Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

There are a wide variety of bugs that exist in nature. Some bugs are helpful, other are harmful, and some are just plain nuisances. Attempts to get rid of some parasitic insects have been unsuccessful due to their ability to adapt. Certain insect populations, in particular those in urban areas, have developed gene mutations in their nerve cells that have allowed them to become immune to insecticides.

There are a number of bugs that feed on humans, particularly our blood and our skin

of 07


A mosquito feeding on a human
This mosquito is feeding on a human. The species, Anopheles gambiae, is responsible for about 1 million deaths in southern Africa.

Tim Flach / Getty Images

Mosquitoes are insects in the Culicidae family. The females are notorious for sucking the blood of humans. Some species can transmit diseases including malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, and West Nile virus.

The word mosquito is derived from the Spanish and/or Portuguese words for a little fly. Mosquitoes have several interesting characteristics. They can find their prey by sight. They can detect infrared radiation emitted by their host as well as the host emission's of carbon dioxide and lactic acid. They can do so at distances of up to approximately 100 feet. As mentioned before, only females bite people. Substances in our blood are used to help the development of mosquito eggs. A typical female mosquito can drink at least her body weight in blood.

of 07

Bed Bugs

adult bed bug feeding on a human
This adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is feeding on human blood.

 Matt Meadows / Getty Images

Bed bugs are parasites in the Cimicid family. They get their name from their preferred abode: beds, bedding, or other similar areas where humans sleep. Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded organisms. Like mosquitoes, they are attracted to carbon dioxide. While we sleep, the carbon dioxide that we exhale pulls them out of their daytime hiding places.

While bed bugs were largely eradicated in the 1940s, there has been a resurgence since the 1990s. Scientist believe that the resurgence is likely due to the development of pesticide resistance. Bed bugs are resilient. They can enter a hibernation type state where they can go for approximately a year without feeding. This resiliency can makes them very hard to eradicate.

of 07


A cat flea full of human blood
This cat flea is full of human blood. Daniel Coopers/E+/Getty Images

Fleas are parasitic insects in the Siphonaptera order. They don't have wings and, like some other insects in this list, suck blood. Their saliva helps dissolve skin so that they can suck our blood more readily.

Relative to their small size, fleas are some of the best jumpers in the Animal kingdom—some leap distances over 100 times their length. Like bed bugs, fleas are resilient. A flea may stay in its cocoon for up to 6 months until it emerges after being stimulated by some type of touch.

of 07


Adult Female Wood Tick On Human Skin
Adult Female Wood Tick On Human Skin. S.J. Krasemann/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Ticks are bugs in the order Parasitiformes. They are in the Arachnida class so are related to spiders. They don't have wings or antennae. They embed themselves in your skin and can be quite difficult to remove. Ticks transmit a number of diseases including Lyme disease, Q fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and Colorado tick fever.

of 07


A female body louse
This female body louse is obtaining a blood-meal from a human host. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

Lice are wingless insects in the order Phthiraptera. The word lice is dreaded among parents with school-aged children. No parent wants their child to come home from school with a note from the teacher stating, "I'm sorry to inform you but we've had an outbreak of lice at our school..."

Head lice are typically found on the scalp, neck, and behind the ears. Lice can also invade pubic hair and are often referred to as "crabs." While lice typically feed on skin, they can also feed on blood and other skin secretions.

of 07


Dust Mites
Dust mites have an unsegmented, round bodies with mouth parts that are highly adapted to feeding on the dead scales of human skin found in household dust. CLOUDS HILL IMAGING LTD/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

Mites, like ticks, belong to the Arachnida class and are related to spiders. The common house dust mite feeds off of dead skin cells. Mites cause an infection known as scabies by laying their eggs under the top layer of skin. Like other arthropods, mites shed their exoskeleton. The exoskeletons that they shed can become airborne and when inhaled by those sensitive to it, can cause an allergic reaction.

of 07


A tsetse fly on a human
The tsetse fly transmits trypanosoma brucei parasites to humans, which cause African sleeping sickness.

 Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Flies are insects in the order Diptera. They typically have a pair of wings used for flight. Some species of flies are like mosquitoes and can feed on our blood and transmit disease.

Examples of these type of flies include the tsetse fly, deer fly, and the sandfly. The tsetse fly transmits trypanosoma brucei parasites to humans, which cause African sleeping sickness. Deer flies transmit bacteria and the bacterial disease tularemia, also known as rabbit fever. They also transmit the parasitic nematode Loa loa, also called eye worm. The sandfly can transmit cutaneous leischmaniasis, a disfiguring skin infection.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bailey, Regina. "Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Bailey, Regina. (2020, August 28). Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 25, 2021).