It bugs!

I’m talking about all the itching, scratching, swelling and big red spots Minnesota bugs can leave on us this season.

We’re all familiar with these “spots of summer.”

They come in all shapes and sizes and are the remains of a whole host of this season’s buggers, like mosquitoes, gnats, horse flies, ticks, bees and more!

Every bug delivers its own bite and every person reacts differently. And, we all know bug spray or other natural solutions can help to minimize bites and the resulting itching, scratching and overall uncomfortable feeling from these crawling and flying nuisances. But, there are several lesser-known facts and many well-known myths when it comes to beating bugs. Here’s a chance to test your own knowledge.

Myth or Fact: Not all bees sting


For example, male bees cannot sting. The stinger, or sting, is a modified egg-laying device, therefore only females have them. However, despite having a stinger, the females of many bee species actually cannot sting. Bees tend to sting to defend their nest, so most bees won’t sting unless they are provoked or feel threatened.

Myth or Fact: People allergic to bee stings are also allergic to wasp stings


Bee stings produce different toxins than wasp stings. Therefore, someone may be allergic to bee stings but not wasp stings, or vice versa. 

Myth or Fact: If you are allergic to bees/wasps and stung, wait for symptoms before calling 911


If you or another patient is allergic to bees, use an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) immediately. If the patient is supposed to carry an EpiPen and does not have it, call 911 immediately. Do not wait for symptoms to appear!

Even if the patient has been stung before and didn’t have an allergic reaction, he or she can still develop an allergy to bee stings. Watch any patient closely for signs of anaphylaxis:

• itching in places other than the sting site

• redness other than at the site

• hives or raised welts can develop all over the body

• shortness of breath

From 1999 to 2007, the Centers for Disease Control reported 509 deaths from wasps, hornets or bees stings, and fewer than 1 percent of children and 3 percent of adults are prone to anaphylaxis, the often deadly allergic reaction some experience in response to a sting. 

Recently at The Urgency Room we have noticed irregular reactions to bee stings including baseball size swelling in some instances. This is not a normal reaction and should be evaluated immediately.

Myth or Fact: Mosquitoes are attracted to certain foods, colors and blood types


You may have heard that eating certain foods — such as bananas, beer and garlic — can attract or repel mosquitoes. Or that wearing certain colors makes a difference. These are both myths. In fact, a study on mosquitoes’ attraction to Type O blood was later refuted due to bad statistics.

The biggest draw for mosquitoes are carbon dioxide and heat. 

Myth or Fact: Mosquitoes prefer men over women and are attracted to scent

True (according to studies)

Evidence suggests mosquitoes tend to prefer men over women, adults over children and larger people over smaller ones. The reasoning is that larger figures produce more heat, more carbon dioxide and have more body mass to bite. 

Scent can also play a role. Ingredients in your sweat and other skin secretions, which are often genetically determined, can make one person more attractive to a mosquito than another.

Myth or Fact: Spiders bite


Most so-called “spider bites” are caused by something else. Spiders generally have no interest in biting us, and would rather feed upon invertebrates. Unlike mosquitoes or ticks, spiders don’t feed on human blood, so they have no reason to venture near a slumbering human on purpose. 

Myth or Fact: If a deer tick gets stuck you need to dig it out to prevent the risk of Lyme Disease

Still Being Debated

Some recommend removing all parts of the tick to prevent a secondary infection, while it is true you’ll do yourself more harm trying to dig them from your skin. But if you remove the living tick within 24 hours, you’ve likely removed any risk of infection with a tick-borne disease, even if you didn’t get the entire tick.

The safest bet is to check with your doctor if you find yourself in this situation. 

Myth or Fact: Wood ticks are harmless. You only need to worry about deer ticks


While wood ticks don’t cause Lyme Disease, they can cause swelling, itching and other reactions. Infections are common when any tick is not removed properly. Here are guidelines on how to remove a tick:

• Use fine-tipped tweezers. If you don’t have tweezers, use gloves or cover your hands with tissue paper, then use your fingers. Do not handle the tick with bare hands.

• Grab the tick near its mouth (the part that is stuck in your skin) as you can. 

• Do not grab the tick around the swollen part which is its belly because you could push infected fluid from the tick into your body if you squeeze it. 

• Gently pull the tick straight out. Do not twist the tick. This may break off the tick’s body and leave the head in your skin.

• Put the tick in a dry jar or plastic bag and save it in the freezer for later identification if needed.


Dr. Susie Hafferman is Assistant Medical Director of The Urgency Room in Vadnais Heights.

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