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Avoid These Insects When Camping in Florida

Avoid These Insects When Camping in Florida

When you think about Florida, insects may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But maybe they should be. With Florida’s mild weather, they’re something you have to consider year-round. Let’s look at some Florida insects you should avoid while camping.

These Florida Insects Will Drive You Crazy!

While you can shoo away most of these Florida insects, others are more serious. Our checklist will help you identify these different pests – some dangerous, some not – that you may encounter in Florida. 

What BUGS Floridians

No-See-Ums

These little guys are big annoyances. Florida no-see-ums are biting midges, and it’s easy to see how they got their nickname. They’re tiny enough to squeeze through a screen and love moist environments like beaches and swamps. You may not see them do it, but they do bite. They tend to target the lower legs, leaving small red welts.

Mosquitos

Mosquitos are big enough to see, of course, and sometimes you’ll hear their high-pitched squeals. Campers know them as an almost constant nemesis. Our never-ending battle would almost be comical, but they can carry serious diseases. This also puts them in the dangerous category of Florida insects, which we’ll get to shortly.

Close up image of a mosquito biting a person.
Make sure to wear bug spray while in Florida to avoid the mosquitos!

Fire Ants

If you feel a sudden burning sensation on your feet or ankles, you may have just stepped into a mound of fire ants. Fire ant bites (actually stings) swell up like pimples and can sting and itch for a few days. They can get infected if you’re not careful.

People with extremely severe allergies have even died from fire ant bites, but it’s extremely rare. There are several different kinds of fire ants, and some are dangerous.

Chiggers

Also called red bugs, these are a type of mite that likes to crawl around inside your shirt or pants. They’re kind of hard to get rid of – you might even need to strip down, lather up, and rinse them away. Once they’re gone, you might have a lingering itch to remind you of their visit. 

Little boy being sprayed by sunscreen.
Always check for ticks after exploring in nature.

Ticks

These little critters are awfully clingy, too. If you’re taking a bath and see a little brown dot that shouldn’t be there, it could be a tick. You can pull them off with tweezers and dab the area with rubbing alcohol. They can carry some serious diseases.

Yellow Flies

Flies are harmless, right? Not these guys. The yellow ones love to bite, and they’re aggressive and relentless, too. They’re more prevalent near bodies of water and are very active in the afternoons and evenings. If you ever see a deserted beach in Florida, yellow flies could be the reason.

Pro Tip: Keep the creepy crawly bugs out of your RV, by maintaining your RV window screens. Here’s How to Clean, Care for, and Replace Your RV Window Screens.

Venomous Florida Insects You Should Definitely Avoid

While there’s nothing fun about any kind of bug bite, some of them can have severe and lasting effects. Don’t let your guard down as you try to relax and enjoy your leisure time in Florida. These Florida insects can be dangerous.

Brown Recluse Spiders

Black widows might be better known, but brown recluse spiders are even more harmful. Their venom can affect your central nervous system. A brown recluse bite can cause nausea, joint pain, fever, and, in rare cases, seizures, as well as permanent scarring.

These spiders range in size from a quarter-inch up to three-quarters of an inch (minus the legs). They can be light brown, tan, or dark brown, and their bodies are shaped like a violin. They like to hide in dark places, so they’re hard to spot.

Close up image of brown recluse spider.
Beware of the brown recluse spider and their venom!

Widow Spiders: Black, Brown, and Red

Most have heard of black widow spiders, but there are two other colors, and all of them are poisonous. Like the brown recluses, they favor dark, confined areas. There’s another trait they share: they can be aggressive when provoked. Black widows are shiny and have a red hourglass shape on their abdomen. Brown widows are light brown with stripes. Red widows have a black thorax or lower body. There’s no hourglass shape, but they do have red marks.

As with the brown recluse, other types of spiders are harmless but resemble widows. So unless you’re an expert on spiders, it’s a good idea to steer clear of all of them. 

Venomous Caterpillars: Buck Moth, Saddleback, Puss, and io Moth

Caterpillars seem harmless enough, but you may not want to pick one up. Florida has four kinds of caterpillars that can sting you. They don’t have stingers as bees do, but little spiny hairs attached to poison glands. These are the fearsome four to look out for: buck moth caterpillar, saddleback caterpillar, puss caterpillar, and IO moth caterpillar. They’re one painful reason that gardeners wear long sleeves, pants, and gloves.

Close up image of a caterpillar
While caterpillars might seem cute, some can be poisonous!

Bees and Wasps

There’s a pretty wide variety of stinging Florida insects that generally fall into the category of bees and wasps. These include honey bees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, hornets, and yellow jackets.

They’ll sting you if they feel threatened, and they may even chase you down to do it. Usually, it hurts for just a few hours, but you can have a very serious reaction if you’re allergic to bee venom. The worst-case scenario is a swollen throat that prevents you from breathing.

Red Fire Ants

There are several different fire ants in Florida, and the imported red fire ants are the worst. It’s not just a one-shot deal, either. A single red fire ant can attack and sting you repeatedly. They’re usually a rusty red color and have a darker abdomen. Besides those massive mounds, they also live in hollowed-out tree stumps and piles of debris. 

So watch your step and be sure to park your tent or RV away from any fire ant nests!

Pro Tip: If the bugs haven’t scared you off of Florida, make sure to stay at one of these 9 Best Beachfront RV Parks on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Fire ant stings can be extremely painful. Tom was bitten on both feet once and had to sit with ice packs on – not a happy camper!

Florida Insects That Can Spread Deadly Diseases

Usually, when you get a bug bite, it smarts a little, and you go about your business. But some Florida insects can actually kill you.

Mosquitos

In some places in Florida, you could swat mosquitoes away all day long. Besides the bites, they can leave behind something much worse. Mosquitoes can carry numerous diseases, including malaria, encephalitis, yellow fever, dengue, and West Nile virus.

Tick on skin.
Many Florida insects carry different diseases.

Kissing Bugs

You don’t want to be kissed by these bugs. These bloodsuckers may spread a parasite that can carry a life-threatening ailment called Chagas disease. This is an infection that can lead to serious heart and stomach problems. Kissing bugs are a half-inch to one inch long and have distinctive cone-shaped heads. Some people call them vampire bugs.

Ticks

These little brown bugs can carry and spread some deadly diseases. These include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and encephalitis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia. They’re hard to see – some people purposely wear light-colored clothing when hiking so ticks will show up better.

Don’t Forget Your Bug Spray When Camping in Florida

People love the Sunshine State because of its tropical conditions, and so do the bugs. When camping in Florida, insect repellent is essential, right up there with food, water, and sunscreen. Anti-itch cream is a good idea, too.

Have you had any serious run-ins with insects in Florida? Drop a comment below!

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