Your Guide To Common Iowa Insect Bites and Stings

March 13, 2023

Sunny summer days are perfect for enjoying fun outdoor activities. However, this is also the prime time for Iowa insects to multiply and claim their territory in your backyard. Don't let the threat of bug bites stop you from enjoying the warmer weather!

Our experts at Preferred Pest Control can help you avoid Iowa’s insects that sting or bite, and if you encounter an infestation on your property, our exterminators have you covered. If you're worried about which insects sting or bite, follow our guide to help you identify the most common bug bites and how to treat them.

How do I know what kind of bug bit me?

Unless you see the bug in action, it can be difficult to identify which bug bit you until the effects of the bite have taken place, especially since many bugs are so small or inconspicuous that you might not even notice you were bitten until later. Insects that sting or bite leave red welts, itchy patches or other indicators on your skin that can help you identify what type of bug bite you’re experiencing. We share what the most common bug bites and stings look like in the chart below so you can identify and treat them: 


How do you treat bug bites?

For any bites that itch, an ice pack can help reduce swelling and pain. Over-the-counter anti-itch creams are also very effective. Reactions to the most common bug bites and stings in Iowa are typically mild. However, if you are allergic to certain insects or have sensitive skin you may experience more severe reactions, such as significant swelling, that might require antibiotics.

Our guide reveals Iowa’s insects that bite or sting along with our tips to safely and effectively treat them.

Insects That Bite | Mosquitoes

If you're ever outside after dark, you've most likely been a victim of Iowa's mosquito population. Mosquitoes are summer's most common insects that bite. There are two types of mosquitoes found in Iowa: floodwater mosquitoes and permanent water mosquitoes.

Floodwater mosquitoes can be pretty annoying because their bug bites can be painful, but the floodwater mosquitoes rarely carry diseases. Permanent water mosquitoes tend to lay their eggs on the surface of standing water at the edges of lakes, ponds, ditches and sewage plants. This species generally doesn't travel far from its home, so try to avoid these areas after dark.

Where to Find Mosquitoes and Spot an Infestation

These pests are most active from dusk to dawn, but will also search out prey in shady areas. You will rarely see mosquitoes in the daylight because they have a slim chance of surviving in the light. They're best known for feeding on your blood to support their eggs and leaving a red, slightly raised bump when they bite.

You'll notice a mosquito infestation if you run into a lot of buzzing and a large number of bug bites occur. Most likely, these bugs are protecting their eggs. If that is the case, you will want to call a professional right away! Once those eggs hatch, your mosquito problem will get exponentially worse. Preferred Pest has solutions that specifically get rid of mosquitoes from your home or business.

Insects That Bite (and Sting) | Ants

Ants are social creatures that live in colonies by the hundreds. They tend to be the biggest nuisance to Iowa homeowners in the spring and summer time. If you're finding these little pests around your home in Iowa, you're probably seeing these popular ant species: carpenter ants, odorous house ants, pavement ants, larger yellow ants and thief ants.

Although they may be tiny, ant bites and stings can cause significant discomfort. Contrary to common belief, some ants will actually sting instead of bite, but both should be cared for the same way–apply a cold compress or an over-the-counter anti-itch cream. Don't let these little critters ruin your picnic this summer! If you have an ant problem, call a skilled exterminator.

Insects That Bite | Ticks

Ticks are definitely on the rise in Iowa, and their population is increasing year over year with more reports of ticks carrying Lyme disease. The three tick species found in Iowa are the deer tick (or black-legged tick), the American dog tick (or wood tick) and the lone star tick.

How to Avoid Ticks and Treat Tick Bites

Ticks are commonly found in the woods, forests or areas with tall grass and vegetation. It's beneficial to wear long sleeves or clothing that covers your skin if you're going exploring in that type of setting. Because ticks carry Lyme disease, you should regularly check for ticks in the summer.

To effectively remove ticks, you must be very careful not to crush them. If the pest's mouth is left in the skin it can still spread Lyme disease. To be safe, it's best to use tweezers to firmly grasp the tick as close to the head as possible and pull it out. Make sure you disinfect the area of the bug bite once the tick is removed.

If you remove a tick and a red rash appears around the bug bite, you could be infected. It typically takes 48 hours for a tick to transmit Lyme disease, but if the tick is properly removed you will avoid this problem. If the tick bite is accompanied by headache, fever and a stiff neck, you should seek medical help immediately.

Insects That Bite | Spiders

You've probably run into a variety of spiders on multiple occasions. Even though these critters are arachnids and not insects, we will still include them in our list since spiders are very common in Iowa. Luckily, most species found in Iowa are harmless, but there are a couple to look out for:

The black widow is one of the few venomous spiders found in Iowa, but thankfully they are rare. If you did run into one of these critters, it would most likely be found on outdoor objects that have not been used for an extended period of time, like playground equipment or seasonal gardening tools.

Brown recluse spiders are hunters, and do not spin webs to catch their prey. They are normally found outdoors in piles of loose debris. If these pests do find their way inside, you can usually find them under towels or clothing that's left on the floor. They are not aggressive by nature, but they are venomous so you should be cautious around them.

The easiest spider prevention method is to take down their webs. The types that are regularly found here are the black and yellow garden spider, common house spider, fisher spider, grass spider, wolf spider, black widow and brown recluse. Like other insect bites and stings, a spider bite will typically be left on arms and legs or other exposed skin and can be identified by small, red bumps.

Insects That Bite | Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are one of the Iowa insects that you definitely do not want in your home or business. They feast on blood and can survive long periods without a meal, so you can never be too careful. These beasts are common throughout the year, but bed bug bites tend to increase in the spring and summer when more people are traveling and coming in contact with other travellers on planes, in hotels, etc.

Preventing Bed Bugs From Invading Your Home

Since these bugs are typically transferred while traveling, it's important to be cautious while on vacation. Always keep bags, purses and clothing off the ground of your hotel rooms, because bed bugs are great hitchhikers. When you return home, you should wash your clothing in hot water. If you did pick up these critters, the heat will eliminate them.

As their name implies, these insects are typically found in beds and like to hide in your mattress. Bed bugs also hide in furniture or floor boards along the wall and they move quickly! An infestation is usually found when bed bug bites are noticed. Their bites will leave tiny red welts that could be itchy and are commonly found in a cluster on the arms, legs or exposed skin.

If you have a bed bug infestation, act right away! These pests are not easy to get rid of and will multiply quickly, which is why it's usually easy to spot them in your home. Contact professional pest services immediately to get rid of the infestation. Preferred Pest Control has canines that are trained to detect bed bugs and uses a thermal treatment to get all bed bugs out of your home or business.

Insects That Sting | Wasps

Despite what most people think, wasps are usually not aggressive. They will not sting you unless they are provoked or they think their nest is in danger. Not all wasps have hives; some are solitary creatures that travel on their own. In Iowa, the four most common wasp species include yellow jacket wasps, paper wasps, mud dauber wasps and cicada killer wasps. Each of these wasps have unique habits for colonizing and building nests. If you're seeing an alarming number of wasps around your house, you might have a problem. It's best to call an exterminator who can safely remove these Iowa insects.

If you do encounter a wasp, it's best to leave them alone because they usually don't attack until you do, and wasps can deliver multiple blows. Wasp stings will have an initially sharp pain followed by redness and swelling in the areas where the stinger was injected into the skin. Generally, the pain and swelling should subside in a few hours.

However, if you're allergic to wasps and have more severe reactions you should contact a physician right away. Allergic reactions could include swelling of the face, lips or throat, dizziness, difficulty breathing, feeling light headed, nausea or vomiting and a weak or racing pulse.

Insects That Sting | Bees

During the spring and summer months most insects are very active, and bees are no exception. This is the time where they come out of hibernation and start buzzing around in search of materials to build their hives. When they're not constructing their new home, the worker bees are out and about collecting nectar from flowers to feed to the larva back at the hive. Most insects that sting will usually not attack unless they believe their colony is in danger. The types of bees found in Iowa are the honey bees, carpenter bees, ground bees and bumblebees.

Signs of a Bee Invasion

During the spring and summer, you might want to keep an eye on the activity happening around your garden. However, flowers aren't the only things that attract bees. Some bee infestations can be tricky to spot since these critters can set up their hives in the ground, within tree branches and sometimes inside your home or business. If you're noticing a sizable amount of bees, call a pest removal expert before it's too late.

Insects That Bite | Fleas

We all know fleas feed on common house pets like cats and dogs. But, did you know these pests feed on humans too? In fact, some flea saliva can even cause allergic reactions. Once inside, these pests will attack pets and humans alike. They will typically attack the legs and feet of humans, but it is possible for fleas to attack the entire body. Their bites leave behind tiny red bumps that itch and can cause great discomfort.

Identifying Fleas In Your Home

Although very small, fleas can be seen. Identifying their presence in your home is often easier than eliminating a flea infestation. If you become skeptical of a flea infestation in your home, you can start by observing the behavior of pets. Are they scratching a lot? Losing hair? Or have red skin? All of these are tell-tale signs of fleas. If you don’t have pets, you can check yourself for these same symptoms. Fleas will also leave behind flea dirt which appear to be dark spots on the skin.

To remove fleas, reach out to professionals. Fleas can be persistent and are often difficult to remove from homes.

Prevent Insect Bites and Stings With Preferred Pest Control Services

Preferred Pest Control wants to ensure that you don't have any of these insects that sting or bite wreaking havoc on you and your property this season. We have specialty services depending on the pest problem, or you can get rid of any bug issues with our residential pest control services which include quarterly property check-ins. Call Preferred Pest today at (515) 415-5550 or schedule an appointment online.