Tennessee, with its mild year-round climate, enjoys all four seasons. However, East Tennessee and Nashville have hotter summers than usual.
Humidity in the state is on the rise. Heat and humidity are a perfect combination for many bugs to thrive.
This guide will reveal 10 Biting bugs in Tennessee that all of you Tennesseans must know.
Some of these bugs are incredibly tiny and spread diseases.
You’ll find out how these bugs can infect or invade your home. Plus, there are some hacks to protect yourself from these bugs’ bites.
10 Biting Bugs In Tennessee That Leave Tennesseans Itching And Scratching
These bugs are not typical in Tennessee. Most of them are common in the US, especially in the southern states.
However, given the weather and ecology of Tennessee, these biting bugs have started to spread rapidly in Tennessee.
Here are the most common biting bugs that have become annoying pests for Tennesseans –
- Fire ants
- Sweat bees
- Deer flies
- Horse flies
- Biting midges
- Bed bugs
So, how do these bugs have started to increase in Tennessee? What’s the reason for that?
And, as a Tennessean, or if you’re moving to Tennessee, how can you protect yourself from these bugs?
Let’s deep dive into each of these bugs and find their causes for raising their heads in Tennessee.
Mosquitoes have become a menace in Tennessee over the years, especially in East Tennessee, when the summers are getting a bit warmer.
Their rising numbers have put Knox County Health Department on alert.
Culex mosquitoes, the most common species of mosquitoes in Tennessee, are spreading faster. These mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus.
Health professionals from the health department have started to use sprays to eliminate wherever they’re finding them.
But, the worst part is the appearance of Asian tiger mosquitoes. These mosquitoes are tiny and they’re invasive species.
They’re not native to the US, and they’ve been showing up in many counties of Tennessee.
Tiger mosquitoes, also known as ankle bitters, are tiny black with white stripes.
They’re more aggressive biters than other mosquito species in Tennessee. And they’re also more efficient in spreading diseases than other mosquito species.
Most mosquitoes are active during dawn and dusk. And that’s when they mostly bite if you’re outdoors or enter your home.
But tiger mosquitoes can bite you anytime.
Tiger mosquitoes are outdoor mosquitoes that thrive in the dense vegetation in damp areas.
In urban areas, tiger mosquitoes are now even entering homes.
To protect yourself from mosquitoes in your Tennessee home, ensure that there’s no water stagnancy problem on your property.
Mosquitoes lay eggs in stagnant water. Stagnant water is the source of mosquitoes in many homes and properties.
So, remove unwanted tires, flowerpots, buckets, and abandoned bins and cans. These things hold water and become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Ticks always existed in Tennessee. But the emergence of a new ticks species – the Asian long-horned ticks, and the increase in their numbers have taken the health departments of various Tennessee counties and entomologists in universities aback.
The Asian long-horned ticks can reproduce without mating. And Asian long-horned ticks don’t need high humidity and warmth to reproduce.
There are other ticks species in Tennessee that harm pets and humans.
Bites from the American dog ticks, the Lonestar tick, and the black-legged ticks can cause deadly diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky mountain fever.
On top of that, the lone star tick, common in Eastern Tennessee, can cause people to get allergic to meat.
Ticks are parasites. They feed on the blood of mammals and birds to survive.
The source of the ticks is the tall grasses and lush green vegetation near water sources outdoors.
Ticks lurk in these places to latch onto a potential host, a human, or an animal.
Tennesseans are no stranger to chiggers, especially the Knoxville, Southeast Tennessee, and Nashville residents.
Chiggers hang around in the dense woods of Tennessee. And they’re incredibly tiny. So tiny that they’re one of the microscopic bugs that bite.
Why they’re microscopic? It’s because you can’t see chiggers with the naked eye. You’ll need a magnifying glass to see them.
Chigger bites make many people wonder what’s biting them that they can’t see.
Chiggers lurk in the dense bushes and grassy areas. They latch onto people passing by or walking through these places. And that’s one of the ways how you bring chiggers home.
Chiggers are the tiny larvae of harvest mites, and they mostly bite in the moist areas of your body.
So, the most common places chiggers bite is ankles, groin, and waist.
Chiggers feed on the skin cells of humans. After latching onto humans, they’ll bore themselves into human skin to feed.
Chiggers will remain inside the skin for a few days till they’re full. And when they finish feeding, they fall off the human bodies.
Chiggers in the US don’t carry any disease. And many people confuse chiggers with scabies mites.
The only symptoms of chigger bites are extremely itchy red welts on the bitten area.
Fire ants are tiny red or reddish black ants that bite and sting. These are the nastiest biting ants in Tennessee and are active starting from late winter and early spring.
In Tennessee, many fire ants move into new places after the rains or spring floods.
Fire ants float on the water’s surface like a raft by interlocking their legs until they reach an object or place they can climb.
Fire ants start by infesting your yard or garden. They build ants mounds on the soil, primarily under shades or areas that don’t receive direct sunlight.
Underneath the ant mounds lies a network of tunnels that store the eggs and larvae of these fire ants.
And fire ants fiercely defend their nests.
No matter what you do, you shouldn’t break the fire ants’ mounds.
If you do, these ants will move out in swarms and bite and sting you multiple times.
Their bites and stings are extremely painful. Some people who’re sensitive to bug bites can go into anaphylactic shock.
Four types of wasps are common in Tennessee – paper wasps, mud daubers, yellow jackets, and red wasps.
All these wasps become active during the late spring. And they are nasty stingers.
Paper wasps are dark tan wasps that Tennesseans mostly notice in their homes and outdoors.
Paper wasps aren’t typically aggressive. But they can sting if you try to handle them or go too close to them.
Mud daubers are species of wasps that build their nests on walls and hard surfaces in the form of mud tubes.
Mud daubers are the least aggressive wasps species. And they’re beneficial insects too because they feed on bugs and spiders.
Mud daubers are black and slender. They don’t consume their prey completely but suck out the prey’s liquid and leave the carcass.
Yellow jackets give a tough time to Tennessee residents. These are the wasp species that seem to sting for no reason.
But that’s not the case. The truth is that yellow jackets are fierce defenders of their nest. And if anyone, including birds and mammals, goes close to their nest, yellow jackets will attack them.
They’re black with yellow stripes on their bodies and the biggest of Tennessee wasps.
Red wasps, which are also common in Tennessee more than in any other state, are among the less aggressive wasps.
But red wasps prefer to nest in human homes more than yellow jackets. And that exposes Tennessee residents to the risk of stings from red wasps.
Red wasps build their nests in unlikely places like under carports, gutters, and even in the gaps in the window frames.
Red wasps prefer to stay away from humans and pets. But they can sting you if you try to handle them or if they feel provoked.
Many Tennessee residents are no stranger to sweat bees.
Sweat bees are tiny green bees with a metallic luster on their back. Some of the sweat bees in Tennessee can be gray and yellowish too.
Your sweat attracts the sweat bees. And they’ll land on you if you’re sweating while doing any outdoor activity in the woods or your yard.
Sweat bees feed on the salt in human sweat, which is why human sweat attracts these bees.
Sweat bees are not stingers. They bite.
They’ll bite in the sweaty portions of your body on the exposed skin.
But sweat bees are harmless. Sweat bees will bite you if you try to squash them or press them against your skin.
Sweat bees’ bites don’t cause any diseases. Their bites also don’t cause any long-term severe skin irritation or discomfort. However, the pain from sweat bees’ sting is quite mild.
Ask any Tennessean about a fly hovering over the head. Yes, those are deer flies.
Deer flies are active in Tennessee during June and July, hovering over people’s heads, looking for an opportunity to bite.
These flies are not stingers. Deer flies have sharp mouth parts that they use to bite.
The female deer flies are human blood feeders. They need the blood to develop their eggs inside their bodies.
These flies are abundant near aquatic sources like ponds, rivers, swarms, and marshes.
Deer flies are light brown and grow up to 1/3rd of an inch in size. They’ve got transparent wings with grayish patches, and they’re strong fliers.
But deer flies bites don’t cause any diseases because these are not pathogen-carrying flies.
Like the Deer flies, horseflies too feed on human blood. These flies are common in barns and the suburban and rural areas, especially in northern Tennessee.
Horseflies got their names because of their bias to bite horses.
But they can bite any mammals, including humans, to feed on blood.
Horseflies can even enter homes, and their appearance inside homes always takes the residents by surprise.
People often confuse horseflies with deer flies because of their size and shape.
However, the horseflies have a green sheen on their back that distinguishes them from the deer flies.
The horseflies also nest and breed in damp places near aquatic sources.
Like the deer flies, horseflies also have sharp mouth parts that they use to bite and rip open the skin to draw blood.
The bites are painful, but their bites don’t cause any diseases.
Biting midges, also known as the biting gnats, sand flies, or no-see-ums, are tiny mosquito-like bugs that become active in Tennessee during the summer.
Unlike mosquitoes, biting midges are not stingers. They’re biters.
They use sharp mandibles in their mouth to rupture your skin and bite.
Biting midges are tinier than mosquitoes. They grow only up to 1 mm – 3 mm in size.
They’re black and have opaque wings with grayish patches on them. The biting midges feed on human blood and can even enter your home.
They live and breed in damp places near water sources.
And wet soil beds, damp compost piles, decaying organic wastes, and rotting mulch beds are their breeding grounds on your property.
Biting midges or no-see-ums don’t carry pathogens that can cause diseases. But their bites are intensely itchy and can take a long time to heal.
Biting midges thrive in warm conditions. That’s why they’re also common in southern states like Texas and Florida.
Bed bugs aren’t a statewide menace in Tennessee like other bugs on our list.
However, bed bugs have made a strong comeback nationwide because they developed immunity against traditional bed bug pesticides.
Cities like Columbia and Nashville in Tennessee are facing a rise in bed bug infestation.
Bed bugs spread by latching onto luggage and belongings of other people.
And as more and more people move into Tennessee, especially in the urban areas, bed bug infestation is spreading.
Bed infestation is hard to detect in the early stages, and when it grows, bed bugs can be challenging to eliminate without the help of a professional pest controller.
How To Protect Yourself From Biting Bugs In Tennessee?
As you can see, most of these bugs are outdoor bugs. They bite you when you’re engaged in outdoor activities, especially during summer.
So, the best way to protect yourself from their bites is to wear DEET-based skin-friendly insect repellants.
Wearing light-color clothing also helps keep flying, biting insects like biting midges and mosquitoes away.
If you’re camping or hiking and walking through the woods, ensure that you wear proper clothing.
Wear pants that cover your entire legs and full sleeve shirts. Proper clothing with insect repellants prevents bugs from biting.
But when you reach home, don’t keep your clothes on couches or beds. Bugs can be present on your clothing.
Keeping them on your furniture and bed will transfer them into your home.
Ticks, fleas, chiggers, and even mites might latch onto your clothing and luggage. So, they’ll drop off from the fabric and can hide in your home.
The best thing to do is to throw your clothes directly into the washing machine and wash them with warm water.
And spray insect-killing sprays on your camping gear or luggage before you take them inside your home.
Another thing you must do is to ensure that there is no overgrown vegetation on your property.
High levels of dampness coupled with lush green shrubs and tall grasses become hiding and breeding grounds for ticks, fleas, and ants.
Control the dampness levels of your yard. Don’t overwater, and don’t let water stagnate.
And fix any water leakages causing the dampness in your yard’s soil or home’s foundation.
The most common biting bugs in Tennessee are –
- Fire ants
- Sweat bees
- Deer flies
- Horse flies
- Biting midges
- Bed bugs
Most of these bugs are active in summer, except for bed bugs. Bed bugs can be active all year round, depending on the living conditions of your home.
This guide revealed why these bugs bite and when they bite.
To protect yourself from bites of these insects, follow the guidelines to remove their sources and use skin-friendly bug repellants while outdoors.
We’re Mark and Jim, and we’re retired pest controllers who made homes pest-free for more than three decades. We, along with our team of experts, founded this site to give you the pest control hacks that work.