Different bites & stings types & symptoms

Are you left with irritating insect bite marks but don’t know what creature has caused them?

There are many types of insect bites and luckily, most of them are harmless!

It is a good idea to discover what has bit you as there are many different types of bug bites. Insect bite identification helps you learn if you can treat the bite at home or if you need to seek immediate medical care.

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1. Mosquito bites

A mosquito bite is a small, round, puffy bump that appears on your skin soon after you have been bitten. The bump becomes red, hard, swollen and itchy.

Sometimes you might have several insect bite marks in the same area from a mosquito. A mosquito bite is likely to be isolated and not part of a cluster.

Bites are usually found around the ankles, hairline, back of knees and neck.

Mosquito bites will normally go away after a few days with no treatment. They can, however, cause severe illnesses like malaria if the mosquito that bit you is carrying certain viruses or parasites.

2. Bee stings

Bee stings usually cause pain, swelling and hives. When a honey bee stings you, it will pierce your skin leaving its stinger behind in your skin. The stinger should be removed as soon as possible to stop the venom from spreading further.

A sharp, burning pain at the site of the sting becomes present, alongside skin discolouration, swelling of the affected area and itchy skin. The pain of a bee sting can last for a few minutes before fading to a dull aching feeling. The area can still feel sore to touch a few days later.

3. Wasp stings

The initial sting of a wasp is usually incredibly painful. After being stung, you can expect some minor discomfort which can be treated at home.

Once you have been stung by a wasp you will more than likely develop a raised welt where you were stung. In some instances, a small white mark might be visible where the wasp’s stinger has punctured the skin.

Wasp stings

4. Ant bites and stings

Stings and bites from ants in the UK are generally considered harmless. You can expect little to no discomfort.

The affected area and the area surrounding the insect bite marks might turn a pinky-red colour and swell. You might also experience itching and irritation too.

If you are stung by a fire ant then you will probably end up with multiple wounds as they don’t lose their stingers when they attack. The inflammation and pain can take days and sometimes weeks to go away.

5. Tick bites

Ticks can remain attached to your skin for up to 10 days, as time goes on they get bigger and easier to spot. They should be removed as soon as they have been spotted.

Tick bites are not normally painful and sometimes only cause a red lump to develop where you have been bitten.

If you are bitten by a tick you are at risk of developing a tick borne disease such as lyme disease.

6. Horsefly bites

A horsefly bite is usually very painful as the horsefly doesn’t release any anaesthetic when it bites. A horsefly also makes a cut when it bites you and will anchor to the skin whilst drinking the blood. The insect bite marks are usually more like a small wound than a hole or puncture.

With a horsefly bite, you can expect to see a large, red rash that is raised at the site or surrounding it.


7. Bed bug bites

Bed bug bites are normally in a group of 3 or more or a line of bites on your skin that are raised or itchy. They can have a distinct red mark at their centre.

Bites are usually present on areas of the skin that have been exposed while sleeping like the face, neck and arms.

You might sometimes be able to see spots of blood on your bedding from the bites or from squashing the bed bug.

8. Scabies

Scabies is a skin rash that is caused by small burrowing mites known as Sarcoptes scabiei.

The most common symptom of scabies is itching, in particular at night. You will also notice that you have a raised rash or spots. The spots appear to be red, even if you can’t see them you will be able to feel them. The itchy rash can be pimply, made up of tiny blisters or scaly.

It can take 2-5 weeks for the symptoms of scabies to appear. If you have had scabies before, the symptoms develop more quickly.

9. Hornets

The majority of hornet stings are mild with minor symptoms. Generally, a hornet sting will only affect the area where you are stung. The area where you have been stung usually becomes red and raised.

You might feel warmth and pain near the sting. It is also possible to experience itching and bleeding from a hornet sting.

A hornet sting can be easily treated with some ice or antihistamines to help with the itching. After about half an hour, you should be able to carry on with your day.


10. Harvest mite bites

Harvest mite bites are itchy red bumps that can appear on your skin in the form of pimples, blisters or small hives. The bites are usually found around the waist, ankles and in warm skin folds.

The bites usually get bigger and itchier over several days. A harvest mite will often bite areas such as the ankles, wrists, thighs, groin and waist.

These bites typically go unnoticed until the symptoms become present.

11. Flea bites

When it comes to fleas, they often target your legs and feet. A flea bite is red and swollen, developing within half an hour of being bitten.

A flea bite will often have a reddish halo surrounding it.

After around a day, the lump may develop into a blister or a small wound. Flea bites are usually extremely itchy.

12. Spider bites

In the UK, most spider bites are harmless. If you are bitten by a spider you can expect minor symptoms such as red skin, swelling and pain where you have been bitten.

On the other hand, if you are travelling abroad you need to be cautious of dangerous spiders like the brown recluse, black widow and the wandering spider. These bites are considered a medical emergency.

The insect bite marks usually appear as two small puncture marks with a single raised lump at the site. It will also be red and tender.

13. German yellowjacket wasps

When a German yellow jacket wasp stings you it pierces your skin with its stinger and injects you with venom. After you have been stung you can expect swelling or redness around the sting for a few hours.

Fatigue, itching and warmth around the sting are also common symptoms that you might experience after a sting.

14. Lice bites

Lice bites are small, although the body's reaction to them makes them grow. They leave patches of red spots on the scalp and surrounding skin.

If you are bitten by lice then you can expect the bites to be very itchy. The lice release saliva into your skin when they bite, which is what causes the itching. Some people might develop a larger, uncomfortable skin rash from lice bites.

head lice check

The majority of insect bites are usually harmless. However, if you have known allergies to bug bites or experience an allergic reaction you should seek medical care immediately.

Many bug bites and stings look incredibly similar when they leave their insect bite marks behind. The similarity makes it difficult for you to be sure of the insect unless you caught it in the act!

You may be aware that bug bites and stings pick up more in the summer months, but they can occur at any time of the year. There are ways to deter the insects like using repellents or making sure to wear clothing that doesn’t expose much skin.

Olivia Malone - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 19 January 2024
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