Do Moths Bite? Do They Cause Disease?
For many of us when we spot an insect we ask ourselves: Do they bite? Can they transmit diseases? Are they harmful to humans? These same questions can come to mind when we see a moth flying around as well.
These tiny insects are first cousins of butterflies, but the question is are they as harmless as butterflies or can they pose health risks to humans. Read on to learn some facts about a moths bite, and whether you should be terrified of their presence or not.
· Do Moths Bite? ·
The simple answer to a moths bite is: no, not all of them. In fact, the domestic moths widely spotted in homes are harmless and are not dangerous for humans in any way. They have no interest in biting you, nor do they have the mouthparts capable of biting. Most of them totally lack mandibles, and other mouthparts for a moths bite.
Some of them do have atrophied or proboscis which is straw-like mouth part which they use to suck in nectar from flowers, but they are unable to chew food or bite humans.
· Diseases Caused by Moths ·
Even though a moths bite is practically non-existent, they can still harm people. The following are reported reactions towards contact with moths and caterpillars, and have been categorized according to the symptoms:
#1. Allergic Reaction
- Moths are a major contributor of airborne allergens. They can impart allergies among people because of their wings.
- A moths’ wings are usually plastered in hairs or tiny scales.
- These scales develop to guard themselves against predators.
- Moths shed their scales regularly just like other living creatures shed their skin.
- When these dusty particles come in contact with other objects they spread becoming airborne.
- This triggers allergen causing an allergic reaction.
Also, if someone comes in contact with them or their fecal matter they can experience the same allergic reaction.
Like adult moths, caterpillars too have spines and hairs and they are equally responsible in contributing to the airborne allergens which when are inhaled by people and result in allergic reaction. Moreover, if someone comes in contact with them, their hairs will cause severe irritation.
Scales on moths and caterpillars can transmit toxins among people if they come in contact with them resulting in allergic reactions.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction caused by moths include:
- Small red bumps
- Skin rashes resembling bites
- A sore throat
- Breathing difficulties
- Eye problems
Anyone can suffer from an allergic reaction due to caterpillars and moths, but children and asthmatics are more at risk. Their hairs are also problematic for pets like dogs and cats, so it’s advised to keep animals away from trees infested by moths.
#2. Localized Stinging Reaction
These are mostly caused by caterpillars as they possess biting mouthparts. Their stings are painful which could result:
- Swollen red bumps
In rare cases systematic symptoms could include:
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle spasms
- Breathing difficulties
Rare moth species which belong to the genus Calyptra are known for biting humans to suck blood and feed upon it. The bite symptoms are generally swelling, itching and red bumps, just like any other bug bite, and the symptoms are relieved within a couple of hours.
But in rare cases, the bites symptoms can be severe and result in eczema-like reaction and blistering which will take weeks to subside.
Legs of giant moths and their caterpillars bear spurs which are sharp enough to penetrate human skin. They can cause dermatitis, and symptoms include:
- Mild itching
- Small red bumps
- Eczema-like reactions which persist for weeks
Gypsy moth caterpillars are one such species that cause massive dermatitis outbreaks in the summer.
#4. Ophthalmia Nodosa
Caterpillar hairs are behind this toxic eye infection. These hairs make their way to the eye via wind or by sticking to hand or fingers. Sometimes direct contact of caterpillar hairs with eyes can result in the irritation.
As a result of exposure to the caterpillar hairs, the upper eyelid develops contact dermatitis. Meanwhile, the entire eye structure will be inflamed. Any caterpillar or moth having hairs can cause this allergic reaction in the eyes.
#5. Pararamose and Dendrolimiasis
Pararamose and Dendrolimiasis is a painful combination of skin rashes, joint pain, and inflammation. Mostly these illnesses target joints, bones, and cartilages. These painful symptoms are quite obstinate in nature which keep on reappearing even after several treatments. Usually the stings and contact of caterpillars and moths found in China and Brazil result in such severe reactions.
· Treatment of a Moths Bite ·
Mostly moths and caterpillars don’t cause severe reactions, so there is no specific treatment for allergic reactions, and itchiness they cause. Cleaning of the contact site and basic first aid measures will be sufficient to deal with them.
Stinging pain can be relieved by applying ice, taking some oral painkiller. Topical steroids or oral antihistamines can be used to treat eczema-like reactions. In the case of severe reactions like Ophthalmia Nodosa and Dendrolimiasis, the patient should seek emergency medical help to avoid complications.
It’s difficult to get an actual number of people who have been affected by moths because the infections caused by them are rarely reported to health authorities due to their mild nature. But still some species are known for creating epidemic allergic reactions. In case of a caterpillar bite, the victim should observe the symptoms closely. In case of severity then seek medical help.***
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