Some of us might be able to camp in the middle of the woods with ease, identifying all manner of creatures and critters. Others may not understand which ones they encounter in the middle of the woods are venomous and should be avoided. There are a few obvious insects, wasps, bees, fire ants, black widow, and wolf spiders—but what about the rest? We'll give you a quick run-down on how to identify venomous insects.

What Makes an Insect Deadly?

Insects as a whole can be placed in two categories. One where a single bug can produce something so painful or so lethal as that one bite or sting from them could be lethal to you. Most of these insects do not occur in North America, but a few occur in South America.

The other category is insects that produce a painful toxin that, alone, maybe a mild annoyance. But when these insects attack as a group, they turn deadly. In that aspect, we in North America have a few we need to be able to identify to avoid.

Cow Killer Ants

The cow killer ant or eastern velvet is a wasp and not an ant. The reason behind the name however is that it moves and looks like an ant. A sting from a cow killer ant can cause severe allergic reactions. Primarily found in the southeastern United States in wooded, grassy areas. Roughly 1 inch long, it has a hair or fuzzy appearance that is black, white, orange, or red and the pattern is described as varied or striped.

Fire Ants

You can identify a fire ant by its dull red body coloration that ranges from reddish-brown to reddish-black. Fire ants, if looked at close enough, also have a stinger. Both the bite and the stinger can deliver a sting that gave them their name.

Asian Giant Hornet

The key identifying features of an Asian hornet features a body that is generally dark in color such as black and dark brown with a rear that has a distinct yellow-mustard band. Asian giant hornet's waists are marked with a fine bright yellow 'belt,' with legs that feature bright yellow tips darkening to black or brown toward the body. It is a highly aggressive, invasive species and like bees, can be found around flowers and healthy vegetation.

Brown Recluse

The first thing to recognize is that a brown recluse spider has a dirt brown or sandy brown body with slightly darker markings at its center. The legs are a lighter brown and completely uniform in the brown shade with no additional markings on the legs. One of the most identifying features is a violin-like shape on its head or cephalothorax, though it may not be as clearly defined in a darker brown. Brown recluse spiders also only have six eyes, not eight.

We hope that we've helped you learn how to identify venomous insects more common to North America, and in turn, helped keep your next outdoor trek safer!

TDM Developer