If you're a true outdoor enthusiast, you're probably itching to hit the trails this summer. Between the great scenery and warm weather, there's just no reason to stay inside!
Unfortunately, we have to share this earth of ours with some pretty unfriendly creatures. While some are just nuisances, others can be downright dangerous to humans. Here's a look at six of the most common (and most dangerous) pests you should be on the lookout for when you hit the trails this summer.
Ticks are one of the most common outdoor pests you can encounter, and they're also one you need to take very seriously. These blood-sucking arachnids can be found in a variety of climates, so no matter where you may be hiking this summer, it's likely you'll encounter them.
The biggest threat that ticks pose to humans is their ability to transmit diseases, and the most common of these is Lyme disease. This condition, which can lead to symptoms like rashes, joint trouble, and meningitis, is widespread in the summer months. If detected in the early stages, this condition can typically be treated with a course of antibiotics.
While ticks and Lyme disease are a common association, there are a number of other equally serious conditions that these pests can carry. These include the Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and anaplasmosis. To prevent tick bites, this doctor recommends using essential oils to ward off ticks, along with wearing high socks and long pants while hiking.
If you've spent any amount of time outdoors, you're probably familiar with the annoying buzz and the itchy bites associated with mosquitoes. Like ticks, these pests feed on the blood of their victims—and they're notorious for spreading disease, too.
Globally, malaria is the most common disease spread by mosquitoes, but most cases of it come from sub-Saharan Africa. Closer to home, mosquitoes are responsible for diseases like the West Nile virus and encephalitis. Typically, the West Nile virus leads to flu-like symptoms, while encephalitis causes swelling of the spinal cord and brain. The best protection against mosquito bites is to cover exposed skin, rather than to spray yourself down with chemicals. That being said, spraying your gear with repellant is an effective measure against mosquitos.
There are over 3000 species of spiders in the United States, which means you should absolutely expect to encounter them outdoors. Luckily, only about 10 of those species are venomous, with the most common being the brown recluse and the black widow.
Brown recluse spiders can be tricky to see on the trail since their dark brown coloring allows them to blend in with leaves and sticks. However, they are not an aggressive species, so bites only occur when direct contact is made. If you leave them alone, they will be more than happy to leave you alone.
Like the brown recluse, black widows are often found in quiet, undisturbed areas like piles of wood or leaves. They most commonly bite when a person unintentionally comes in contact with their webs.
While bite symptoms vary between these two species, both require fast medical attention to prevent the worsening of symptoms.
If you're planning on hiking desert trails this summer, it's important to be on the lookout for scorpions, which are prevalent in the American southwest.
These distant relatives of the spider are nocturnal creatures, so you won't likely see one scuttling about during the middle of the day—but that doesn't mean they aren't nearby. They're probably hiding under rocks, piles of wood, or unattended hiking boots.
While scorpion stings normally resolve themselves within two days, the symptoms can be hard to deal with. These include intense pain at the injection site, difficulty speaking, drooling, abdominal pain, and respiratory issues.
Like scorpions, centipedes are known to take shelter wherever they can find it—rocks, logs, and piles of leaves are three places they are commonly found. So, most bites occur when a person unintentionally disturbs their habitat. That being said, there are plenty of places on the trail that a centipede might call home.
Centipede bites are almost never fatal, but the pain they cause will be immediate and intense. There may also be some damage to the surrounding skin tissue, but specialized medical care generally isn't necessary for treatment.
If you have plans on hiking in desert or grassland environments this summer, be on the lookout for fire ants. Unlike some of the other pests on this list, fire ants can be quite visible. Their mounds can grow to as high as 18 inches, and most colonies are comprised of hundreds of thousands of ants.
And that's where their danger lies—in their numbers. While an individual bite will be painful and itchy for up to an hour afterward, it's generally not life-threatening. However, fire ants typically attack in large groups, and numerous bites can lead to a potentially fatal allergic reaction if not treated immediately.
Your time on the trails shouldn't be spent worrying about all the potential pests you might encounter. By being aware of common dangerous bugs in your area, taking preventative measures (like bug spray), and using caution when disturbing the environment, you can maximize your fun and safety this summer.