What bugs should you worry about this summer? Everything to know about ants, bees, mosquitoes and more insects

Wasps, ticks, mosquitoes and other bugs love the summer months too, but how do you prevent running into these pesky critters?

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Bugs are crawling out looking for food this summer. What do you need to know about mosquitoes, bees, spiders and more insects? (Photos via Getty Images)
Bugs are crawling out looking for food this summer. What do you need to know about mosquitoes, bees, spiders and more insects? (Photos via Getty Images)

Summer is finally returning, and Canadians can get excited for another season of above-average temperatures. While many people across the country can't wait to bask in those rays of sunshine, that warm weather is also the perfect time for pesky bugs to start crawling out and finding their next meals.

Ants, bees, mosquitoes, ticks and other insects play important roles in the environment. But coming into contact with these critters isn't necessarily on everyone's bucket list. So, how do you enjoy the next few sunny months without having to worry about being bitten alive? Here's what you should know about some of the bugs you may come across this summer.

A close-up of a mosquito on human skin. (Photo via Getty Images)
There are at least 82 mosquito species that are known to be in Canada. (Photo via Getty Images)

There are more than 3,500 mosquito species known worldwide, and at least 82 can be found in Canada. Luckily, entomologist Rosalind Murray notes lots of those species don't target humans; only some branch out and eat any kind of host that has a blood meal available to them.

"I always like to point out that in Canada, we're quite lucky in that we don't have the most dangerous tropical vector species, so the species that carry the most dangerous diseases that we know about," Murray, who's an assistant professor in the University of Toronto Mississauga's biology department, tells Yahoo Canada.

She adds there are a couple of diseases in Canada that we're at risk of contracting, including West Nile virus and eastern equine encephalitis. Still, the risk remains quite low: "In Canada, we just don't see huge numbers of people being infected, and there are several different species that can carry those diseases. ... It's more just trying to avoid being bitten at all."

A close-up photo of a tiger mosquito, which is spreading to parts of Europe and raising concerns about dengue fever. (Photo via Getty Images)
The tiger mosquito is raising concerns about dengue fever in several European countries, as the species sets up home in places like France, Spain and Greece. (Photo via Getty Images)

Earlier this week, BBC News reported tiger mosquitoes have set up home in several European countries, including France, Spain and Greece, and experts are linking their presence to a rise of dengue fever. However, Murray explains Canadians are likely safe because that species is very adapted to more tropical and warmer climates.

In recent years, there have been a couple of cases of tiger mosquitoes making their way into Canada. Moreover, climate change has spurred concerns that this species may bring pathogens to areas like southern Ontario. "But the Canadian winter is so brutal for these tropical species that we just don't see them surviving up here," Murray shares.

The best way to avoid coming into contact with mosquitoes in Canada is to stay inside during the evenings, as Murray notes these insects are most active at dawn and dusk. If you must be outside, it's a good idea to wear light-coloured clothing so you can easily spot bugs, as well as opting for long sleeves and pants. Finally, wearing an insect repellent with DEET, picaridin, IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus can help.

While Murry admits mosquitoes can be annoying, they are important to our ecosystems as food sources and pollinators. Still, these insects can live in very tiny amounts of water and grow quickly. If you want to keep your property mosquito free, it's best to remove any stagnant water sources, which may include abandoned flower pots, puddles in your driveway and tire swings.

Ants indoors on a wooden floor. (Photo via Getty Images)
Carpenter ants, little black ants, odorous house ants, thief ants, pharaoh ants and pavement ants are known to invade Canadian homes. (Photo via Getty Images)

As summer arrives, ants can be annoying critters that can be difficult to remove if they've established a colony. Luckily, Orkin Canada notes the majority of species across the country rarely bite humans. In fact, most don't have strong enough jaws to break through human skin. In some species, like European fire ants, an injected acid from their bite causes a burning sensation.

Ant colonies will send out scouts to search for food, and they're attracted to sugary or greasy foods like peanut butter or crumbs. The best way to prevent pest problems is to store these kinds of foods in tight containers, as well as to keep your kitchen counters and floors clean.

Additionally, you can keep these critters away from your homes by rinsing food containers before throwing them away, regularly emptying kitchen garbage cans and keeping compost receptacles away from your house. Otherwise, try sealing visible cracks in your home, or even pour boiling water or detergent down ant nests to reduce a colony's population.

A close up of a bee on top of a flower. (Photo via Getty Images)
There are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide. (Photo via Getty Images)

In Canada, there are more than 700 species of bees that can be found, including bumble bees, mason bees and leaf cutter bees. While some people may have negative memories of these black and yellow critters from a painful sting, they're typically not dangerous and rarely have a desire to sting.

The Ontario Beekeepers' Association urges people to avoid spraying bees, as swarming is a natural process that lets bees reproduce, typically only for a few days until they leave to find a permanent home. If you come across a honey bee swarm or nest, some beekeepers will even help with relocation for free if the bugs are easily accessible.

For other bee species, it's a good idea to contact a pest control specialist if you want them gone from your vicinity. However, they often nest in inconvenient areas and can sometimes cause property damage. For instance, carpenter bees burrow into soft woods, including window trims, siding wooden shingles, decking and even outdoor furniture. Leaf cutter bees may cause aesthetic damage to plants, sometimes even damaging a plant's stalk for nesting purposes.

Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets

A close-up of a wasp in a yellow flower. (Photo via Getty Images)
Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets are all social wasps and can sting multiple times. (Photo via Getty Images)

As the weather warms up and people spend time eating outdoors, it's important to be careful with your food during picnics and other summertime gatherings. Murray explains you typically see wasps hovering around our meals and garbage because they know that's where they can find high-quality food full of sugar and nutrients.

"It's just making sure that if you are outside and you're eating outside, that that's covered up," the entomologist notes. "[Don't leave] food and garbage open so they can get at it and use that as a continuing food source. That'll keep them away from us, generally."

Early in the summer, Murray adds wasps aren't typically as pesky around humans because there are a lot of natural food sources around for them to eat. It's usually not until the end of summer or early fall where wasps will look for new food sources, as the natural sources run out for the season: "They know to come to where people are eating and they know that they often have sugary drinks and they can find food around humans."

Wasps, hornets and yellow jackets all fit into the category of social wasps, but some species may be more aggressive or bold than others. Compared to bees, these insects can sting multiple times, often when you get too close or disturb their nests. If you are stung and suspect you have an allergic reaction due to unusual swelling, itching, dizziness or shortness of breath, Health Canada recommends seeking medical attention right away.

A close-up photo of a bed bug. (Photo via Getty Images)
Bed bugs thrive indoors, meaning it's not likely you'll catch them from bugs living in nature. (Photo via Getty Images)

Like other pests, bed bugs are most active during the warmer months in Canada. Still, since these insects thrive indoors, it's possible to get an infestation any time of the year. Truly Nolen Pest Control notes it's uncommon for bed bug infestations to occur due to bugs that live in nature; that means people typically bring these critters home due to human behaviour, like travelling and staying at a location that has an infestation.

While travelling, the simplest way to kill bed bugs that have latched onto your belongings is by putting everything into a hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. Items that can't be washed, heated or steam cleaned should be thrown out. But if you've already returned home, it's likely too late for this method, so it's best to call pest control.

Health Canada warns you should only use pesticides registered for use in the country, otherwise the product is illegal and could be unsafe. Moreover, some manufacturers may claim ozone generators can kill bed bugs, but the federal government adds these machines are not safe and could lead to respiratory health issues such as coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath.

Bed bug bites typically look like clusters on the skin, oftentimes in forms of three to five bites in a zigzag pattern. If you have several bites, blisters, an infection or an allergic skin reaction, you should see a dermatologist. If you don't have a serious reaction, you can likely treat bed bug bites at home using soap and water, and applying a corticosteroid cream if needed.

A tick on skin
Experts warn that ticks in Canada are "fitter, better, faster and stronger" than previous years.

Experts warn ticks might be "fitter, better, faster and stronger" this year, and even though they thrive in warmer temperatures, they could be an issue even in cooler climates. These creepy crawlers will begin looking for hosts to feed on when it hits just four degrees Celsius, and researchers warn they now survive in any season as long as it's a mild day.

"Really, tick season can become all year — or almost all year depending on where you live — if you're having those really mild days," Dr. Maggie Brown-Bury, Newfoundland and Labrador Representative on CVMA Council, explained to Yahoo Canada in a previous interview. "We really want people to be aware of that. Not to think of it as, 'Oh, it starts in April.' It definitely could [mean] active ticks in March or even February."

There are more than 40 species of ticks found in Canada, and Blacklegged ticks are the most common carriers of Lyme disease. While contracting the illness from ticks carries a low risk, populations in Canada might be growing rapidly.

Currently, there is no human vaccine for Lyme disease. So, the best protection against the illness is preventing tick bites. After returning indoors, it's best to thoroughly inspect your body for any bites, especially around your hairline, ears, armpits, groin, belly button and the back of your legs.

Pets can also carry ticks into your home, so it's important to also examine your furry loved ones regularly. If you spot a tick on your body or know you were bitten, safely remove it if possible and take it to your health-care practitioner who can analyze it for signs of Lyme disease. If you notice any signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, such as a bullseye rash, head to your health-care provider immediately.

If you want to get rid of a tick from your body and it has already attached, you should use clean tweezers to grasp its head as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight out. You want to avoid trying to pull out the tick by twisting or squeezing, and you shouldn't try to burn the tick or smother it with a substance like nail polish remover or essential oils.

A close-up of a cockroach on a wooden floor. (Photo via Getty Images)
German cockroaches are the most common species found in Canada. (Photo via Getty Images)

There are more than 3,500 species of cockroaches around the world, and while these critters thrive in warm, summer temperatures, Health Canada notes they've been spotted as far north as Nunavut. They're most active at night, and typically enter homes in search of warm, damp conditions along with food and water.

It's rare for cockroaches to cause structural damage, but once inside, they can contaminate food and create unsanitary conditions by spreading bacteria by walking on or excreting over surfaces.

The best way to prevent infestations is to keep a clean home and storing food in tightly-sealed containers. Avoid leaving food or water out for long periods of time, vacuum often, take out the garbage daily and don't let dirty dishes pile up. It's also a good idea to seal any gaps these critters may use to enter your home, as well as cut off any leaky water sources. According to Environmental Pest Control, cockroaches can live up to a month without food, but only a week without water.

German cockroaches are the most common species found in Canada, according to Orkin Canada, but they typically don't bite humans. If they do bite, although rare, it would usually occur at night when you're asleep.


A common house spider, which is one of the species found in Canadian homes. (Photo via Getty Images)
Spiders are great pest control agents and rarely bite humans. (Photo via Getty Images)

While spiders might be scary critters for a lot of people, Murray suggests we're "super lucky" in Canada because these creepy crawlers are fairly benign: "[They're] there to kind of set traps for some of the insects that we actually want to avoid. So, I would say 'embrace the spiders in Canada.'"

Luckily, Health Canada notes spiders don't transmit any diseases and rarely bite humans unless they feel threatened. Most are nocturnal and scurry away to avoid conflict, bites — although venomous with a few species — are usually not fatal.

Canadians might come across house spiders, wolf spiders, cellar spiders, fishing spiders and black widow spiders in their homes, usually in corners of rooms, closets, crevices or basements. Black widows are rare in Canada and they're non-aggressive. Either way, these arachnids are considered excellent pest control agents.

To get rid of spiders, you want to ensure you're keeping a clean space so their food sources — other pests — aren't entering your home. Moreover, you can remove spider webs, sweep behind furniture that's typically unmoved and avoid leaving your belongings — like shoes and clothes — off the floor.

Serious long-term complications or death from their bites are very rare. Moreover, a person's degree of reaction to their bite depends on the area of the body bitten, the amount of venom released and a person's sensitivity to their venom. If bitten, it's best to remain calm and immediately get medical attention.

A close-up of a flea biting and drinking blood from a human's skin. (Photo via Getty Images)
Fleas are flightless insects, and there are more than 2,500 species worldwide. (Photo via Getty Images)

Fleas might be less rife in the colder winter months as they favour warmer summer environments, but there are technically no off seasons for these insects. In Canada, the peak flea season runs from early August to early October. While these flightless bugs are typically found on pets with lots of fur, they can sometimes bite humans as they feed on blood.

In some cases, flea saliva can cause allergic reactions, causing rashes that appear in clusters or lines and often remain itchy or inflamed for up to several weeks. In animals, fleas can hair loss and anemia, and they can transmit parasites like tapeworms as well as diseases like typhus.

If your pet has fleas, you should treat them with both physical and chemical control methods, including a flea comb and a hot, soapy bath. You should also vacuum carpets and cushioned furniture daily, as well as clean around cracks and crevices along the floors. If a flea problem persists, it's best to call an exterminator.

Fruit flies are seen in a laboratory at the Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, May 1, 2018. Picture taken May 1, 2018. REUTERS/Amir Cohen
Fruit flies, albeit annoying, aren't dangerous to humans. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Fruit flies might be one of the most annoying of all summertime pests, but they luckily aren't harmful to humans. They don't bite or carry diseases, however, they can contaminate your food with their eggs or germs.

The Montreal Science Centre notes these bugs enjoy the heat, humidity and sweet odours of fruits and vegetables. While it might seem like they appear out of nowhere, they oftentimes enter homes after they hatch from eggs that are left on produce bought from grocery stores or markets.

If you want to stop these critters from flying around everywhere, a good trick is to wash your fruit and vegetables right after unpacking them from the grocery bag in a tub filled with water and a couple of spoonfuls of vinegar. After they dry, store them inside the fridge. It's also best to eliminate humid environments in your home, like keeping damp sponges away from the sink and avoiding keeping wet dishes out to air dry.

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