs.
Deadly weapon: These deadly bugs are equipped with sucking mouthparts in which the maxillae and mandibles have evolved into proboscis that can pierce tissues like plant tissues and suck the liquid out of them, or feed on the blood of animals.
Why they are deadly: They cause Chagas disease. The early stage of the disease is characterized by local swelling in the infected area; however, as the disease worsens, serious chronic symptoms like heart disease and intestines malformation appear. Drug treatments for this are usually ineffective and highly toxic. If left untreated, you can die.
Top 8: Tsetse Fly
They are sometimes mistaken as houseflies. These large biting flies from Africa can actually be distinguished from the common housefly through two easily-observable features. When they are resting, they can fold their wings completely. They also have a long proboscis that can extend directly forward. It is attached to the bottom of their heads by a distinct bulb.
Deadly weapon: Tsetse flies transmit diseases through their proboscis. These blood-sucking insects bite their victims and pass trypanosomiasis to them.
Why they are deadly: These deadly insects feed on the blood of vertebrates and transmit trypanosomiasis, a kind of sleeping sickness in people that usually starts with symptoms of fever, joint pains, and headaches. This deadly disease claims 250 to 300 lives each year.
Top 7: Wasps
Wasps can be solitary or social insects. Solitary wasps live and work with their group alone. All of the adult solitary wasps are fertile. Social wasps have colonies. The queen and male wasps of these colonies are the only ones allowed to mate.
Deadly weapon: Wasps inflict damage with their stingers or what is also called ovipositor. These are usually present in females as they are derived from the female sex organ or ovipositors. Almost every sub-species of wasps have its own pest or parasite to prey upon. These deadly insects do not usually sting humans unless their territories are being threatened.
Why they are deadly: When you are stung by a wasp, you can expect the often allergic sting to cause you great damage. Many victims go into anaphylactic shock and eventually die because of a single sting.
Top 6: Fire Ants
Fire ants, also known as red ants, usually nest in soil and near moist areas. Have you ever felt the sensation of being burned by fire? Well, all hell breaks loose when you are stung by these mischievous insects.
Deadly weapon: Fire ants usually attack plants and smaller insects like crickets; however, when bothered, they can go after you. Their main weapon is their sting which contains poisonous venom. A couple of stings can still be treated, but when they swarm, it’s a very different situation. They bite to get a grip and then inject a toxic substance through their sting.
Why they are deadly: Venom can cause great pain as well as bumps. These then form into white pustules, which can become infected and turn into scars. People who are allergic to the venom can experience anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening, at times.
Top 5: Siafu or African Ants
People who have lived in Africa have many tales about these groups of creatures that swipe everything off their way. More notoriously known as safari ants, pinching ants or “siafu” in Swahili, these deadly insects attack in columns that are around 12 inches wide and 200 feet long.
Deadly weapon: African ants possess huge pinchers. When they attack a home, they just swarm all over the place. Every moving thing inside the house ends up being eaten. Mice, spiders, scorpions and other insects can also end up being eaten completely by these deadly creatures. They also do not spare dogs and cats that are in sight.
Why they are deadly: Usually, when African ants attack you, they don’t bite at once. They first slowly climb up inside your clothes, and you don’t feel them. When you are least aware, they will all start biting instantly. Using their large pinchers, they will hold on to you and will not let go. Often, you will need to strip your clothes and have other people remove the ants from you one by one. Elderly or very young people who are suddenly attacked usually experience asphyxiation. Around 20-50 people die from African ant attacks each year.
Top 4: Bees
Bees are usually thought of as busy animals that are protective of their territories. Normal solitary bees do not sting humans just because they want or need to, as they will die once the act is done.
Some bees will attack at the slightest provocation, while some will only sting when they perceive that their hive is being threatened.
Deadly weapon: Bees are equipped with deadly stingers. A stinger is a sharp and hollow component located in a bee’s abdomen that is used to inject poison into the victim.
Why they are deadly: The sting can cause pain and swelling. The first thing you must do if you are stung is to remove the barbed stinger. It can be painful for a few hours and the itching and swelling can last for a week. Some people may even experience anaphylactic shock due to some proteins in the venom. This condition can be fatal and requires immediate emergency treatment.
Top 3: Fleas
Fleas are small wingless insects that thrive as external parasites in mammals and birds. They are dark, laterally compressed or flattened side to side and are adept at jumping vertically. Their diet consists solely of blood.
Deadly weapon: Just like other deadly insects, fleas are equipped with tube-like mouthparts that they use to feed on the blood of their hosts. This is supported by their flattened bodies that allow them to move easily through hairs and feathers on the hosts’ bodies. Fleas also have many hairs and short spines that are directed backwards to allow smooth entry through the hair of the hosts.
Why they are deadly: Fleas can cause the spread of Bubonic plague from rat hosts to humans. As fleas feed on warm-blooded vertebrates, animals can be infected quickly. If you are bitten, you can develop wounds that swell into a pustule and cause allergic reactions. Fleas become deadly when infections spread.
Top 2: Anopheles Mosquito
Mosquito bites are irritating especially when you are not at first aware that you are under attack. Today, there are several mosquito repellents sold on the market; however, you can’t be sure all the time that they work. You have to be sure that you are protected, especially from disease carriers like the anopheles mosquito.
Deadly weapon: Female mosquitoes have special body equipment that can penetrate the victim’s skin. At the end of their slender proboscis are two pairs of cutting styles. They slide against one another in order to slice through the human skin. Upon entering the skin, the proboscis looks for tiny blood vessels. They may pull back and strike at another angle if they can’t find vessels. If successful, there is a tube inside that injects saliva and another one that can withdraw blood.
Why they are deadly: Anopheles mosquitoes are carriers of blood-borne diseases like malaria. These parasites thrive and multiply on your red blood cells and cause symptoms similar to those of anaemia like nausea, flu, fever, and chills. In worse cases, this disease may cause coma and death.
Top 1: Giant Japanese or Asian Hornet
The giant Japanese or Asian hornet is a persistent hunter of larger insects like bees and praying mantises. These deadly insects also attack honey bee hives and take the honey bee larvae.
Deadly weapon: When they sting, they kill. A giant Japanese or Asian hornet has a sting that can measure up to six millimetres in length. It can inject eight types of chemicals that can cause pain and tissue damage. Worse, the venom emits a certain odour that can attract more hornets to a potential victim. Another deadly weapon is the hornet’s crushing mandibles.
Why they are deadly: The venom of a giant hornet is more lethal and toxic than that of wasps or bees. In Japan, around 70 people die each year because of giant hornet stings. The hornet’s sting actually has a high concentration of the chemical Acetylcholine, which can cause pain. Also, it has an enzyme in its venom that can dissolve human tissue. These chemicals can also attract other insects to you. A giant hornet can also sting repeatedly.
You can prevent direct contact with these deadliest insects by taking precautions especially when you are travelling to countries or places that may be infested with these killers. You can also use insect repellents, wear protective clothing, and keep your surroundings clean.
Do you know of any other dangerous insects that should have made this list? If you do why not let us know in the comments below.