I’ll get this out of the way right away: bugs are a very important part of every ecosystem. They might be pesky and sometimes harmful, but they all have their place in the interconnected web of life.
Having said that, I’ll also say that I’m a little freaked out by bugs. Last week I had my entire household running around trying to catch some big, scary flying thing while I cowered in the corner. (We catch and then release outside because, although I really don’t like them, I also don’t like killing them unless they’re about to kill me.)
Most of the bugs I personally freak out about are completely harmless, but there are some to be legitimately scared of. If you’re a farmer or gardener, there’s a whole catalog of creepy crawlies to watch out for – but these 10 bugs are worthy of a little caution no matter who you are or what you do.
The name "assassin bug" applies to several species of insects that kill prey by stabbing it repeatedly and injecting it with venom. They may be good for controlling some pest populations, but they have no problems biting humans if bothered. Their bite is said to be exceptionally painful.
These little buggers have been around for thousands of years, at least, and they probably aren't going anywhere soon. They were thought to be almost eradicated in developed nations in the 1940s, but they resurged in the 1980s thanks to pesticide resistance and other factors. Bed bugs are very hard to get rid of and can hide in/on all kinds of soft surfaces like mattresses, bedding, clothing, luggage, and many more. So take extra care examining that "great deal" of a sofa you find at a garage sale.
Black Widow Spider
Although black widows can strike fear into the heart of just about anyone, being bitten and injected with the dangerous venom is not all that common. Only adult females are venomous and feature that famous red hourglass marking on their underbellies. Even if you do happen to stumble across one and suffer a bite, it's rarely fatal - though you'd definitely need immediate medical attention.
Black Blister Beetle
These beetles won't come after you to bother you, but if you happen to pick one up and squeeze it, you'll be rewarded with a squirt of painful skin irritant that usually causes a blister. The irritant is so strong, in fact, that it's used in some wart removers.
Brown Recluse Spider
It seems like most people in Nebraska have encountered at least one of these guys. They aren't aggressive, but when they're trapped and threatened (like when they're hiding in a shirt that you happen to pick up and put on) they are known to bite - and that bite can pretty gnarly. Most people can be bitten and exhibit few or no symptoms; some - particularly young people and those with compromised immune systems - will develop serious necrosis at the bite site that takes months to heal.
The Cow Killer is officially known as the Eastern Velvet Ant despite the fact that it's actually a wasp. The adult females look like huge, hairy, brightly colored ants. They have no wings, unlike the males. The females have another talent that the males don't: they inflict a bite so incredibly painful that it's said to be strong enough to kill a cow. Cow killers are solitary (they don't live in nests with hundreds of others) and are usually found in sandy areas.
Giant Water Bug
Their scientific name is Belostomatidae, but if you like to fish or swim in lakes you might know them better as toe biters. These seriously big bugs can reach nearly five inches in length and they sport some wicked pincers. They hide in the water and use those pincers to catch small fish, frogs, snakes, snails, and - in particularly nightmarish situations - even baby turtles. They have no problem with biting humans who get too close, and their bite is said to be one of the most painful inflicted by any insect.
This is the only bug on this list that's almost harmless - it just looks so absolutely freaky that it seems to belong on a list of scary bugs. The monkey slug is actually the larval stage of the hag moth. Although a few varieties can sting, it's not especially painful and there's no real danger from the terrifying-looking caterpillar. It's just really, really icky. Seriously, I'd rather look at more pictures of spiders.
Ticks: Blacklegged, American Dog, and Lonestar
If you grew up in Nebraska you're familiar with the tick check that comes after every outdoor adventure. Humans and animals alike have to be carefully checked for these blood-sucking hitchhikers. Although they're ecologically very important, they're dangerous to humans and animals because their bite can transmit several bacteria, viruses, and disease-causing protozoa.
These big, hearty spiders can be found pretty much everywhere in the world that isn't ridiculously cold all year. It's easy to be afraid of wolf spiders because of their size and their seeming fearlessness (I've seen them stand down an advancing human). Despite your mom telling you they're perfectly harmless, wolf spiders actually do bite, and those big pincers make the bite pretty painful. Luckily, their venom isn't particularly harmful.
I don’t know about you, but looking at pictures of bugs always makes me think I can feel them crawling on me. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to take a few dozen showers to wash the creepy-crawly feeling away. Let us know in the comments: which Nebraska bugs are you afraid of?