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Avoid These Arizona Insects When Camping and Hiking

Avoid These Arizona Insects When Camping and Hiking

You have insects, and then you have Arizona insects. What’s the difference, you ask? Just the fact that Arizona has 50 species of scorpions is enough to make your skin crawl. Additionally, the state has over 600 other insects. 

Fortunately, many aren’t poisonous enough to kill, and those that are, are pretty rare. Either way, you can find ways to enjoy the desert vistas without these Arizona insects tagging along.

Avoid These Venomous Arizona Insects at All Costs

Some Arizona insects are venomous, poisonous, and dangerous. While spiders and scorpions are technically not insects, they all seem the same — creepy and crawly. We’ve got eight insects to avoid listed right here for you.

10 most dangerous bugs in Arizona

Arizona Bark Scorpion

Like other scorpions, the Arizona bark scorpion will glow when exposed to black light, making it an effective way to find them in the dark. Although they avoid humans, you can recognize one by its light brown to brownish yellow color when you do see one. They average 2 to 3 inches long with elongated, thin pincers. 

This nocturnal creature loves to hide under rocks, tree bark, and bricks. Because they can climb, you can also find them on trees and walls. Don’t be fooled, though. You can also find them in closets, sinks, bathtubs, and anywhere that is cool and moist.

Most scorpions don’t pose quite a threat as this one. In healthy adults, a sting can result in severe pain along with tingling, numbness, and possible vomiting and convulsions. In young children and the elderly, this is one of the rare stings that could result in death. Be sure to seek medical attention immediately if stung by this Arizona insect. 

Arizona bark scorpion
A sting from an Arizona bark scorpion can cause severe pain along with tingling, numbness, and possible vomiting and convulsions.

Giant Hairy Scorpion

The giant hairy scorpion is the largest in North America and, when provoked, will attempt to sting you. You can recognize its dark body contrasted with yellow legs, pincers, and tail. These things can grow up to seven inches long. 

Like others, the giant desert scorpion is nocturnal, and you’ll find them more outdoors. You may not see them often as they make their daytime homes in deep burrows, sometimes up to 8 ft deep. They tend to hide in desert washes and under rocks.

If stung by one of these, the pain feels similar to a bee sting, resulting in localized swelling and a quick shot of pain that generally decreases soon after. However, if you have an allergic reaction, seek medical attention right away as it could be serious.

Pro Tip: Keep the scorpions and spiders out of your RV by replacing your window screens. Read more to find out How to Clean, Care for, and Replace Your RV Window Screens.

Brown Recluse Spider

The brown recluse spider is another Arizona insect to avoid. You’ll know this spider when you see it because of its violin-shaped markings and six brown eyes instead of eight. Shy in nature and quite small at 1 cm long by .5 cm wide, you won’t encounter these bugs too often.

However, they like to hide in dark man-made spaces. So take care when moving old tires or lawn ornaments. And watch those dark corners in closets and under porches. 

If bitten by this bug, you may acquire a small red mark which will itch. You may have more of a reaction resulting in a small white blister, turning into a lesion. If not treated properly, an infection can occur as with any wound, so just be aware of how your body reacts if bitten.

Brown recluse spider
A brown recluse spider bite can have severe consequences.

Africanized Honey Bees AKA Killer Bees

The Africanized honey bee is a hybrid of the western honeybee, more commonly known as the killer bee. They look very much like a typical honeybee; however, they are slightly smaller and darker. Their behavior, though, is much different. They are more aggressive, quicker to attack, and pursue their prey farther than others. 

You’ll come across this obnoxious Arizona insect anywhere typical of other bees. However, they also live in underground hives. First introduced in Brazil in 1956 to increase honey production, several swarms escaped spreading this hybrid breed throughout the Americas.  

A sting from a killer bee does not mean death. In fact, it typically only means a sharp stinging pain and possible localized swelling, similar to that of a honeybee. Of course, reactions vary in different people, so be aware of your allergies.

Blister Beetle

Blister beetles are unique Arizona insects in that they don’t bite or sting humans. Their appearance varies in color from gray to yellow, and they have sleek and narrow bodies.

If you love flowers, be aware. Blister beetles love them, too. You’ll find them in flower beds and fields of high grasses in the Arizona landscapes. They come out in the evenings to bask in artificial lights.

While these beetles do not bite, touching one can cause discomfort due to the chemical they release when threatened. It usually causes blisters and welts, along with possible pain and irritation at the impacted site. Don’t worry too much, though. These lesions will generally disappear on their own after a week.

Blister beetle on a leaf.
Like their name blister beetles can cause blisters and welts.

Kissing Bug

The kissing bug has an uncanny ability to bite near the mouth and eyes. You’ll recognize them by their brown or black wings, often with an edge of reddish-orange color. These blood-sucking creatures measure about the size of a small coin.

Unfortunately, these Arizona insects probably like the outdoors as much as you do, meaning you’ll come across them often when camping, especially at night. They live throughout the state, including in animal dens and under leaves, wood, and porches.

While these insects prefer the face, they can and will bite anywhere, leaving half a dozen or so tiny red marks. And when they do, you’ll feel an irritation similar to other bug bites or skin irritations. They are usually harmless unless you have an allergic reaction, and then you may notice increased red, swollen, and itchy skin.

Mosquitos

We all know the joy of living with mosquitos. They seem to be everywhere we want to spend time outside. In fact, they reside everywhere in the world except Antarctica, so you won’t get away from them anytime soon.

You’ll often find them in humid areas and around standing, stagnant water such as puddles, marshes, and lakes. This is where they breed and lay eggs.

While these obnoxious insects won’t do much harm here in the U.S., they carry various diseases elsewhere, such as malaria, yellow fever, Zika, and more. 

A mosquito bite will cause more inconvenience than anything, with an itch and a bit of redness. But to prevent something worse, it may be worth it to use mosquito spray before heading to your favorite lake for your next camping trip.

Desert centipede
Sharp pain and swelling occur when bit by a desert centipede.

Desert Centipede

A centipede is an Arizona insect that hits the creepy-crawly mark for most people.  And in Arizona, there are two types to be aware of: the giant desert centipede and the common desert centipede. They have multiple body segments with a pair of legs on each. 

Both have flattened bodies, but their colorings and sizes are quite different. The common centipede is tan and brown and measures about 5 inches. The desert centipede has an orange body with a black head and tail and grows up to about 8 inches.

You’ll find these two desert centipedes under almost anything, including downed trees, stones, bricks, plants, trash, and anywhere that hides them from the desert sun.

If bitten by one of these unique Arizona insects, it won’t feel nice. Most people report sharp pain and swelling. Some have also reported nausea, headache, and skin breakdown.  More often than not, the pain and swelling will lessen and disappear on their own.

These Harmless Arizona Insects Will Still Make Your Skin Crawl

Arizona has plenty of insects that might give you the heebie-jeebies and some highly irritating bites and stings. But you’ll also come across many harmless ones, such as the Apache cicada, more obnoxious sounding than anything. Dangerous or not, here are some other Arizona insects to avoid.

Desert Tarantula

The desert tarantula is a giant spider with leg spans reaching up to 4 inches in diameter. It will fill the width of your palm. You can easily recognize it by its massive size in addition to its brown color. They have little bristly hairs all over their bodies and legs. 

The desert tarantula is virtually harmless and very fragile. While creepy, tread carefully as not to crush these

It doesn’t help that they’re also nocturnal. Take warning when stepping outside on a dark desert night in Arizona. Stepping on this spider is not the same as the little ones. During the day they love to hide under rocks or in abandoned rodent burrows. However, they like to keep their distance.

While the desert tarantula can bite, they typically do no serious harm to humans. It can still cause pain from the bite, which should be cleaned and monitored to avoid infection. Additionally, as with bees, some people can be allergic to a spider bite, so seek medical attention if needed.

Pro Tip: If you get bit by a spider or a mosquito you’ll want to have the right ointments on hand in your medicine cabinet. Keep everything in order with our tips on How to Organize and Upgrade Your RV Medicine Cabinet.

Palo Verde Root Borer

This large beetle is quite prolific in Arizona and more of a nuisance than anything. The palo verde root borer is about 3 inches wide and is a dark brown to black color. They look similar to cockroaches but have spines located behind the head. These Arizona insects can fly, too, often landing with a loud thud.

While they become active at night, they prefer the light and live outdoors. You’ll rarely find them inside or during the winter months. 

The young beetles, known as grubs, feed on the roots of trees, most commonly the Palo Verde tree. They tend to cause damage mainly to diseased trees. They can bite, which can cause pain; however, they’re not poisonous.

Palo Verde Root Borer
Palo Verde Root Borer can bite, but are not poisonous.

Sun Spider / Solifugae

If you think a tarantula and a scorpion creep you out, then wait until you meet this unique Arizona insect. They look like a cross between a spider and a scorpion. They have a golden yellow color and large jaws looking like a tiny pair of pliers.  

Also called a sun spider, a camel spider, or a wind scorpion, so named because they can run like the wind, you’ll likely see these creatures at night, although some come out during the day. Most will take respite from the desert sun under rocks, cow patties, boards, and fallen wood.

These creatures look intimidating with their jaws and almost translucent golden color.  While nobody wants to come across them, they’re entirely harmless.

Apache Cicada

The Apache cicada is a tiny little Arizona insect measuring about an inch and a half. You can identify them by their chunky bodies, large veined wings, and bulging eyes.

When emerging from their underground burrows in cycles, you’ll often see them in trees. Adults will fly around everywhere as they begin to mate.

This Arizona insect may drive you crazy with its incessant trilling noise during mating season. They’re not poisonous and are not considered a pest, except maybe to our ears.

Cheap RV Living in Quartzsite, Arizona & the Desert Bar - Mondays with the Mortons

Keep Bug Repellent Handy and Tent Zippers Closed to Avoid These Arizona Insects

Unless you want to meet these Arizona insects up close and personal, stock up on insect repellant before heading into the desert. Your skin will thank you. 

And unless you are inviting these little bugs into your home, keep doors closed, screens shut, and tent flaps zippered. Otherwise, you’ll have many unpleasant and unwanted house guests. 

Tip for all campers: don’t leave your shoes outdoors! These make a great hiding spot for Arizona’s nocturnal insects when the sun rises.

Which one of these creepy creatures have your skin crawling the most? Drop a comment below!

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About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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