Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

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Bailey, Regina. "Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans." ThoughtCo, Mar. 31, 2017, thoughtco.com/top-bugs-that-feed-on-humans-373908. Bailey, Regina. (2017, March 31). Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-bugs-that-feed-on-humans-373908 Bailey, Regina. "Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-bugs-that-feed-on-humans-373908 (accessed October 17, 2017).
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Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

This is a scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the head of a bedbug. Its stylet, a piercing mouthpiece, is used to suck blood from warm-blood animals, including humans. STEVE GSCHMEISSNER/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

There are a wide variety of bugs that exist in nature. Some bugs are helpful, other bugs 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. Let's examine the top seven bugs that feed on humans.

  1. Mosquitoes
    Mosquitoes are notorious for sucking the blood of humans. Some species can transmit diseases including malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, and West Nile virus.
  2. Bed Bugs

    Bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded organisms.
  3. Fleas

    Fleas are resilient, parasitic insects that are especially adept at sucking blood.
  4. Ticks

    Ticks embed themselves in our skin and can transmit a number of diseases including Lyme disease.
  5. Lice
    Lice don't transmit disease, but they are contagious. These bugs feed on your blood and skin.
  6. Mites

    These extremely small bugs live on hair follicles and can cause an allergic reaction when inhaled.
  7. Flies

    Biting flies feed on blood and can cause painful bumps that develop from their bite. These bugs also transmit disease.
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Mosquitoes

This mosquito is feeding on a human. The species, Anopheles gambiae, is responsible for about 1 million deaths in southern Africa. Tim Flach/Stone//Getty Images

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

1. Mosquitoes

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 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 host emission 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.

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Bed Bugs

This adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is feeding on human blood. Matt Meadows/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

2. Bed Bugs

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.

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Fleas

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

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

3. Fleas

Fleas are parasitic insects in the Siphonaptera order. They don't have wings and as with 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. 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.

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Ticks

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

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

4. Ticks

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 our 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.

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Lice

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

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

5. Lice

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.

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Mites

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

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

6. Mites

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.

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Flies

The tsetse fly transmits trypanosoma brucei parasites to humans, which cause African sleeping sickness. Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Top 7 Bugs That Feed on Humans

7. Flies

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.