8 Annoying Insects in Ohio That Are Out In Numbers and Looking to Bite

Western Black-Legged Tick
© Kaldari / Creative Commons

Written by Jeffery Martin

Updated: September 8, 2023

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With 8.1 million tree-covered acres of land, there are plenty of reasons to get outside in Ohio! Before you head outdoors in the Buckeye State, know that Ohio is filled with insects that can ruin your day with a painful bite. While you’re enjoying a picnic at one of Ohio’s 75 state parks, these insects see you as their meal! Watch out for these eight Ohio insects that are ready to bite!

Chiggers are tiny parasitic mites that live in Ohio’s fields, forests, and patches of tall grass.

1. Inland Floodwater Mosquito (Aedes vexans)

This mosquito takes part of its name from the Latin word, “

vexare

,” which translates to “to annoy.”

©Roziline/Shutterstock.com

The most common mosquito in Ohio, the inland floodwater mosquito is also one of the oldest mosquito species in the world. This mosquito lays eggs near areas of water. When the water level rises and makes contact, the eggs hatch. In times of low rainfall, the eggs can remain viable for up to three years. Adult females are aggressive, hunting blood from humans and animals alike, during the nighttime hours. Mosquitoes also function as pollinators! Besides blood, they also feed on flower nectar. On average, the inland floodwater mosquito lives for about two months. The inland floodwater mosquito is bothersome to mammals. Sometimes, they pass on harmful diseases.

What Diseases Do Inland Floodwater Mosquitoes Carry?

In the U.S., West Nile virus is commonly spread via inland floodwater mosquito bites. Although most people exhibit no symptoms after infection, West Nile virus can cause head and body aches, vomiting, and diarrhea. In some people, the virus can cause encephalitis or meningitis, life-threatening conditions that affect the brain and central nervous system.

2. Chiggers (Trombiculidae)

Chigger of the Trombiculidae family

Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not dig themselves into your skin.

©Matauw/Shutterstock.com

Chiggers are tiny parasitic mites that live in Ohio’s fields, forests, and patches of tall grass. Biologically related to spiders, mature chiggers have eight legs and grow to be around 1/60th of an inch long. Most chigger bites are caused by chiggers in the larval stage. Because they are so small, smaller than 1/150th of an inch, chiggers are difficult to see with the naked eye. Larval chiggers bite humans on patches of exposed skin, often showing up around the ankles or waist. They have a difficult time moving past clothing barriers, like the elastic around the top of athletic socks.

How Can I Recognize a Chigger Bite?

Within the saliva of a larval chigger is a digestive enzyme that liquefies the skin. Although the actual chigger bite is painless, the affected area later erupts with itchy blisters. Hydrocortisone creams and over-the-counter antihistamines help relieve inflammation and itchiness. Try not to scratch chigger bites because the blisters could become infected.

3. Black-Legged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)

Blacklegged tick

White-tailed deer, a common host for the black-legged tick, are immune to tick-borne Lyme disease.

©daksel/Shutterstock.com

Black-legged ticks can be found all over Ohio, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the state. They live in forested areas, often on vegetation with low branches. When a living host brushes up against one of those plants, the black-legged tick latches on and begins feasting on the creature’s blood. These ticks survive outdoors during the winter by burying themselves in fallen leaves. It takes about two years for the black-legged tick to grow from the larval stage into an adult. You may not feel a tick bite right away. Tick saliva carries a sort of topical anesthetic that prevents its host from noticing its presence. Always check for ticks after a walk through the woods.

Which Diseases Does the Black-legged Tick Carry?

Bites from infected black-legged ticks can spread Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) to humans. One early symptom of Lyme disease is Erythema migrans rash. The actual bite site expands and a red ring appears around the bite, making the area look like a target. Headaches, muscle and joint pain, and chills can accompany the bite. Lyme disease is curable with a course of oral antibiotics. If allowed to progress, Lyme disease can lead to encephalitis or meningitis. If necessary, consult your primary care provider.

4. Oak Mites (Pyemotes tritici)

red oak (Quercus rubra)

This red oak tree (

Quercus rubra

) could be home to hundreds of thousands of oak tree mites!

©Pawel Horazy/Shutterstock.com

Oak mites have only been scientifically recognized since 2004 after a reported series of bites in Kansas. Since then, the mites have been discovered in other states, including Ohio. Like chiggers, oak mites are practically invisible to the naked human eye. They only grow to 1/125 inch long. The primary habitat of the oak mite is, unsurprisingly, the leaves and branches of oak trees. When the population of oak mites grows large towards the end of summer, the mites begin to drop from the leaves. Because they are tiny and light, oak mites can become airborne, carried by the breeze.

What Bit Me: A Chigger or an Oak Mite?

Chigger bites are physically similar to the bites of oak mites. Both bites exhibit raised blisters and extremely, if not painfully, itchy. While chigger bites are often localized to the lower half of the body, oak mite bites occur around the chest, neck, and shoulders. This is because oak mites tend to fall down from trees rather than climb up from lower-lying vegetation. No matter if a chigger or an oak mite bit you, try not to scratch the bite areas! Treat the affected site with a cortisone cream and oral antihistamines. If symptoms persist, consult your primary care provider.

5. Kissing Bugs (Triatoma sanguisuga)

Deadliest Animal in the World: Kissing Bugs

Sometimes, kissing bugs are confused with other insects with a similar appearance, like the box elder bug (

Boisea trivittata

).

©Vanessa Becker-Miller/Shutterstock.com

Also known as “assassin bugs,” kissing bugs are especially found in the state’s southernmost counties. These insects use their cone-shaped heads and sharp beaks to penetrate the flesh of their prey and feed on the blood. Kissing bugs then use the protein from the blood to create eggs. Because the kissing bug feeds on harmful insects, they are considered to be beneficial to the environment. But they also draw blood from domesticated animals, like cats and dogs, and humans. Kissing bugs usually come out at night. They bite people while they’re asleep, targeting places near the mouth or eyes.

Can I Get Sick From the Bite of a Kissing Bug?

You can, but it’s rare. Some kissing bugs carry a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi, which is the cause of Chagas disease (trypanosomiasis) in humans. After feeding, the kissing bug will often defecate near the site of the bite. Although the bite itself doesn’t hurt, the small wound causes irritation and itchiness. While scratching, it is possible to spread the infected feces into your eye or mouth. This allows the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite to enter the bloodstream. Fever and swelling around the bite area occur right away. After that, symptoms may never exhibit again. However, some people will develop a serious reaction to the parasite that could lead to heart problems or difficulties with the digestive system.

6. Horseflies (Tabanus)

Horsefly viewed from up high, Tabanus, isolated on white

An aggressive insect, horseflies will sometimes chase their prey because they are drawn to movement.

©Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Horseflies are large, tenacious, and hungry. They range from 3/4 to 1-1/4 inches long. Although they mainly seek out animals like horses or cattle, they do attack humans. Horseflies are equipped with sharp mandibles that slice through the skin. Enzymes in horsefly saliva prevent blood from clotting, allowing the horsefly to drink its fill. Horseflies are attracted to movement, dark-colored clothing, and body heat, making them precise hunters during the day. When the sun goes down, horseflies cannot physically locate their prey.

Do Horseflies Carry Diseases?

Researchers have discovered both West Nile virus and Borrelia burgdorferi, the source of Lyme disease, in female horseflies. However, there is no scientific evidence that they transmit those diseases to humans. Some people may experience allergic reactions to horsefly bites. Scratching the bitten area could lead to a secondary infection. Over-the-counter cortisone creams and antihistamines may relieve the discomfort caused by horsefly bites. If necessary, consult your physician for further care.

7. Bedbugs (Cimex lectularius)

Types of Bed Bugs - Cimex lectularius

Bedbugs can live as close to eight feet away from where humans sleep.

©Pavel Krasensky/Shutterstock.com

Red-brown in color, bedbugs range in size from one to seven millimeters, making them difficult to spot. These tiny bloodsuckers congregate near areas where people sleep, such as bedrooms, hotel rooms, and giant cruise ships. Many people associate bedbugs with dirty houses or poor hygiene. That’s not the case! Bedbugs have been found all over Ohio in all sorts of living conditions. Bedbugs feed exclusively on blood, leaving small itchy bite marks on humans. Unfortunately, bedbug bites are often confused with other insect bites. Bedbugs are not known to transmit diseases to humans.

How Can I Tell If I Have Bedbugs?

If you suspect a bedbug infestation, remove the sheets from your mattress. Bedbugs are largely nocturnal and love to hide in dark places. Check the seams and the piping on your mattress for evidence of bedbugs there. Bedbugs molt and leave their exoskeletons behind. You may also discover small red spots on your mattress. Those are fecal remains, signs that bedbugs have been feeding. You may also notice a dank mildew-like odor.

8. Cat Fleas (Ctenocephalides felis)

Ctenocephalides felis, cat flea or flea, isolated on a white background

Cat fleas suck blood with their sharp proboscis.

©Cosmin Manci/Shutterstock.com

If your dog has fleas, they’re probably cat fleas! Cat fleas are the most common kind of flea found in Ohio. These insects don’t need wings to get where they want to go. On average, they can jump seven inches into the air. On pets, fleas tend to gather on the neck. Their bites can cause your pet to scratch, causing tremendous discomfort. Cat fleas like to live outside in humid conditions. Letting your pets roam outside increases their chances of encountering cat fleas. Animals aren’t the only creatures affected by flea bites. If they can’t find enough food, cat fleas will feed on humans, leaving small itchy marks around the ankles.

Do Cat Fleas Transmit Diseases?

People can contract flea-borne typhus, a rare disease, after being bitten by an infected cat flea. Pet owners could also come down with cat scratch disease. This condition is caused when a cat is bitten by a flea infected with the bacteria Bartonella henselae. Humans scratched by infected cats may experience fever, swollen lymph nodes, and scabbing or blistering at the scratched area.

Summary of 8 Annoying Biting Insects in Ohio

RankCommon NameScientific NameMost Active Times
1Inland floodwater mosquitoAedes vexansEarly morning, hours before sunset
2ChiggersTrombiculidaeAfternoon
3Black-legged tickIxodes scapularisAny time
4Oak mitesPyemotes triticiAny time
5Kissing bugsTriatoma sanguisugaNight
6HorsefliesTabanusDaytime
7BedbugsCimex lectulariusNight
8Cat fleasCtenocephalides felisAny time, but more active at night

Two More Biting Bugs that Are Actually Arachnids

Those eight kinds of irritating insects live in Ohio, but that’s not all. Let’s take a look at two venomous arachnids that are commonly found in the state.

1. Southern Black Widow Spider (Lactrodectus mactans)

black widow

Black widow spiders are non-aggressive, only biting aggressors when they feel threatened.

©Jay Ondreicka/Shutterstock.com

Possibly the most recognizable venomous spider, the Southern black widow is notable for the scarlet hourglass-shaped marking on its abdomen. After mating, the female black widow kills and eats the male, hence the name. On average, male black widows have a five-month lifespan. Females can live for up to a year and a half. Black widows create tough, messy webs instead of a more recognizable orb shape. Southern black widows prefer to exist in the shadows. You’ll find them in woodpiles, beneath dense foliage, or hiding in outdoor restrooms.

Are Black Widow Bites Deadly to Humans?

Southern black widows kill their prey with a venom called alpha-latrotoxin, which attacks the central nervous system. When bitten by a Southern black widow, humans experience localized and widespread body pains, fever, and redness and swelling around the bite area. On rare occasions, the bite from a Southern black widow can be deadly to humans. From 2008-2015, venomous spider bites caused an average of six deaths per year, but that number may include bites from other kinds of spiders.

2. Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa)

Brown recluse spider/ violin spider. Loxosceles reclusa

Although most spiders have eight eyes, the brown recluse has only six.

©Nick626/Shutterstock.com

Brown recluse spiders are not as common in Ohio as Southern black widows, but they can pose a danger to denizens of the southern counties of Ohio. They are not an aggressive species and only bite when in immediate danger. Like the Southern black widow, the brown recluse favors dark places where they won’t be discovered by predators. Adult brown recluse spiders bear a distinctive fiddle-shaped mark on their abdomens. Brown recluse spiders tend to make their way indoors during the cold Ohio winters. Shaking out your shoes and boots before putting them on is a good idea. It’s an easy way to avoid being bitten!

What Happens When a Brown Recluse Bites a Person?

Brown recluse spiders have necrotic venom that dissolves the skin around the bite area. Most brown recluse bites heal on their own in about three weeks. On some occasions, the wound keeps expanding, becoming an open sore that could remain unhealed and problematic for months.

Summary of 2 Common Venomous Spiders in Ohio

NumberCommon NameScientific NameType of Venom
1Southern black widowLactrodectus mactansNeurological
2Brown recluse spiderLoxosceles reclusaNecrotic


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About the Author

Jeffery Martin is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on plants and cats. Jeffery has been a professional writer and editor for over 10 years. A resident of Tennessee, Jeffery enjoys camping, traveling through the southern United States with his wife, researching Appalachian folklore, and taking care of his two cats.

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