Disclaimer: this article and included photos will quite possibly be the scariest thing you’ll ever read on this site. It is also the most horrifying, grotesque thing I’ve ever written, but I have graciously sacrificed my eyeballs and ability to sleep comfortably and soundly through the night in favor of your edification. Why? Because you deserve to know what sort of pincer-laden, small-rodent-devouring monstrosity may (or may not) be living in your bed. Or in your garden. Or dangling above your favorite camping spot. Or lurking in those dark, cozy corners of your home.
The bad news is that spring is coming, which means insects of every fathomable size, shape, and appetite will soon be making their grand entrance into places where they are rather unwelcome. Luckily, I’m here to tell you that while the creepy-crawlies in Idaho may be
slightly larger than life and that after reading this you might think that Idaho is the Australia of the US in terms of things ready to devour your flesh, just remember that insects (and arachnids… and indeterminate creatures of massive proportions) aren’t all bad. Usually. Just beware while scrolling through this list because guaranteed your skin will start crawling and you’ll have to sleep with your eyes open with a baseball bat in one hand.
1. Bark Crab Spider
Named for the giant front legs adeptly shaped to snatch and restrain prey, along with a characteristic scuttling movement, Crab Spiders are a broad species that can be found throughout North America. Their thin, flat bodies allow them to hide and nest underneath tree bark, where they sit and wait for their next meal to stroll by. Thankfully, the Bark Crab Spider doesn't list humans on its menu, but those giant legs sure are intimidating.
2. Assassin Bug
This little guy is named for good reason, so if you value your innocence,
please don't watch the video that this image links to. Just don't.
The Assassin Bug once again includes a broad range of crawly creatures, which all generally share one particular feature: a curved, machete-like beak which they use to violently and repeatedly skewer their victims to death before sucking out their life juices. And if that isn't hardcore enough for your taste, you can also find Assassin Bugs traipsing around carrying piles of slaughtered corpses on their backs for camouflage. Or for later snacking. Generally both. (Please don't Google that.) If you leave these armed and dangerous ninjas alone, they'll leave you alone; but be warned, their bites are known to be particularly painful to humans.
I don't even know what to call this massive, half-spider-half-scorpion thing. But I do know that it's huge and runs faster than I can. It is also one of the hundreds of species of giant arachnids trolling the earth, the most fear-inducing of which is the infamous Middle Eastern Camel Spider. Fortunately, these guys aren't quite as huge as they look and are relatively harmless despite their large chelicerae (aka the giant skull-crushers on jutting out of their chins).
4. Banded Woolybear
Daww. Isn't it cute? Like a fluffy little teddybear that you just want to hug and keep and name Squishy. Until it grows into a moth. But it's adorable for now! And completely harmless. There... now, isn't that better?
5. Blister Beetle
Brightly colored Blister Beetles are a unique group of insect species that, as opposed to their harmless Stinkbug counterparts, secrete a toxin known as
Cantharidin, which causes painful, swollen blisters upon contact with skin. They are also toxic if consumed. While they may not pose a major threat to humans when given their space, Blister Beetles are particularly fond of lounging in alfalfa hay. When that hay gets consumed by livestock it can cause death.
6. Mormon Cricket
These thumb-sized insects are not actually crickets -- they're a type of Katydid, named for the Mormon settlers who first encountered them in the West. Particularly fond of desert, rural environments, the life cycle of a Mormon Cricket typically involves a mass swarming phase that can send millions of these bugs migrating in densely blackened droves across interstates and back-country roads, wreaking havoc. In this swarming phase, the crickets tend to go decidedly cannibalistic; however, nobody is quite sure what triggers these swarms other than the perpetual fear of being devoured by the cricket right behind you.
7. Cow Killer Ant
This wingless, furry, red and black creature is actually not an ant at all. It's a type of solitary wasp with a sting powerful enough to drop cattle to the ground in pain, though not kill as their name suggests. Parasitic in nature, they also lay their eggs in the hives of unsuspecting bumblebees. When those eggs hatch, they devour their host in terrifying acts of cannibalism. The takeaway: while these wasps are not typically aggressive, they should definitely be avoided. Not so cute and fluffy now, is it?
8. Tarantula Hawk Wasp
Looks kind of pretty, right? With its red wings and neatly curled antennae?
WRONG. This giant wasp-thing eats tarantulas for breakfast, and surely you know that tarantulas aren't exactly itty-bitty and helpless. In fact, a sting by this guy is so painful that it can only be described as completely obliterating to the senses, and then some. Only one other insect ranks just as highly on the pain index, and that's the Bullet Ant. You heard me. We're talking
bullet-levels of pain, people.
Apparently it is unusual to retain any sense of coordination after getting stung by a Tarantula Hawk... so imagine what the poor spider in the photo is feeling right about now. Oh, and their legs are also covered in tiny, hooked claws -- all the better to rip your delicate flesh open, my dear. But while it may seem like you, a wary human with a strong aversion to pain, should be concerned about a GIANT FLYING TARANTULA-EATER, by all sane accounts, you needn't actually worry. Tarantula Hawks are brilliant predators, but humans aren't on their radar. In fact, they're typically only found in the Southwest, not in Idaho; however, their fondness for desert climates and rapidly expanding territory could see that change in the very near future. That being said, don't touch one. And definitely don't watch any videos about them because they're the things that nightmares are made of.
9. The Masked Hunter
Because of course Mother Nature would create a self-camouflaging predatory insect with a hankering for blood. Not human blood, but still. These critters will typically feed on bed bugs and earwigs... which means if you have bed bugs, you probably have a few of these guys. Fortunately, while their bites are painful they rarely require medical attention. Masked Hunters were once native to England, but have since started rapidly expanding across the US... you just don't often notice them because they will smother themselves in dirt to keep from being detected.
I'm almost positive that the Northwest's population is ninety-seven percent Earwigs. Tenacious, nocturnal, and perfectly sized to crawl right up inside the ear canal (although sources tell me that this is a myth), Earwigs are a widespread household nuisance. They're so ancient and resilient that they have even been found fossilized, but despite their creepy-crawly appearance and intimidating pincers, are actually one of the most paternal insects out there, caring for their young even after hatching. They're also completely harmless to humans, instead feeding on aphids and other microscopic pests.
Deep breath. Are you ready to seal yourself inside of a giant bubble yet?
While bugs outnumber humans 15 million to 1, just remember that they’re simply minding their own business and trying to avoid becoming a lunchtime snack for something even larger and crawlier than themselves.