UK insects that bite, cause a rash or sting including a horsefly, oak processionary moth caterpillar and hornet
People and pets are being warned to stay away from a dangerous caterpillar that can cause painful rashes and breathing problems.
With the Forestry Commission insisting the hairy insects must not be touched under any circumstances, we take a look at those and other UK creatures that might give you a nasty bite, rash or sting.
1.Oak processionary moth caterpillars
Between now and July, oak processionary moth caterpillars will emerge from their nests. It has prompted a warning from the Forestry Commission to anyone who sees them to leave well alone.
The caterpillars, which are around 2cm long when fully grown, have black heads and bodies which are covered in long white hairs. It is a protein in the hair which will cause itchy rashes, eye, and throat irritations and sometimes breathing problems.
People and pets are being told to keep away from the nests with officials urging people to report sightings here.
2.False widow spider
The false widow spider is the UK’s most venomous spider – taking its name because of its close resemblance to the much more notorious and extremely dangerous black widow spider.
All members of the species, says the Natural History Museum, have distinctive sets of markings on their abdomens which include a narrow white or lighter band around the front towards their head and then some other patterning that varies by specific species.
Female false widows have a globular shiny abdomen, while males are smaller and less rounded, but often more clearly marked.
A false widow spider can give you a nasty bite which can feel much like a bee or wasp sting. A small minority sometimes report more uncomfortable symptoms including swelling and tingling around the affected body part accompanied by a fever and general feeling of being unwell.
Symptoms, says the NHS, can last a couple of days but anyone concerned should seek medical advice.
3.Hornet or wasp
Get stung by a wasp or European hornet and you’ll no doubt know about it, with both able to potentially pack a punch.
A wasp or hornet sting, says the NHS, will cause a sudden sharp pain at first, that over a few hours is likely to be replaced with a swollen red mark that will be both painful and possibly itchy. While those known to have an adverse reaction to stings should take more care, for the majority of people the pain and discomfort will soon fade.
What about the Asian hornet?
After two confirmed sightings in the UK this year already, wildlife experts are encouraging people to report any encounters they have with the invasive Asian hornet.
A non-native species, there are fears numbers may be growing in the UK after the hornet became more established in neighbouring France where it is thought to have arrived from Asia among packaging.
Although not typically aggressive towards humans, the Asian hornet - which is a significant predator of bees - will defend its nest so could leave you with a nasty painful sting if you were to disturb it.
A large, persistent and painful bite from a horsefly, warns the Natural History Museum, is ‘unlikely to be forgotten’.
While anecdotally it is felt horseflies may be more active in hot weather, it may just be the case, suggest some experts, that the increased numbers of people exposing their skin when the weather is warm leads to an increase in incidents.
A horsefly is larger than other biting flies, with colourful or patterned eyes that are so big in males they touch the top of their head. The easiest way to try and prevent a bite is to ensure skin – particularly around the feet and ankles is covered-up.
Used to piercing through the tougher skins of animals like horses or cows any bite will leave a raised, very red area of skin that can be both painful and sensitive to touch. In some cases, the bites can trigger an allergic reaction with fluid-filled blisters that can become infected. Anyone concerned, should seek medical advice.
There are two types of bee in the UK capable of giving you a nasty sting – that will feel similar to being bitten by a wasp.
The honey bee will leave its barbed sting in your skin before dying while a bumble bee, without a barbed sting, could sting you many times if it wanted – albeit they aren’t known for being overly aggressive.
If you get stung, it is important to remove any barb to help avoid infection but while both stings will be painful, unless you have an allergy to bees, the injury is unlikely to cause you any serious long-term harm.
Tiny flower bugs thrive, as their name would suggest, in flowering meadows and can also be found in parks and gardens.
They feed mostly on aphids and mites but are known as tough little predators not adverse to taking a small chunk out of a human too.
Flower bugs, at no more than around 2mm, have tiny oval bodies, reflective wings, and orange-brown legs but their bite can be very itchy, sometimes painful and the mark it leaves can take some time to heal.
Lift up a paving slab in your garden and you may find a colony of red ants. While they are active all year round they are more noticeable in the summer months when the winged adults can also emerge from the soil and lawns in order to mate.
However finding yourself among a red ant colony can be uncomfortable as the worker ants are well known for delivering a painful sting.
Strong smells including coffee, cinnamon, paprika, cloves or peppermint can reportedly encourage the ants to abandon their nest and find a new home, should you find a particularly stubborn group in your garden.