OUCH! Some bugs pack a real punch in Mohave County

Hualapai Tiger

KINGMAN – Mohave County is home to many species of venomous creatures.

Although most venomous animals use their venom primarily for subduing and killing prey, humans can be at risk simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Bureau of Land Management Wildlife biologist Bob Hall said venomous creatures are more active in the summer months.

"People need to wear shoes when they are walking, and watch where they put their hands when picking things up from the ground," Hall said.

While a bite or sting from most venomous insects and arachnids represents more of a physical inconvenience than a medical emergency, some species do have powerful venom that may be life threatening.

"It is important to remember that many factors play a role in how severe a bite or sting will be," said Zen Mocarski, a public information officer with the Kingman regional office of the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

"An individual's personal chemistry has a great bearing on how that person will react to any foreign substance introduced into the body."

The amount of venom, the location of the bite or sting, the species of insect, arachnid or animal and even the geographical origin of the creature that delivered the bite or sting all play a role in the severity of the bite, he said.

There are several venomous insects and arachnids that Mohave County residents should be especially careful of.

Conenose 'Kissing' Bug

Also known as Hualapai tigers or assassin bugs, conenose bugs are blood-sucking bugs that feed at night on a variety of animals and humans.

No bigger than a man's thumbnail, the dark brown Triatoma rubida goes by many names depending on where it is found.

Conenose bugs, which have six legs instead of the usual four, are smaller than the usual furry variety of Triatoma and can be found in and around the Kingman area, said Rob Grumbles, the Mohave County director of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.

Prevalent in foothill areas where rodent nests are common and in mountain areas, Triatoma are three-fourths to one and one-fourth inch long and dark in color.

Most active at night, they are drawn to the lights of homes and may conceal themselves in bedding.

Problems develop when the critters become adult and fly around at night seeking mates and a new home.

The feeding bite of the bug, which usually occurs on those areas of the body not covered by close-fitting clothes, is often painless because its saliva contains an anesthetic.

Because the face is almost always exposed, this is typically a feeding site, thus the name "kissing bug."

The Triatoma does not inject poison, but after injecting its razor-sharp proboscis – the tubular feeding structure – it sucks the blood of its victim, most often while the person is sleeping or resting, Grumbles said.

The insect will continue to draw blood for up to 20 minutes, although the allergic reaction in people sensitive to the protein in the saliva can be felt within minutes, Dr.

Neil Marshall said.

Marshall developed an antigen for patients allergic to the bug back in the early 1980s while pursuing a doctorate at UCLA.

Treatment of bites may require the aid of a physician.

Application of ice packs to the affected area might give partial relief.

Repeated bites could lead to hypersensitivity and result in an anaphylactic reaction requiring immediate medical attention.

Scratching can greatly increase the reaction.

In places where infestation is suspected, small children should be protected by netting, along with nightly bedding checks.

Pets are also infected by the insect and have been a source of entry into houses for the hitchhiking bugs.

For more information on these bugs, call the University of Arizona Mohave County Cooperative Extension at 753-3788.


The brown spider and the black widow spider are two venomous varieties that pose the most threat to humans in Mohave County.

Mocarski said a little known fact about spiders is that they all are venomous.

"Spiders bite to deliver their venom," Mocarski said.

"Two criteria considered when determining whether a species is dangerous to humans is whether the spider's jaws are strong enough to penetrate human skin, and if the venom is virulent enough to cause any serious effects to humans."

Mocarski said many spiders are venomous but cannot puncture the skin.

The brown spider and the black widow are the only two varieties in Arizona that meet the criteria and are therefore generally considered dangerous to humans, he said.

A black widow spider is small to medium in size and has an orange hourglass-shaped marking on its underside.

The male is tan color and not considered a threat.

Only the female black widow spider is a threat.

It is so named because generally after mating it will consume the male.

The female can be more aggressive when it is protecting its egg sack, Mocarski said.

The brown spider, also found in Mohave County, looks similar to a brown recluse spider found primarily in the southeast part of the country.

Small and tan in color, the brown spider is also reclusive and likes to scurry into laundry baskets and under debris.

A spider delivers venom through the fang.

The bite leaves a circular wound that turns dark.

Mocarski said it is important to identify the species of spider because there are different types of spider anti-venom.

"The No.

1 thing is to get to an emergency facility that has spider antivenin as quickly as possible," Mocarski said.

"Don't try first aid on your own.

Leave that to the professionals."


Denizens of the desert, the bark scorpion in Mohave County is the only species of 56 species found in Arizona that is considered a threat to human health.

The slender, straw-yellow scorpion is nocturnal and active during the summer months.

The claws, or pinchers are used only to hold prey.

The danger is the tail, which is filled with venom.

The venom can be painful and long-lasting and in some cases life-threatening, depending on the general health of the person stung, BLM wildlife biologist Bob Hall said.

Anyone stung by a bark scorpion should seek medical attention.

Ice cubes can be placed on the sting, but do not submerge the site in ice-water, Hall said.

It is advised to capture the scorpion for identification purposes when seeking antivenin treatment.


Classified as "fearsome, but harmless," centipedes are very much a part of the desert scene.

The most common of the desert species looks like a giant segmented worm.

It is tan with darker bands and about 5 or more inches long.

When exposed to the sunlight, its immediate response is to run for cover.

Centipedes deliver venom via a modified pair of legs beneath the head called gnathopods.

For humans, a bite is painful but not dangerous.