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Dangerous and Annoying Pests in Oklahoma

18 July 2018

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If you’ve ever spent time outside in the Oklahoma summertime, you know the bugs and critters love it here. In fact, Oklahoma is home to more than 540 common pests. Whether they have stingers or jaws, these are the bugs you should avoid if possible. How much do you know about dangerous bugs in Oklahoma?

What types of dangerous pests live in Oklahoma?

You have two main types of creepy pests in Oklahoma, arachnids and insects. It may not be necessary to know the difference between the two, but it might be helpful if you’re attempting to identify the bug visiting your home.

The arachnids include spiders, ticks and scorpions. Creatures classified as arachnids have three body sections and eight legs. Insects’ bodies have only two sections and six legs. But if you’re close enough to count body sections and legs it’s possible you may be too close!

Dangerous Oklahoma arachnids

Check out the list below to learn more about Oklahoma’s dangerous spiders, ticks and scorpions.

Brown recluse spider (aka the Fiddleback)

Also known as a violin spider, this spider has a brown/gray abdomen with lighter colored legs. The area above the eyes is where the rounded part of the violin/fiddle markings are located, with the “neck” of the instrument pointing toward the body. All ages of the spiders share this marking.

Brown recluse spiders live in piles of wood, leaves and junk left in your yard. When inside your home, they often make homes in discarded clothing or shoes left on the floor and in the back of closets and cupboards.

A venomous bite from a brown recluse can cause the tissue around the bite to die and erode. If infection settles into the dead tissue, it can affect other areas of the body. If bitten, wash the area and add ice to the bite, then contact a medical professional. The reaction to the venom is different with each individual and should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Black widow spider

You will recognize this pest by the shiny black body and red hourglass mark on the underside of the round abdomen. While the males and immature females of the species are harmless, the mature female has a toxic venomous bite.

They rarely leave their webs, but they build webs in places like sheds, barns and under garden rocks.

If you believe you have a bite, wash the area with soap and water, put ice on it, elevate the body part and immediately seek medical attention. Pain begins at the site of the bite. Within eight to 12 hours of the bite, stomach and back cramps begin followed by sweating, nausea, fever, headache, restlessness and tremors.


Tall grass and bushy areas under trees in Oklahoma are a perfect habitat for ticks during the warm summer months. Their tough exteriors help keep them alive and healthy.

They feed on the blood of animals and humans (when they find one) but are not venomous. The biggest danger ticks pose is the diseases they carry and how they can transmit them to humans. Diseases often carried by several varieties of ticks include babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and Q fever.

  • American dog tick – This species of tick has spots of lighter color across its back. They live in woody areas and are easily picked up on hiking trails, fishing spots and campgrounds. These are the only known carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Oklahoma.
  • Brown dog tick – The common brown dog tick is found around the world and in Oklahoma. You find them on a dog’s ears, in tight spaces in dog kennels and on porch beams.
  • Black-legged tick (deer tick) – You’ll see no colorful markings on these ticks, but they do pack a powerful bite. They are most often found in eastern Oklahoma on grassy paths, trails and roadways. These ticks are the main carriers of Lyme disease in Oklahoma.


It is assumed by experts that between three and five species of scorpions live in Oklahoma. However, there is only one that is commonly seen throughout the state. At about two inches in length, they have eight legs, two pincers and a segmented tail that often arches over the body. At the end of the tail, you find the stinger.

Outside areas near air conditioning condensers and wells are popular with scorpions because they like dry land but require water as well. Inside your home, likely places to find them include empty wall spaces, attics and crawl spaces.

For most people, the sting of a scorpion is only slightly more painful than a bee or a wasp sting and can be handled at home. For children and those who have sensitive health issues, medical help is advised. To deal with a sting, wash the affected area and apply a cool compress.

Dangerous Oklahoma insects

The classification of insects covers a variety of creeping pests. It’s true that all insects have six legs, but it’s also true that some have wings while others do not.

Flying insects 

Enjoying summer picnics and other outdoor activities often lure these pests close to you. The stings, while painful, are usually not life-threatening. However, for those allergic to the venom, it can be much more dangerous. If anyone is stung, wash the area and apply a cold compress. If more than minor swelling in the area occurs, contact medical help immediately.

Their nests are often found in the eaves of porches, barns and sheds, under trees or on equipment (like ladders) left outside.

  • Wasps – Of all the species of wasps, paper wasps are generally the ones that sting people. They colonize in honeycomb-like nests and mature nests can have up to 75 “worker” wasps that collect food and protect the nest. Solitary wasps tend to only use their stinger to paralyze prey.
  • Bees – There are four main types of bees living in Oklahoma. Honey bees and bumble bees are the most common to sting. This is due to their social nature and lifestyle which can lead them into contact with humans more often than solitary bees.
  • Mosquitoes – Mostly, mosquito bites are annoying and itchy. However, there are many diseases such as West Nile virus, Zika and malaria carried by mosquitoes. They are seemingly everywhere in the summer but especially love standing water.

 Crawling insects

You’ll notice when you step onto your lawn on a summer evening there are more bugs than you can count. Most of the bugs are harmless and some serve a higher purpose for your lawn or garden, but a few of them can cause pain.  

  • American oil beetle – This specific beetle is a type of blister beetle that is plain in appearance. They are black in color and seem to have overlapping “armored” plates. When scared or squeezed, they secrete a chemical which creates blisters and bothers human skin. They are slow-moving and are often found near plants and flowers.
  • Assassin bug – The bright orange and black colors should serve as a warning to refrain from handling the assassin bug. While not deadly, they have a long fang at the front of their mouth and it is painful to humans who get stabbed by it. It successfully eats many other bugs because of the same fang, so they are good for the garden, but keep your own hands out of reach!
  • Eastern velvet ant (cow killer) It moves like an ant and is shaped like one, but the bright red and black hairs show it to be a wingless female wasp. The sting is extremely painful and is said to be strong enough to kill cattle. They are found in fields and meadows, lawns and along the edges of wooded areas.
  • Fire ants – These bothersome bugs infest more than 325,000 acres in the southern U.S. They are incredibly aggressive and will swarm and attack anything that disturbs their mound. Fire ants will bite and then arch their back to sting multiple times in a circle. The venom has a toxicity which causes a severe burning feeling. They are reddish brown to reddish black and have a visible stinger at the back end of their body.
  • Kissing bug – As carriers for a deadly disease called Chagas disease, these bugs, which feed off the blood of mammals, often bite on or near the lips of their prey. Once inside your home, they hide in cracks, under or in beds (including pet beds) and only come out at night. They are brownish-black bugs with lighter spots along the outside of the “shell” on their back.

How to avoid Oklahoma pests

The best way to keep bugs away is to take early preventive steps. Hiring a pest management company to routinely check and spray your home helps with many types of pests.

Regular maintenance helps keep bugs at bay as well. Regularly check and replace trim, weather stripping and outdated caulking. Remove old limbs, wood piles and dead leaves from your yard which provide habitats for bugs to live in and bring larger predatory pests close to your home. Fill low spots and drain standing water to reduce mosquito habitats.

Keep your home clean. Food left out and clutter can provide two of the needs bugs require for survival. Use strongly scented cleaners and regularly remove cobwebs and clean out closets and cupboards.

Are my pets at risk?

Don’t forget about your pets when they are outside this summer! There are many types of pests and bugs that are harmful to their systems as well.

Grubs, crickets and cockroaches can cause stomach worms if they are ingested. Mosquitoes are known to cause heartworm in animals and an infestation is often deadly to pets. Flea infestations in your pet's coat can cause him to be infested with tapeworms as well.

This list of pests is not comprehensive. Many caterpillars – such as those for monarch butterflies, asp and gypsy moths – are toxic and can cause serious health problems to your outside pets. Additionally, if your pets eat venomous spiders, ants or scorpions it could be dangerous to their health.