14 California Bugs That Bite And Sting Hard

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

California is arguably the most desirable place to live in the United States. With its scenic beaches, sweeping vistas and iconic cities, California is truly a one of a kind location. While there are many reasons to live in California, it is important to know some of the less desirable qualities of this state.

There are 14 notable bugs that bite and sting hard in California. Several of these bugs are found inside the house. Some bugs that can cause even more painful bites can be found outside the home. Eliminating their habitat, using pesticides, being aware of your surroundings and wearing the right protection all help decrease the likelihood of getting bit.

Seven California Indoor Bugs That Bite Hard

Bugs are a fact of life. They are especially hard to avoid when you live in a pleasant climate where temperatures rarely go below freezing. When you live in California you will inevitably encounter bugs inside your home. Not all of these bugs bite, but here is a list of seven bugs inside your home that do bite.

1. Mosquitoes

Topping the list of bugs that bite hard in California is the ever-popular mosquito. Just like in almost all areas of the globe, California has a mosquito problem. Unlike areas of the United States, California has mosquitos all year long. Winter usually sees a decrease, but they are still present. Mosquitos are most prevalent in late summer and fall in California.

The “Aedes” mosquito, also known as the ankle biter, is the most annoying of these pests. Aedes mosquitos specifically prefer biting humans. Worst of all, they will try and bite you multiple times over the course of several minutes. These mosquitoes are identifiable by their black and white coloring.

The best way to decrease the presence of mosquitos in the home is to eliminate stagnant water and damp surfaces. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water and love moisture. Eliminate the water source and you will see far fewer mosquitoes.

2. Bed Bugs

One of the scariest bug infestations you can get in your home is bed bugs. Anyone who has had bed bugs will tell you these bugs are terrible. Not only do these bugs live where you sleep, but they are very difficult to kill. California, especially its cities, has bed bugs.

Bed bugs can live on clothes and furniture, but are most commonly found living in beds. Bed bugs can be difficult to identify because they are nocturnal and very small. In fact, young bed bugs don’t appear to be anything more than a small black dot.

Bed bugs feed off blood at night. One way to identify if your bites are bed bugs is if there are multiple bites in a line. Bed bug bites are itchy, and slightly smaller than a mosquito. Bed bugs are very hard to exterminate, and require the help of a professional.

The best way to avoid bed bugs is to not come in contact with bed bugs prone areas. This includes sitting on public transportation, couches in public places or other areas known for unsanitized upholstery.

3. Fleas

Fleas are another common biting bug found in many California homes. If you have a pet, especially a dog or a cat, the chance you will have fleas in your home is greatly increased.

Fleas are very small pests. The adults are only one sixteenth of an inch long. They are brown in color. They often sneak into the home in the fur of your pet. If you notice your pet itching its skin more than usual you should investigate immediately.

Fleas can live in your carpets and upholstery. You can use flea bombs or even steam clean your home to get rid of them. The best way to prevent fleas in the home is to get your pet on an anti-flea regimen.

4. Ants

If you live on planet Earth, you likely know what an ant is. They are one of the most commonly seen insects. Many ants are harmless and do not bite. Others, including several species of California ants, can cause very painful bites.

California native fire ants and harvester ants are two species that will cause painful bites in humans. There are also the less common but very painful red imported fire ants. These have been reported in several California counties.

The best way to keep these ants outside is to keep a clean home. Ants are often attracted to food and food waste. Keeping floors and surfaces sanitized will help keep ants away.

5. Mites

There are many types of mites. Many mites are microscopic and go unnoticed. Some mites can even be helpful. There are, however, several type of mites found in California that can cause bites that hurt.

The two most common types of painful biting mites in California are the fowl mite and the tropical rat mite. If you have had rats in your home or in a nearby area then your home can get infested with rat mites. If these mites are unable to find rats, they will look for an alternative host, which can be a human.

Similarly, fowl mites attach themselves to birds. It is common for fowl mites to bite humans if you have bird nests on your property or if you have bet birds or a chicken coop. Avoiding these animals is the best way to stay bite-free.

6. Buffalo Gnats

The next time you get bit by a bug that looks like a mosquito you may want to look closer. While mosquitos are common in California, buffalo gnats are also common – and they bite as well.

Buffalo can look similar to a mosquito to the naked eye. They are flying and biting insects. They prey on both humans and animals. Buffalo gnats enjoy warmer pleasant climates.

For this reason they are most commonly found in areas of Southern California. However, they are still found in several areas of Northern and Central California as well.

Unlike mosquitoes, buffalo gnats do not breed in stagnant water. Instead, they prefer to breed in moving water. This means any sort of fountain or stream feature in or near your home is a perfect breeding ground for these pests.

If you have a water feature like this and notice these bugs you should treat the water to kill the larvae.

7. Kissing Bugs

Kissing bugs may sound romantic, but they are quite the opposite. The kissing bugs found in California can be quite a nuisance. Kissing bugs do not have wings, but this will not stop them from biting.

These insects are easily identified by their long snout, and they often have orange coloring on their dark bodies. These insects are native to the United States, and are most common in warmer climates.

Kissing bugs are frequently reported in canyon and hilly areas of California, but are found elsewhere as well. These bugs can hide throughout the home, including in your bed and hard to reach areas.

They do not fly. Instead, they wait until you are still and then crawl on your skin to bite.

Seven Outside California Bugs That Bite Hard

Having bugs inside the home can be very frustrating. Bugs outside are to be expected. In California, however, there are several outdoor bugs that bite. Some of these bugs cause mild irritation. Other California bugs may be quite dangerous, and may require an immediate visit to the emergency room. Here are seven outdoor bugs in California you need to be aware of.

1. No-see-ums

Biting midges, black valley gnats, or “no-see-ums” are one of the most irritating flying insects. The reason they are so annoying is because, as the name suggests, these biting insects are hardly even visible.

No-see-ums measure a minuscule 1-3 centimeters in length when fully grown. This makes them hardly detectable visually. You normally only notice them once you have a highly irritated red bite on your skin.

These tiny insects can leave quite a mark. Their bites can be a red itchy splotch. Worst of all, these bites can last up to two weeks, which is longer than many other insect bites.

No-see-ums are found throughout California, but are most popular in the Central Valley. These bugs are most commonly found in areas that have clay soils that tend to be more alkaline.

These bugs like to come out most around dusk and dawn, so be sure to stay inside in order to best avoid their lingering bites.

2. Yellow Jackets

The Western yellow jacket is a biting insect that packs a very painful, sometimes dangerous punch. Western yellow jackets have signature yellow and black horizontal striped bodies. Their wings are rather long, and rest laterally on their bodies. If you notice a bug like this, be cautious.

Western yellow jackets will sting you as a defense mechanism. Their stings can cause severe pain, and are often accompanied by swelling. Some can experience an allergic reaction in the form of more severe swelling.

In some cases there are extremely severe allergic reactions. If you notice extreme swelling, shortness of breath or other alarming symptoms, it is important to get treatment immediately, and possibly call emergency services.

Western yellow jackets are common throughout the Western portion of the United States. They prefer a more temperate climate, which can include much of California. The highest number of Western yellow jackets in California are found in the Summer and Fall months.

The best way to avoid a yellow jacket sting is to avoid their nests, and walk calmly away from areas where you notice them. Swatting motions and panic may provoke them to attack.

3. Chiggers

Chiggers, also commonly referred to as harvest mites and red bugs, can be an itchy outdoor inconvenience. These bugs are essentially microscopic pests that can cause bites and rash when you encounter them.

Chiggers are commonly found in outdoor areas in California. Some of the more common areas to find these tiny pests include woodland areas, fields and forests.

There have been reports of chiggers in more northern areas of California, but you are more likely to encounter them in Southern California.

If you think you have encountered these pests be sure to wash all your clothing with hot water, and thoroughly cleanse yourself. Then apply anti-itch cream to the affected area.

The best way to avoid chiggers is to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when walking through high fields and wooded areas in California.

4. Ticks

Ticks are common biting insects that are found all over the world. Some tics are relatively harmless, while others can carry disease that can have life-long impacts on the host that it bites.

There are 48 species of tick in California. The Western backlogged tick is the most common type of tick in the state. This type of tick carries Lyme disease. This means if you are bit by this type of tick you can potentially be infected by Lyme disease.

There are five other species of tick that carry Lyme disease. This means that if you have been bitten by a tick, or have a tick in your skin you should go to the doctor immediately. If a tick is carefully removed from your body, you can greatly reduce your risk of Lyme disease.

Ticks are found in many outdoor areas. They are prevalent in areas where wild animals exist. High grass, brushy and wooded areas are common areas to find ticks. One way to avoid ticks is to cover all of your skin and avoid contact with high grass and brush.

5. Rove Beetle

Rove Beetles are perhaps the most unique of the irritating pests in California. These beetles can not fly, and likely will not sting you unless you mistakenly touch them. Rove beetles are about three quarters of an inch long, but they can easily blend in with dark potting soil.

Rove beetles are popular in much of Southern California. They are often found in compost piles, gardens and other organic debris. They are commonly noticed by those in California who like to garden.

Rove beetles do not bite unless provoked, but their bite can be painful. In addition to biting you, they release a liquid that can leave you feeling very nauseous. This is why it is very important to wear gloves if you are gardening in California.

6. Spiders

Spiders can be particularly dangerous bugs in many parts of the world, and California is no exception. There are 66 species of spider in California, and several species are poisonous.

There are some spiders that are found in the home, but many of the biting and dangerous spiders are more often found outside the home, unless they wander indoors.

Two common and very undesirable spiders found in California are Tarantulas and black widows. Tarantulas are large and scary in appearance, but are slow moving and not venomous.

Black widow spiders, on the other hand, are not as long but can be very dangerous. These spiders are reclusive, and often hide in very dark areas. If you are stung by one, however, their bites are very poisonous. You should seek medical attention.

If you are bit by a spider it is important you do your best to identify what kind of spider bit you if possible. This will help a medical professional treat you.

The best way to avoid most spider bites in California is to be cautious where you put your hands. Very few spiders in California will attack unprovoked. Normally spiders attack when they feel their space is being invaded.

Non-lethal spider bites can be treated at home, but if there is severe swelling or any infection, you should seek professional medical treatment. After all, in many cases you may not know what type of spider bit you or how lethal its bites can be.

7. Scorpions

California is no stranger to bees, hornets or wasps – but they are not the only stingers out there. One of the scariest and most prehistoric bugs resides in many parts of California – the scorpion.

There are actually at least 10 types of scorpions found in California. The most common type is the California common scorpion. As with many scorpions, California common scorpions enjoy the warm dry desert. They are also found in sandy coastal areas and are sometimes spotted in forested and mountainous areas.

These scorpions are usually yellowish tan with brown tips. They feed mostly on insects using their stingers, and normally do not attack humans. They will, however, sting humans when provoked. The stings are not fatal, but can cause pain and swelling. Symptoms will vary from case to case.

The best way to avoid scorpions is to always watch where you are stepping, especially in habitats that are known to breed these bugs.

Summing Up California Bugs That Bite

There are thousands upon thousands of insect and other bug species in California. The majority of these tiny pests often go unnoticed. Some live underground while others are too small to see.

There are several insects in California that bite. Some are unavoidable. Others can be eliminated by removing their habitat from your home, or killing them with pesticides. The best way to avoid getting bit by outdoor bugs is to be conscious of your surroundings and wear appropriate protection for the task at hand.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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