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6 Cute Insects That Bite or Sting (With Photos)

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Cute Insects That Can Bite

The insects you are about to see may look cute and innocent, but all of them are more than capable of taking care of themselves, thank you. While all insects (and all living things, for that matter) are worthy of your respect, these insects can surprise with a little more aggression than their looks suggest.

So cute! And so bitey!

So cute! And so bitey!

1. Ladybugs

Those of us who have been bitten by a cute, innocent-looking ladybug have experienced a moment of low-key shock: "Wait a minute – did that ladybug just bite me?" Well, yes it did. Some ladybugs, cute as they are, can bite with the best of them. In a recent study, entomologists (scientists who study insects) put their hands in boxes with hundreds of ladybugs. Not only did 25% of the cute little beetles bite, but when one managed to break a researcher's skin, others came over to feed on the blood! The entomologists theorized that the ladybugs thought they were feeding on fruit, but...

Several species of ladybug like to like in human dwellings, and some of them are known to bite, so keep your eyes open!

The frangipani caterpillar

The frangipani caterpillar

2. Frangipani Caterpillar

The number of caterpillar species that have been known to physically bite people with their jaws is small – as in maybe one or two. Caterpillars have tiny jaws adapted for chewing leaves, so they are among the least bitey insects out there. However there is one species found in the American Tropics (including Florida) that uses those jaws for self-defense. It would be cute if it the caterpillar weren't so big, and those jaws so capable of drawing blood.

Did we mention that they're big? A fully grown frangipani caterpillar (scientific name Speudosphinx tetrio) is a least six inches long, and as big around as your thumb. They get that way by eating enormous amounts of frangipani leaves; a group of them can defoliate an entire tree in a few days.

While these cute little guys are eating, they're also working out their jaws, building highly effecting biting muscles. If you bother one, it will thrash around, resembling a coral snake. If you keep at it, the caterpillar might whip around and sink its leaf-eating jaws into your thumb. Don't say you weren't warned!

If you bother one, it will thrash around, resembling a coral snake. If you keep at it, the caterpillar might whip around and sink its leaf-eating jaws into your thumb. Don't say you weren't warned!

A praying mantis acting coy.

A praying mantis acting coy.

3. Praying Mantis

More charming than cute, maybe, these fascinating insects are nonetheless among the most popular six-legged critters out there. They have been kept as pets for centuries, mostly in Asia, and it's relatively easy to keep them happy – just give them a roomy jar and a fly every couple of days.

But mantids can bite if provoked. They have strong, spiny front legs ("raptorial" legs) that they use to strike out and grab their prey; if you push them, it's likely that they will use those weapons to strike out and give you finger a sharp pinch. Mantids also have biting mouth parts (just ask a fly), and while it's not too likely, a big one could give you a nip that you're likely to remember.

The delicate-looking damselfly

The delicate-looking damselfly

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4. Damselfly

These beautiful insects are closely related to dragonflies – for most people, the difference is unimportant. While dragonflies have been known to bite if mishandled, it's much more surprising to get a nip from the jaws of a lovely fragile damselfly. I know. I was bitten by one.

As a kid, I had an insect collection that I took very seriously. One of the insects I caught was a small, pale blue damselfly. As I took it out of the net to examine it, the little darling turned its head, opened surprisingly large, sharp jaws, and gave my thumb a determined pinch. It didn't really hurt, but it surprised me so much that I yelped and let the bug go. Mission accomplished, from the damselfly's perspective, and I learned a valuable lesson – don't mess with damselflies.

Cute, but handle with care!

Cute, but handle with care!

5. Katydids

Katydids are cute little insects that live in trees and bushes and sing to each other, adding a lovely soundtrack to a soft summer night. They are also bloodthirsty monsters with a insatiable taste for human flesh! Just kidding. They're actually pretty chill.

However, like all of the insects on this list (and insects in general), they will defend themselves from a perceived threat by any means possible. If you harass or hold one in a threatening way, a katydid will lash out with its strong, spiny legs – occasionally drawing blood – and at least attempt to bite you with jaws that usually remain hidden, and are used exclusively for feeding on plants.

Like everything else on this list, handle these insects with care!

Have you heard the one about the cute, furry little caterpillar that fell from its tree? It landed on some guy's neck and stung him so bad he had to go to the emergency room. True story. It happens all the time!

Caution! Severe sting ahead!

Caution! Severe sting ahead!

6. One That Stings: The Puss Moth Caterpillar

Have you heard the one about the cute, furry little caterpillar that fell from its tree? It landed on some guy's neck and stung him so bad he had to go to the emergency room. True story. It happens all the time in places where you can find the puss caterpillar, the larval form of the southern flannel moth.

It's a pretty amazing-looking caterpillar, with a swoosh of luxuriant hair that has given rise to all kinds of cute nicknames, including The Elvis Caterpillar. But underneath all that hair are rows of sharp spines loaded with some of the most potent venom of any insect outside of bees and wasps. Stings have a tendency to get worse as the hours pass, and it's not unheard-of for people to head to the ER for relief. Worse, people who are allergic to stings can have a reaction, which calls for immediate care and possibly a trip in an ambulance.

What a cute little caterpillar!

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Resources

The following sources were used for this guide:

https://www.healthline.com/health/do-ladybugs-bite

https://www.uncommoncaribbean.com/caribbean/frangipani-worm-caribbean-beauty-and-beast/

https://www.poison.org/articles/caterpillar-stings

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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