All Of The Florida Bugs That Can Totally End You
The insects and arachnids of Florida are a dangerous bunch that can sneak up on unsuspecting victims. Considering Florida's invasive species in the Everglades, aggressive alligators, and creeping army of deadly bugs, it's fair to call the Sunshine State the Australia of America. While these critters would be enough to send most people running for the hills, Floridians are surprisingly adept at avoiding the tiny terrors.
In spite of all the weird Florida news that goes viral, the state is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. If you plan to visit this borderline apocalyptic fever dream of a place, it's best to bring plenty of bug spray and get familiar with all the savage Floridians that have six or more legs. With this knowledge, you may be able to come back from that trip to Disney World in one piece.
Red Fire AntPhoto: Shutterstock
Bugs don't have to be from Florida to be incredibly venomous. Take the invasive red fire ant. Originally from Brazil, these ants have no natural predators and can take down animals much larger than themselves by attacking in swarms. This imported species can cause all sorts of problems, from property damage to allergic reactions and even life loss. People with allergies to red fire ant venom are at an extreme risk. Those allergic to bee or wasp stings should be extra cautious, as they are more likely to have a higher sensitivity to red fire ant bites.
The attempt to stymie fire ant populations costs roughly $12 billion annually in the US, and it doesn't seem to put a dent in their numbers.
Statistically, mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world, and their disease-carrying bite makes them a constant health hazard for Florida residents. Most mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, and the humid marshes of Florida serve as the perfect breeding ground for these pests.
Bites from Florida mosquitoes may carry diseases ranging from West Nile virus to encephalitis.
Red WidowPhoto: Shutterstock
The red widow is known for its mysterious nature and ability to elude researchers, but in many ways, it's similar to its cousin, the black widow. Unlike other widows, this species is only found in the pine scrub forests of Florida. That's right, Florida has its very own species of widow spider. Luckily, red widow attacks on humans are extremely rare, although we know the spider is venomous and its venom contains a neurotoxin that causes muscle spasms.
Be careful - you don't want to become an unlucky victim of the red widow.
Buck Moth CaterpillarPhoto: Shutterstock
The buck moth caterpillar is covered with venomous bristles and can be found throughout the East Coast. Its sting is very painful and, in rare cases, can cause anaphylaxis, a condition that can be fatal if left untreated.
These caterpillars tend to feed in large groups, which can be extremely dangerous for unsuspecting humans.
Southern Black WidowPhoto: Shutterstock
Most people don't know that one of North America's most infamous spiders actually comes in several terrifying flavors. Florida is home to the highly venomous Southern black widow (Latrodectus mactans). Most people can recover from black widow bites on their own, but these spiders can still be lethal, especially if their victim is young or sick.
These spiders tend to be shy, so you can avoid a bite by staying clear of places where black widows nest, such as piles of wood or old crates. Basically, don't blindly stick your hand anywhere you haven't checked for spiders.
Northern Black WidowPhoto: Shutterstock
Oh, you thought Florida was only home to one species of black widow? Guess again, because the Northern black widow (Latrodectus variolus) can also be found in the Sunshine State. The Northern and Southern black widow share a lot of genetic similarities. Like their cousins, Northern black widows are armed with a powerful venom that is 15 times more toxic than that of a rattlesnake.
The venom can wreak havoc on your nervous system, and bites are considered to be extremely dangerous. Victims can experience debilitating muscle cramps, nausea, and high fevers for up to 24 hours after being bitten.