KIDS: The Pests of Summer

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Bees store their venom in a sac attached to their stinger and only female bees sting. Some kinds of bees die after stinging because their stingers attached to their abdomen (belly), have little barbs or hooks on them. When this type of bee tries to fly away after stinging something, part of the abdomen is ripped away and they die.

Bees are important pollinators. This means that when they gather the nectar from flowers and plants, their fuzzy bodies pick up pollen and then when they land on another plant or flower the pollen is spread. This helps flowers and plants bloom and grow!
First Aid:  Move to a safe area to avoid more stings. Remove the stinger, especially if it's stuck in your skin. This will prevent the release of more venom. Wash area with soap and water. Apply a cold pack or cloth filled with ice to reduce pain and swelling. Some people use a paste made of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water directly on the bite.

Photo by Joaquim Alves Gaspar, Lisboa, Portugal
ďOuch! A mosquito bit me!Ē

You may say this lot in the summer but itís not really true. Mosquitoes donít bite; they actually pierce our skin with their "proboscis" and suck our blood. Female mosquitoes feed on plant nectar and blood. Male mosquitoes feed on plant nectar only. Mosquitoes are busiest at night and will fly up to 14 miles for a blood meal. There are about 170 different kinds of mosquitoes in North America!

You can use bug spray containing DEET on exposed skin anytime youíre around mosquitoes if a grown-up says itís okay. DEET doesnít kill the mosquitoes, it just confuses them and they look somewhere else for food besides you!

 An anti-itch cream or spray can help lessen the itch a little.

Photo by Scott Bauer. (USDA ARS)

There are about 200 kinds of ticks in the USA. Some are tiny like a speck of pepper and others are larger. They live in tall grass or shrubs. They do not jump or fly, although they may drop from their perch and fall onto a host. Some species of ticks will follow a host by foot until they can climb on! Like mosquitoes, ticks suck blood from animals and sometimes people. Yuk!
When you come in from outdoors you should check yourself for ticks or ask a grown-up to help you. They love to hide behind your ears, under your arms and on the back of your knees. If you get a rash from a tick bite, you may need to see a doctor and get some medicine. Some tick bites can make you sick.

Photo by Luc Viatour

If you play outside in the woods or an open field, you may have gotten chiggers around your waistband or on your ankles under your sock line. They leave red, itchy bumps on your skin.
Chiggers are the larvae of mites, commonly called harvest mites or scrub mites. They feed mostly on plant life and don't bother people or other mammals, but when they are in the larval stage, many of the species are parasitic and can spring onto a passing animal. When it finds an animal, it attaches to the animal to gather the protein it needs to grow into the nymph stage.

Chiggers do not burrow under your skin, as many people believe and they donít feed on blood. They feed on the fluids in the cells of your skin. After attaching themselves to your skin they inject a digestive enzyme and that ruptures (breaks) the cell. The enzyme hardens the skin tissue and that causes the itchy red bump that you want to scratch for a couple of days. Chiggers are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Being almost invisible is why so many people think chiggers burrow under the skin.

Some people say a remedy for chigger bites is to apply nail polish to make them itch less. The nail polish seals the area off from the air to keep it from itching so badly. Other people use an anti-itch cream.


{Picture of a Horse Fly}
Photo by Dennis Ray
Horseflies are among the world's largest true flies. Adult horse flies feed on nectar and sometimes pollen. Females need a blood meal. The bite from a large horsefly is painful. They kind of rip or slice flesh apart.
After biting you, the horsefly tries to escape before you feel the pain. They are hoping you will be busy trying to stop the pain and not swatting them! The bites may become itchy, sometimes causing a large swelling.
Putting an ice pack on the bite area helps to reduce the pain and swelling.


Jellyfish are made up of 95 percent water. The largest jellyfish called a Box Jellyfish can grow to 6 feet in diameter with tentacles measuring about 100 feet length. The little clear ones we see in the ocean waters of Connecticut are often Moon Jellies. I think they look like Jell-O Jigglers!
Jellyfish are carnivores and with their venom sting and paralyze their meal. They eat small marine organisms, zooplanktons, comb jellies, crustaceans and at times, other jellyfish.
Sun fish, sea turtles, spade fish and larger marine organisms eat Jellyfish! Some people in other countries also eat jellyfish but they have to be prepared a very special way so no venom harms them. I think Iíd rather eat cherry flavored Jell-O Jigglers donít you?
Anyone who accidentally comes too close to the venomous tentacles may get stung by a jellyfish.
Most stings are minor and can be treated at home. You can spray or pour vinegar over the area that is stinging or put an ice pack on the area. Scraping off the tentacles with the edge of a credit card or something similar will help. Rolling in the sand or rinsing with fresh water only makes it hurt more!
IMPORTANT FIRST AID NOTE: Severe or allergic reactions may progress rapidly with any bite or sting. Call 911 or emergency medical assistance if the following signs or symptoms occur:  Difficulty breathing, Swelling of the lips or throat, Faintness, Dizziness, Confusion, Rapid heartbeat, Hives, Nausea, cramps and vomiting.
POLLINATOR - An insect that carries pollen from one flower or plant to the another.
PROBOSCIS - Not really a nose as you might think, but the mouth parts of insects that are used to either pierce or suck and make that ouchy or itchy spot!
NYMPH - A young form of some insects that can't fly yet.
Night of the Moon Jellies by Mark Sasha
Insect Invaders (Magic School Bus Chapter Book Series) by Anne Capeci
Bees - TIME (Magazine) for Kids Series
{Picture of Ranger Kirsten}
You may ask Ranger Kirsten a nature question through her email
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Content Last Modified on 7/19/2011 7:43:59 AM