10 Insects to Watch Out For in the Summer

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 11

Summer is a great time to get your exercise outdoors. But the reality is that it increases your chances of coming into contact with pests that can temper your enthusiam for spending a lot of time outside. In fact, an attack by some insects can be painful – and in some cases, life-threatening.  So it's wise to learn some things about the insects out there and how to avoid trouble with them.

Yellow jackets

These insects are more likely to sting you in the late summer and fall when their natural food source (other insects) is not readily available.  Yellow jackets can be especially aggressive and will deliver the most stings. And they often show up at outdoor meals and hang around trash cans looking for food.

Bald-faced hornets

The bald-faced hornet is related to the yellow jacket and lives in a colony containing between 100 and 400 other hornets. They usually appear in late summer. This insect will attack anyone that invades its space and can sting repeatedly. Their venom can cause the sting to hurt, itch and swell for about 24 hours.


Honey bees are not aggressive and only attack when they feel threatened. They can sting only once before dying. But the Africanized “killer” bees (which look like honey bees) are aggressive, especially when defending their colony and can chase people for a quarter of a mile. Bumblebees, meanwhile, will sting to defend their nests and have been known to chase people a significant distance. They also can sting multiple times.


Paper wasps, which consume nectar and feed insects to the larvae in their papery umbrella-shaped nests, normally don’t attack unless they are provoked. Velvet ants, also called cow killer ants, are a type of wasp. They are normally seen running erratically on the ground during the summer. Female velvet ants have a potent sting.


European hornets (also known as giant hornets) are much larger than yellow jackets and are active at night. Hornets can sting repeatedly and they have venom that causes the sting to hurt, itch or swell for about 24 hours.


These parasites feed on the blood of any warm-blooded body, such as household pets. They also can travel on shoes, pant legs and blankets, which can bring them into your home. Flea bites result in painful itchy bumps that are red. These bites can lead to flea allergy dermatitis.


There are 170 species of mosquitoes in North America. They hunt for food through detecting body heat as well as carbon dioxide in human exhalations. Only female mosquitoes suck the blood; male mosquitoes actually feed on the nectar of plants. Mosquitoes can carry malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis and West Nile virus.


The American dog tick, which can carry the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, uses the domestic dog as its host and transfers to humans once the dog comes into the house. The black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick. can carry Lyme disease. The adult lone star tick attacks humans more frequently in eastern and southeastern states. They can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Chicken mites

These mites, which are also known as bird mites, are found worldwide. They feed primary at night.  They often live and feed on a variety of birds, including pigeons, sparrows and chickens, but can attack humans after entering homes through window frames or attics. They also can be on birds or gerbils purchased from pet stores. These mites transmit St. Louis encephalitis as well as a painful skin irritation.

Fire ants

Fire ants are a major scourge in the Southern United States. Because they live in underground colonies (which can contain hundreds of thousands of fire ants), you stand a good chance of having multiple stings if you disturb them. Furthermore, fire ants can sting repeatedly. These insects have a venom that is quite potent, causing localized pain and/or itching for several days.