Things That Sting (and Bite!)

With pincers and needles (and sometimes really sharp teeth), nature seems purpose-built to attack us. Here are just a few of nature's things that sting.

Wasp Stinger

Venom dangles from the tip of a wasp's stinger. Yellowjacket wasps and the Mexican honey wasp have barbs so small that they do not cause the sting apparatus to pull free, so they may sting more than once.

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The Jellyfish

Jellyfish stings come from the long tentacles that trail the creatures in the water. All jellyfish sting their prey using nematocysts, stinging structures located in specialized cells exclusive to jellyfish and certain related parasites. When somethign (or someone) brushes near a jellyfish tentacle, millions of tiny nematocysts shoot out to pierce the skin and inject venom

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Wasp Stings a Fly

A sand wasp (Bembix oculata) removes body fluids from a fly after paralyzing it with a sting.

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2. Prevent Parasites_Deer Tick

Ticks live by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and even reptiles and amphibians. They are a prominent vector for diseases such as Lyme disease, Q fever, Colorado tick fever, and tularemia among others. Because of their small size, ticks can feast for days on a host, incognito.

The Bee

Bees are closely related to wasps and play an important role in pollination, producing honey and beeswax. Honey bees rarely sting when foraging for nectar but will actively attack if their hive is under threat. Usually when one bee attacks, it releases attack pheromones causing other nearby bees to join.

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The Red Velvet Mite

You're in luck: The red velvet mite won't attack you, and they're tiny little things -- almost cute! As larvae, they attach themselves to a variety of arthropods and feed parasitically. They will suck blood from a gnat or grasshopper, for instance, sometimes hitching a ride with several other mites.

The Ant

Nearly all ants, such as this black ant, either sting or bite. Fire ants are the most notorious variety of stinging ants, however, with over 280 species worldwide. The fire ant attack is two pronged: It uses its bite to get a strong grip on the victim before stinging (from the abdomen), injecting a toxic venom called solenopsin. The painful sting’s sensation is likened to being burned by fire, hence the name. 

The Stingray

Stingrays are named after their barbed stinger concealed within their tail (some species have two or more), which is used exclusively in self-defense. The stinger may reach a length of approximately 35 cm, and its underside has two grooves with venom glands. The stinger is covered with a thin layer of skin in which the venom is concentrated.

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The Centipede

Centipedes can be hazardous to humans because of their bite -- which can be extremely painful causing severe swelling, chills, and even fever. In small children, these bites can be fatal; larger centipedes can induce anaphylactic shock in people with allergies.

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The Deer Fly

Deer flies, commonly called horseflies, are notorious for their painful bites and are among the world’s largest flies. While other animals such as ticks and mosquitoes are discrete in their feeding, even numbing the area to make the process as painless and possible, horse flies are much more aggressive. Instead of needle-like organs, horse flies have tiny, serrated mandibles which they use to slice apart flesh. They are also liberal feeders so blood loss becomes a common problem for animals when the flies are abundant. 

The Scorpion

The scorpion has a fearsome reputation because of its venomous stinger with 25 species having venom powerful enough to kill a human. All scorpions possess venom, used primarily to kill or paralyze their prey. The venom of a scorpion is a mixture of compounds (neurotoxins, enzyme inhibitors, etc.) each causing a different effect.

The Platypus

Few people think about the unusual-looking platypus as being a stinger. Both male and female platypuses are born with ankle spurs, but only the male has produces a cocktail of venom three of which are unique to the animal. Although powerful enough to kill smaller animals such as dogs, the venom is not lethal to humans, but is so excruciating that the victim may be incapacitated.

The Mosquito

Mosquitoes -- those annoying blood suckers that leave you itchy all over. Not only irritating, mosquitoes have the potential to spread deadly disease-causing viruses and parasites from person to person, with exotic names like yellow fever, dengue fever, and malaria. More recently, they’ve been prominent in the spread of West Nile in the U.S.

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A Detached Stinger

It’s a partial myth that bees can only attack once. Their stingers are barbed and designed for inter-bee combat. Only when it pierces the skin of a mammal does the stinger tear off from the bee’s abdomen, leading to death within minutes. Pictured here is the stinger of a black honey bee torn from the bee’s body and attached to a protective dressing.

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The Mosquito

Mosquitoes are the very definition of pest. Many scientists believe that eradicating mosquitoes completely would have little effect on any ecosystems.

The Biting Midge

Midges include many kinds of very small two-winged flies and can be serious biting pests -- with the potential to spread livestock diseases like Blue Tongue and African Horse Sickness. This biting midge is feeding on blood through an artificial membrane for insect rearing.

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Things That Sting (and Bite!)

With pincers and needles (and sometimes really sharp teeth), nature seems purpose-built to attack us. Here are just a few of nature's things that sting.

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