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Field Crews On Alert as Blood Suckers Abound: 5 Of the Worst You Need to Avoid

By Ron Etter, Environmental Group Manager, Koontz-Bryant, P.C.

Bloodthirsty insects manage to make life miserable for man and beast. In addition to the short term pain and suffering that are inflicted by their bites, a number of diseases can be transmitted during the course of their feedings. The Virginia Department of Health reports that 1 in 150 cases of people infected with the West Nile Virus (transmitted by mosquitoes) develop severe symptoms including fever, headache, stiff neck, vision loss and seizures. Anyone working or playing outdoors is susceptible. Much of the work performed at Koontz-Bryant requires field crews to be outside performing surveys and environmental studies. For folks in our industry and other similar jobs, it is important to take preventative measures. By reading this article we hope that those who work outdoors will learn how to protect themselves from insect bites. Here are the top five of these blood sucking nasties to avoid.

1. Mosquitoes

The Asian tiger mosquito accounts for close to 90 percent of the daytime mosquito bites in Virginia. Not native to the US, this insect arrived here sometime in the mid-1980s from Asia. Most of our local mosquitoes only feed at dusk and dawn. Mosquitos are one of the deadliest animals worldwide, mainly due to their transmittal of malaria – accounting for over 1 million deaths across the globe. They can also transmit diseases like yellow fever, Chikungunya, dengue fever, filariasis, West Nile Virus and the Zika virus. Rest assured that most of these infections are not a major concern in the United States.
Mosquitos feed by piercing the skin with a tube-like mouth part called a proboscis and secreting an anticoagulant to keep the victim’s blood flowing so they can suck it out. The saliva causes the itch and swelling at the site of the bite.

2. Ticks

If you look closely you will see that ticks have 8 legs which puts them in the same family as spiders. Ticks can transmit diseases like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrilichiosis, tularemia, Lyme disease and Rocky Mounted Spotted fever. It takes 24 hours to several days for ticks to transmit infections to their victims, which is why it is important to find and remove ticks as soon as possible.
Ticks feed a lot like mosquitoes, but they have two tubes: one to suck out the blood and another to secrete a numbing agent into the victim’s skin, allowing the tick to burrow deeper.

3. Horseflies

The bane of all pool parties. The female horse fly is the blood feeder. These ladies have blade-like mouth parts used to slash the skin and blood vessels to get the victim’s blood to flow. Then they use a sponge like mouth part to soak up the blood. They are very aggressive and prefer to feed off of relatively stationary warm blooded animals. They prefer legs and lower portions of the body.



4. Deer Flies

Much like horse flies, deer flies use a slash and slurp feeding method. They are smaller than the horse fly, but tend to cluster together. Unlike the horse fly, deer flies like moving targets, and enjoy feeding in areas around the head and neck.



5. Kissing Bugs

Also known as conenose bugs (due to their shape), these pests feed at night, usually from around their victim’s eyes and mouth. They are not very common in Virginia but can carry Chagas disease, which is transmitted through the feces that they so kindly deposit on your face while sucking out your blood.


All of these critters can cause swelling and itching at the site of the bites, and some people have allergic reactions to anti-coagulants in the saliva of the bugs. Bug spray helps with the mosquitoes. With ticks, avoidance and prompt removal are the best coping mechanisms. For both Deer and Horse flies the only good measures are avoidance and covering up exposed skin. For the kissing bugs it is important to keep them out of the house. These bugs like to live under porches, in wood piles, dog houses and in mice and other small rodent burrows.

At Koontz-Bryant we don’t let the bloodsuckers keep us from providing our clients with quality field services including environmental site investigations, soil and water compliance monitoring, stormwater inspections, surveying, and construction stake outs. Please email Ron Etter or call him at 804.350.9358 with any questions or for more information on our field services.

The Virginia Department of Health (www.vdh.virginia.gov) is a great resource for information about harmful insects found in Virginia. The Center for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov/ncezid/dvbd/) gives a lot of information on the various insect borne diseases found in the United States.