Insects are hands down the most hated critters on the planet, many because they carry life-threatening diseases such as malaria, Lyme disease, and yellow fever. One particularly relevant disease is currently (early 2016) spreading rapidly and reaching pandemic levels in the Western Hemisphere. The Zika virus has existed for over half-a-century near the equator in Africa and Asia, but in 2013-14 the virus spread eastward to Oceania and other Pacific islands. By 2015, it had spread to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Over 1.5 million Brazilians are already believed to be infected with the dengue fever-like infection and 3,500 babies have been born with underdeveloped brains, a condition known as microcephaly. This is the result of on of the most hated insects known to man.
Thankfully, that’s some of the worst of it. Many other critters on this list aren’t necessarily deadly to us but are definitely annoying. Some destroy our food and cost us millions of dollars each year. Some have incredibly painful stings with welts which can last for months at a time. And some swarm in groups easily numbering in the millions which can wipe out farmland (any plant matter, really) in a matter of days. Either way, we sure hate the bugs on this list and often do all we can to kill them or get them out of our homes. Sometimes we even do this by eating them, such as #12, #5, & #3. To see which creepy crawlies made it on the list, read on to see the top 25 Most Hated Insects Ever Known to Man.
Silverfish are some of the oldest creatures on the planet; their predecessors were the earliest insects, evolving over 400 million years ago. Contrary to popular opinion, silverfish do not bite humans and are more of a nuisance than a danger. The critters feed on starches and sugars and are often found by the little holes they leave in papers, clothes, and wallpapers. The little buggers are quite resilient, able to live for up to a year without eating and known to eat their own molted exoskeleton.
Asian Citrus Psyllid
Most people haven’t heard of the Asian citrus psyllid but that doesn’t make it any less of a pest to all we hold dear. Originating from southern Asia, this insect is one of the largest causes of citrus diseases and has been wiping out massive citrus groves across Florida & California. The past few years has seen the orange industry alone hit by $4 billion worth of dead trees.
A terror for dogs, cats, and humans alike, the flea is one of the most hated insects on Earth. Able to jump like a carnival performer, fleas can transfer a host of diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and even tapeworms. Among the various methods for killing fleas, the bugs can be submerged in water for a full 24 hours. Any less and the critters may look dead but can still rise from the dead. Insect zombies…yikes.
Scientists have been shocked and unable to figure out the reason why one of our greatest allies – the bee – is disappearing. Despite pollinating at least 30% of our crops, the buzzing of bees and worry about their stingers still lead us to hate them. Even wasps – the bee’s genetic ancestor – hate the bugs and often raid hives. (Though we can agree with the bees that wasps are our real common enemy.) Despite our modern day feelings, the ancients were quite fond of bees, and the Aegeans even believed bees linked the living world with the afterlife.
One of the most impressive creatures on the planet, ants are immensely complex. Despite their small size, there are believed to be up to 22,000 species of ants which collectively make up 15-25% of the entire terrestrial animal biomass. That means that – adding up all the little buggers, sometimes in colonies of millions of ants – ants can constitute up to a quarter of the entire animal weight on our planet. With numbers like those and their tendency to expertly exploit resources, ants have become a nuisance in many of our homes.
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So tiny that they can pass through most window screens, no-see-ums are flies measuring from .04-.16 inches (1-4 mm) long. Most are known for their bloodlust though some non-blood-eaters actually help pollinate tropical crops like cacao. When a no-see-um bites us, we develop an allergic reaction due to proteins in their saliva.
Probably the least known insect on this list, the cockchafer is nonetheless one of the most hated insects in history. Decimating crops since the Middle Ages, the cockchafer has been widely controlled through the use of pesticides and the cookpot. (The French cooked them in a chicken soup and German students ate them coated in sugar.) The pests were so destructive the court of Avignon even outlawed the hated insects at a trial in 1320. Though nearly exterminated, the decrease in pesticide use has led to a massive cockchafer resurgence as of late.
Beetles aren’t directly a threat to human blood or skin in the way other insects on this list are, but since they make up 25% of all known life-forms, they can be pretty pesky! Though some such as ladybugs eat pests, some such as the well-known boll weevil and mungbean beetle can decimate crops.
If the picture alone hasn’t creeped you out, the hairyness of most moths probably will. Or how about that there is a moth known as the Grease moth which feeds on rendered human fat? If that’s not enough, you might be surprised to see the Hercules moth flying at you with its 10.6 inch (27 cm) wingspan, the largest surface area of any insect.
Though the main prey of this species of louse fly are deer, the deer ked can also bite: dogs, giving them dermatitis; horses, giving them severe colic (the largest cause of premature equine death); and humans, in which the welt can last for up to a year in some people. Once landed on a deer, the deer ked sheds its wings and burrows into the fur to suck blood.
Though the praying mantis is just a nickname, the mantis order covers over 2,400 species. Male mantises have a reason to hate mantis-kind as their females sometimes eat their males after intercourse. Some females even knock the male’s head off before they start mating. (It’s important to note that this behavior is not necessarily typical and is most frequently observed with Mantis in captivity).
Though useful when breaking down decaying plant matter, termites can be invasive when they infiltrate wood houses and structures. Sometimes living in colonies numbering in the millions, termites are known as superorganisms because they actively work together for the greater good of the collective. Termites are also incredibly resilient, with termite queens having lifespans up to 50 years – the longest in the insect world.
Sometimes known as a shield bug due to its trapezoidal shape, the Pentatomidae family of insects are better known for another trait: their stink. When provoked or disturbed, this insect shoots out chemicals that smell like coriander from pores in its rear. Some species are so rancid that the substance includes cyanide, giving it a putrid almond scent. Despite the strong smells, some people in Laos eat them in a paste made of chilies, herbs, and stink bugs.
Though their hind pincers can seem pretty terrifying, earwigs are actually not a threat to humans. A frequently perpetuated myth claims earwigs burrow through the human ear canal and lay eggs in the brain. Lucky for us, it’s not actually possible for an insect to burrow into our skull and lay eggs.
Though grasshoppers are herbivores, their rapid jumping and swarm behavior earn them a spot on our list of the most hated insects known to man. When grasshoppers organize into swarms, they are called locusts (which have been referenced in the Koran and the Bible as the cause of cholera epidemics). Millions of grasshoppers can swarm at one time and quickly eradicate all plant life in an area. The largest locust swarm was recorded in 1875 at a whopping 1,800 miles (2,900 km) long and 100 miles (180 km) wide.
Anyone who has driven through the American southeast has a serious hate for love bugs. The medium-sized march flies are quite the affectionate insects, remaining coupled even while flying for up to several days after mating, giving them their name. Millions of these bugs end up squashed on windshields, especially in Florida and Georgia. (One urban myth even says the University of Florida created the massive love bugs population in Florida by screwing up genetic experiments while engineering the love bug to kill mosquitoes.)
The nettle caterpillar may look cute and fuzzy, but it actually has a pretty intense sting! Technically, it’s not a sting but an irritant present on the spiny hairs of the bug. If you touch them, expect intense and painful burning that can take hours to wear off.
Despite being pests in our houses, male bed bugs can also be an annoyance to other males. Since male bed bugs are sexually attracted to any newly fed bed bug, they will try to penetrate them, male or female. The danger for males is that their abdomen is not as thick as a female’s to protect them from the tiny, needle-like penis. Massive bed bug infestations are said to resemble the smell of rotting raspberries.
The bane of kids everywhere, head lice infect about 6-12 million people in the United States each year. Though they are not known to carry diseases and are transferred by close contact, they are generally harmless. Research is being done to see if having head lice creates a natural immunity to the more dangerous body lice (who is known for carrying diseases) – but this isn’t research any of us will be excited to participate in anytime soon.
The horse fly bite can be terribly painful to humans and sometimes causes wheezing and dizziness. Humans have hated these insects for generations, with the Ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus even including them as a bug which tormented Io, one of Zeus’s mortal lovers. Dangerously, horse flies can transfer anthrax between cattle and sheep.
One of the only creatures able to survive a nuclear apocalypse, cockroaches are ancient creatures, having survived for over 320 million years. Cockroaches are remarkably resilient, able to go without air for up to 45 minutes and able to survive for a month without food. Some have even been found to survive on the glue from a postage stamp. To clear the record up, roaches can’t truly survive an unlimited amount of nuking, but they do have a radiation resistance of about 6-15 times our own.
Feared by humans everywhere, the wasp is known for its powerful sting. Wasps most often sting in late summer once the queen stops breeding new workers and the existing workers go out in search of food. To avoid the pesky sting of yellow jackets and hornets, try avoiding them. Shooing them away makes it more likely they will attack. (Note that this might not work with the tarantula hawk wasp. This species has the most painful sting of any wasp and can even kill tarantulas. If you see one, run for the hills!)
If you’re worried about cockroaches, you should be even more worried about the flour beetle. This tiny, hated pest can handle more radiation than cockroaches and is resistant to an ever-growing list of insecticides. On a positive note for flour beetle-kind, the mealworm beetle has recently been found to break down polystyrene (the plastic used for yogurt cups, disposable razors, and more). More research is currently being conducted.
Bearing a moniker as terrifying as the “assassin bug”, this insect definitely lives up to its name. Wielding a large, curved proboscis (like an elephant’s trunk), the assassin bug is an ambush predator which injects lethal saliva into its prey, liquefying their insides. It sucks out their digested tissues and then uses the carcass as camouflage to prey on its next victims. If they bite a human (normally near the lips), the stab is immensely painful and may even require medical attention.
Easily taking the top spot as humanity’s most hated insect, mosquitoes kill more people than any other animal on Earth. Well-known for carrying malaria and yellow fever, mosquitoes have also been blamed for the recent (early 2016) explosion of the Zika virus. You might be wondering why mosquitoes are more likely to bite you than your friends…well, mosquitoes will be more attracted to you if you are: pregnant, a heavy breather, or have type O blood, plentiful skin bacteria, and/or lots of body heat. Unfortunately for some families, there’s even a genetic component to mosquito attraction.