If you’re looking to take the “sting” out of this season, you’ve come to the right place! Many potentially dangerous stinging insects thrive in the warmer weather of spring and summer. And unfortunately, the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) area sees more than its fair share of stinging insects. Yes, we’ve got wasps, scorpions, bees, and even some caterpillars that are all ready and able to sting away!
Knowing what stinging insects to be aware of can help you prepare and protect yourself and your family from danger. After all, stinging insects primarily sting in defense, so why shouldn’t we use knowledge to defend ourselves? Continue to our list of the most common stinging insects in DFW so you and your loved ones know what to look out for.
Are stinging insects dangerous?
They absolutely can be. The venoms injected by stinging insects can cause anything from mild skin irritations to deadly allergic reactions. The severity of responses depends on both the insect species and on a person’s individual body chemistry. We can’t expect two different people to react the same to an insect sting.
Avoiding stinging insects is paramount to protecting our health and safety. And if you or someone you know experiences an insect sting, carefully monitor the area of the sting and the overall behavior of the victim for any signs of a dangerous allergic reaction. Seek medical help immediately if you suspect someone is suffering an allergic reaction to an insect sting.
The most common stinging insects of DFW
Yellowjackets are an all too common sting in the DFW area. In fact, yellowjackets are considered the most frequent cause of stinging insect allergies in North America. These insects are generally ½-¾ of an inch long, have a distinctive thin waist, and display well-defined yellow and black patterns.
These highly hostile insects are scavenger-type feeders, so they often invade picnics and outdoor parties where food and drink are exposed.
Yellowjackets are social insects that typically build their nests underground in areas like gardens or pastures. However, they are also known to create aerial nests in spaces with voids such as hollow trees, playground equipment, garages, sheds, or structural voids like crawl spaces or house eaves. They cover their nests with a papery shell that exposes only one opening near the base.
Yellowjackets are considered quite aggressive and swarm when they feel their nest is endangered. However, these stinging insects will also attack even when they haven’t been disturbed. It is crucial to be very cautious if there are any signs of these dangerous insects, as they sting multiple times, causing painful welts.
Paper wasps are one of the most commonly encountered stinging insects around homes and buildings in North Texas. These wasps are about ¾-1 inch in length and have reddish/brown bodies, often with yellow patterns. They greatly resemble yellow jackets, and the two are often confused. These stinging insects differ primarily in behavior, including their nesting style.
Where yellow jackets tend to build their nests underground, the nests of paper wasps are aerial. The paper wasp nest has the appearance of an enlarged honeycomb hanging like an upside-down umbrella.
These nests can house dozens of paper wasps and are often found in open yet protected structures such as building eaves, windows, playground equipment, sheds, barns, and garages. They scrape wood from these structures, using the wood fiber to construct their nests.
Where yellow jackets are considered highly aggressive, paper wasps are generally docile and avoid humans. And although these insects can sting multiple times, they usually only sting when their nest is disturbed, making them less of a concern than their fierce yellow jacket cousins.
The sting of a hornet is notoriously painful, so it’s pretty lucky for us that the bald-faced hornet is the only type of hornet found in Texas. The fewer hornet stings going around, the better! The bald-faced hornet is about ¾-1 inch long, with white patterns visible on the body.
Technically speaking, the bald-faced hornet is actually a type of yellow jacket – but we won’t hold that against them.
Truth is, the bald-faced hornet is far less likely to attack than yellow jackets or even paper wasps.
These hornets are less likely to attack people due to their preferred nesting region, which is much higher than other stinging insects. Hornet nests are often found in remote locations and high up in trees, making human interaction much less likely.
Their nests are similar in appearance to the yellow jacket nest. They are covered in a papery substance and have only one opening near the base.
Mud daubers and their muddy nests are a widespread homeowner nuisance. These stinging insects are usually about ¾-1 inch in length and vary in color. Some are black with yellow markings, and some are iridescent blue-black in color.
They are solitary wasps, so each of their small, tube-like nests house only one wasp. These nests are frequently found in garages, attics, crawl spaces, and under eaves.
Mud daubers don’t frequently sting people and are mainly a threat to small insects like spiders, which they feed to their young. Even though it’s rare to be stung by one, mud daubers are still considered bothersome pests due to the unsightly nests they leave clinging all over homes.
The formidable cicada killer is one of the largest wasp species, ranking in at about 1½ inches. Certainly sizable enough to take on a cicada – and we are grateful to them for doing just that! Cicada killers will hunt down cicadas, stun them, take them into their underground nests, and lay their eggs on them. Eventually, their young will hatch and feed on the cicada carcass…yikes!
The upper torso of a cicada killer is reddish-brown, and their lower half is typically black with yellow patterns. The presence of these insects is generally considered beneficial and rarely warrants any alarm. The males of the species will charge anyone who dares approach, but there’s no great cause for concern as they cannot sting.
And although the sting of a female cicada killer is known to be quite painful, they only attack when their underground nests are disturbed. The nests, however, can be something of a nuisance as they often cause damage to lawns and gardens.
Often confused with bumblebees, the carpenter bee is a solitary stinging insect commonly found in DFW. Carpenter bees are about ¾-1 inch in length. They have a nearly hairless, black lower torso (as opposed to the yellow fuzz-covered torso of bumblebees).
These insects bear the name “carpenter” for a good reason – they nest in wood. They are actually known to cause structural wood damage at times.
Carpenter bees will commonly nest by “drilling” into the weathered or decaying wood of fences, woodpiles, hollow trees, under eaves, decks, and other structural lumber. These stinging insects are effective pollinators and are solitary insects with only one bee to a nest.
Carpenter bees spend winter hiding out in their nests and tend to be most active during the spring as they mate and build new nests. During this time, males act aggressively towards invaders of their space, but it’s just for show as they have no stingers. The females of the species can pack a painful sting, but they only attack when threatened.
Africanized Honey Bees (“killer bees”)
Horror stories of “killer bees” terrorizing people and animals in America have become all too common these days. Living in Texas since 1990, Africanized honey bees pose a serious risk to people, pets, and livestock. They are surprisingly efficient pollinators, much like their gentle relation to the honey bee.
The Africanized bee is also very similar in appearance to the honey bee. However, unlike the docile honey bee, these stinging insects are highly aggressive. They have no issue attacking anything they encounter and are known to swarm in great numbers covering their victims in multiple, painful stings.
Africanized honey bees are prevalent through most of Texas and nest mainly in natural and structural voids. “Killer bee” nests are commonly found in hollow trees, stumps, under building eaves, water meters, and on any available outdoor equipment.
They may also build exposed honeycomb-type aerial nests that can be seen in trees and other sheltered outdoor areas.
The Africanized honey bee is considered to be very dangerous. If you suspect there may be “killer bees” or one of their nests near you – avoid the area, warn others, and immediately contact a local pest control company.
Although you may find yourself surprised to see ants on this list, the fact is – ants don’t actually “bite”…they sting! When warmer weather arrives in North Texas, the ants march in along with it.
Red imported fire ants are red and black colored ants about 1/16-¼ of an inch in length. These ants build mounds in soft soil and will swarm and attack aggressively when their nests are disturbed.
They can quickly cause unpleasant “bites,” leaving behind white pustules, and can even cause severe allergic reactions in some people.
Velvet ants are actually wasps that are named for the orange or brown fuzz that covers their bodies. Although the males of this species have wings, the females are wingless and look like furry ants. These insects nest in dry outdoor areas, and most people encounter them when stepping too near their homes.
Always be sure to be extra cautious and avoid the area if you spot velvet ants. You will definitely regret attempting to handle any of these fuzzy little “ants” as their sting is known to be more painful than even a bee sting.
Scorpions are lean, mean, stinging machines, and (unfortunately for us) these stinging arachnids are prevalent throughout Texas. The most common scorpion species found in Texas is the striped bark scorpion.
They are about 2 ½ inches long with yellow/brown bodies that feature dark stripes. The body of a scorpion is flat, making hiding in and under objects very easy for them. They will also commonly burrow in the soil.
These insects are well-equipped to defend themselves. One end of this fierce insect contains pinching pincers, and the other even less friendly end features a tail topped with a venom-filled stinger.
They use their bodily weapons to attack and feed on their insect prey and defend themselves against any intruder that may disturb them.
The sting of a scorpion can be extremely painful and, in some cases, deadly. Fortunately, most Texas scorpions contain less dangerous venom that will typically only cause moderate reactions in humans.
However, be aware that sting reactions can still be very severe depending on an individual’s response and the possibility of allergic reactions.
Puss Moth Caterpillar (Asps)
Unfortunately, there is no shortage on the list of creatures that can sting in the DFW area! In addition to wasps and scorpions and the like, we must also be cautious of some caterpillars.
Asps, or the puss moth caterpillar, are fuzzy, white/grey creatures about 1 inch long. Along their backs are shorter spines that dispense venom on contact. When these venomous hairs touch bare skin, they stick and produce a burning, painful rash or welt.
Asps are prevalent in North Texas and are commonly found in shade trees and shrubbery. Always check a shrub or tree for asps before touching it.
Year-round protection from stinging insects with Gecko Green
Do you want to protect your home and family from stinging insects? Let Gecko Green fortify your home with our complete Preventative Pest Control Program created for DFW. We completely secure both the inside and the outside of your home, giving you total protection against a wide range of pests.
We’ll not only prevent stinging insects from entering, but we’ll also eliminate any pests that have already established a presence within or around your home!
Our expert services include a thorough inspection of your home and property and a long-lasting perimeter barrier to deter and eliminate pests. We’ll also dust cracks and weep holes as well as stuffing weep holes with copper mesh. We cover anywhere and everywhere that pests can hide.
We take care of sweeping eaves, windows, and doors to remove spider webs and the removal/treatment of wasp nests on the first floor of your home. Our services continue with a quarterly service outside your home to identify and manage conditions, avenues, and sources to prevent pest entry and infestation.
Take the “sting” out of this season by calling Gecko Green today!