What'sreally Bugging You; British Insects Are Enjoying a Population Explosion. Here We Show Which Ones Are Harmless - and Which Are a REAL Health Risk GoodHealth

Daily Mail (London), June 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

What'sreally Bugging You; British Insects Are Enjoying a Population Explosion. Here We Show Which Ones Are Harmless - and Which Are a REAL Health Risk GoodHealth


Byline: CLAIRE COLEMAN

IT WASN'T a sporting injury which recently dashed the dreams of British cross-country champion Kirsty Waterson, but Lyme disease contracted through a tick bite. She has been left suffering from headaches and severe fatigue and is unable to regain her running form. Our native insects, including ticks, are enjoying a boom, thanks to the late spring followed by a warm summer. But some are more dangerous than others.

Here Colin Plant, an entomologist, and Dr Catti Moss, a GP and spokesperson for the Royal College of General Practitioners, offer their expert views on the risks - and how to avoid them.

Mosquito

THERE are approximately 18 different species of biting mosquito in the UK.

Where? Throughout the country, particularly in woodland or coastal areas.

Bites: The shape of the mosquito's proboscis means the victim is less likely to feel the bite and it's only when the body's immune response kicks in that you are aware of a red, itchy lump.

Protection: Long sleeves and trousers; try treating clothes with Permethrin, available from travel suppliers.

DEET-based repellents are also effective.

Worst-case scenario: Malaria and West Nile Virus are mosquito-borne diseases, so be vigilant on holiday.

Expert view: Catti Moss says: 'The worst thing about mosquitoes is that they hunt in packs so you can end up looking like you have measles.'

Danger rating: 6/10

Midge

A SUBGROUP of the gnat family.

Only the females bite.

Where? Throughout the UK but notoriously in Scotland. Worst on damp and cloudy days.

Bites: Usually bite at dusk and dawn, piercing the skin and pumping saliva into the wound to prevent clotting. This induces a minor allergic response, causing itching and swelling.

Protection: Insect repellents containing DEET (Diethyl Toluamide) are effective.

Worst-case scenario: Because midges send out pheromones to alert others to a feeding site, you are likely to suffer multiple bites. Don't carry diseases fatal to mankind.

Expert view: Colin Plant says: 'Midges aren't harmful but they're a real nuisance. It is estimated they cost Scottish tourism millions of pounds a year.'

Danger rating: 1/10

Wasp

MEMBER of the Hymenoptera family, which also includes ants, bees and hornets.

Where? Throughout the UK.

Usually a problem in late summer. Will sting when aggravated.

Bites: The sting is initially painful and the surrounding area will swell as the body's immune response to the toxins in the poison kicks in.

Protection: Avoid antagonising. When a wasp stings, it releases pheromones to attract others.

Worst-case scenario: A danger of anaphylactic shock if you are allergic to the venom. A sting in the mouth can also be fatal because the swelling can block airways.

Expert view: Colin Plant says: 'As the climate warms up, wasps are generally spreading north. Over the past decade, the UK has seen two species from France - the Saxon Wasp and the Median Wasp. They're both very large and are a bit of an unknown quantity.'

Danger rating: 3/10

Bee

THERE are about 300 types in the UK.

Where? Bees are found on every continent, except Antarctica, and live on pollen and nectar.

Bites: The bee's stinging mechanism is similar to that of a wasp but after delivering a sting they will die. As with wasps, the toxins provoke an immune response that causes a swelling.

Protection: If you are stung remove the entire sting to avoid infection.

Worst-case scenario: A sting in the wrong place can cause a swelling that will obstruct breathing, but, unless you have an allergy to bee stings, while painful, they are unlikely to cause serious damage.

Expert view: Colin Plant says: 'If they land on you, stay calm because they won't harm you unless you threaten them. …

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