Top 6 Dangerous Pests in the Southern United States
The South includes states as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia. While its warm climate can make the region attractive to vacationers, it also means that the South has more than its fair share of pests, some of which can be quite dangerous.
The mosquito is one of the most dangerous pests in the world, and it can be found on every continent except Antarctica. While a mosquito’s bite generally causes only a mild and itchy reaction in most people, it can also transmit diseases like Zika virus, malaria, Chikungunya, and dengue. Mosquitoes are also a threat to dogs and horses, for they carry dog heartworm and Eastern equine encephalitis. The West Nile virus is dangerous to both people and horses.
The puss caterpillar, which is the larval form of the southern flannel moth, is one of the most venomous caterpillars in North America. It ranges from southeastern Virginia to Florida. The puss caterpillar has long hair that make it look a bit like a tiny Persian cat. That hair, however, contains venomous spines, and the venom can cause pain comparable to that of a broken bone. While the reaction may sometimes stay localized, it is more likely to spread and cause such symptoms as swelling, headache, nausea, rashes, blisters, and abdominal pain. In severe cases, the venom can also cause chest pain and trouble breathing.
The CDC lists five tick species in the southern United States that can transmit disease. The blacklegged or deer tick, which can be found anywhere in the eastern half of the United States, carries the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. The American dog tick, also known as the wood tick, can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Despite the name, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is more common in southern states than in the west. The brown dog tick can also carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever. The Gulf Coast tick carries a type of spotted fever called rickettsiosis. The Lone Star tick can carry tularemia, Heartland virus, and ehrlichiosis.
Africanized Honey Bee
Back in 1956, somebody in Brazil imported African honeybees in order to cross them with local honeybees and get a strain that produced more honey. Some of the hybrids escaped and began flying north. They reached Texas in 1990 and have continued spreading. There are now populations in Florida, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, as well as some of the western states. Africanized honey bees are dangerous because of their aggression. While their venom is no stronger than that of other honey bees, they attack in much greater numbers and will pursue their target for over a quarter mile. People who are allergic to bee stings can develop a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which can cause swelling in the throat and difficulty breathing.
Also known as the conenose bug, the kissing bug hails from Latin America and has been found as far north as Delaware. Kissing bugs suck blood from people’s faces while they are sleeping. In the process, they can infect them with a parasite that causes Chagas disease, which can affect the stomach and the heart. Symptoms include redness, hives, swelling, fever, aches, and fatigue.
Red Imported Fire Ant
The red imported fire ant is an invasive species from South America that has spread across the Southern United States from Florida to California, and it occurs as far north as Virginia. The ants feed on various crops, and large colonies can damage farm equipment. They are venomous and can cause a painful sting. Red imported fire ants are aggressive and will attack people and animals in swarms. They are particularly dangerous to newborn and sick animals.