Dangerous Bugs & Spiders in Tennessee

Dangerous Bugs & Spiders in Tennessee
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While Tennessee isn't quite the Australian outback, it still has its share of dangerous creatures. Most of the spiders in the southern state aren't poisonous, but two can pose certain dangers for some people. A handful of other insects found in the state also pose certain risks and should be avoided.

Black Widow Spiders

Two of the five species of widows in the United States, the northern and southern black widow, live in Tennessee. The spiders are more common in more southern states like Tennessee due to its warmer climate. Widows have a distinctive red hourglass marking on the abdomen. They hide in dank places like root cellars and under piles of firewood. While not commonly deadly, the bite of a black widow may cause severe illness and pain.

The Brown Recluse

The brown recluse is the only other poisonous spider found in Tennessee. Of all the spider bites in Tennessee, it is estimated that as many as 15 to 25 percent are done by the brown recluse. A brown recluse's bite is not deadly. However, its bite can cause sickness and leave a wound that may ulcerate. As the name implies, recluse spiders are not likely to seek out people to bite. They prefer to hide in places where they can live without being bothered, such as books, boxes and attics.


Wood ticks are quite common in the state and actively feed on people. The number of reported cases of tick-related diseases doubled in Tennessee between 2005 and 2010. A tick bite can lead to diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease.


Mosquitoes are virtually everywhere in the United States, and the Volunteer State is no exception. Most mosquito bites are itchy or slightly painful, as is the ensuing inflammation in some people, but the bites are generally harmless.

Mosquitoes can, however, transmit serious diseases by being infected with viruses that they give to humans when they bite them. West Nile virus is a factor in Tennessee, in 2017, there were 30 human West Nile cases, as well as 17 cases of La Crosse virus, among Tennessee residents.

Other Insects

Fire ants are also common in Tennessee. The ants swarm anything that threatens their mounds. According to the Government of Tennessee's bulletin on venomous animals, the Saddleback, Puss Moth and Io Moth caterpillars all produce bites that are painful, itchy and leave prolonged infected lesions. The state also has two poisonous scorpions, the Southern Unstriped and the Striped Scorpion. While scorpions are not technically insects, they are commonly grouped in with them. The bites cause prolonged pain and slight sickness rather than serious or long lasting effects.

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