7 Travel Pests Worse Than Bedbugs

Person holding closed container of live bed bugs.

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For travelers, one of their most common concerns does not come from pickpockets roaming the streets or some of the scams they may face in New York and Los Angeles. Instead, one of the worst problems they may face comes from within the confines of their hotel room or private room share.

Since 2010, bedbugs have become one of the biggest concerns of travelers across the United States, due in part to headlines extolling the spread of these small yet vicious pests. In a 2015 study completed by the University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association, pest control professionals reported hotels and motels were the third most likely place in the country to discover bedbugs. However, with the spread of bedbugs comes numerous misconceptions, including the number of ways bedbugs can affect travelers and their ability to spread disease.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), bedbugs do not have the ability to spread disease but can leave painful and itchy welts from their bites. In addition, bedbugs are not considered a public health pest—but they can be very annoying.

When it comes to bugs you should fear while traveling, bedbugs fall to the bottom of the list compared to some of the other pests in the world. Every international adventurer should be on the lookout for these seven bugs.

01 of 07


Microscopic image of lice.
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Many people consider lice to be a problem isolated to schools and the children who pass these parasites along from one to another. However, contracting lice is also a problem for travelers as well: one stay at the wrong hotel or hostel can result in leaving with an unwanted guest.

Lice are very small parasitic bugs that prefer to live in the warmth of hair follicles. These bugs can be passed on simply by contact with someone who currently has lice. Finding these bugs can be difficult, as they grow to be the length of a grain of rice, and are very sensitive to light.

Those who have lice infestations will experience an irritated, itchy scalp due to the biting of the bugs. These bugs will also lay egg packs, known as nits, at the base of each hair. As the nits hatch, the lice infestation continues.

Once an infestation is confirmed, treating lice can be as easy as proper hair care. Travelers can use an over-the-counter lice shampoo to kill the living lice, followed by combing out and removing any nits in the hair. It may take more than one treatment to completely remove both the lice and nits from the hair. Before declaring a treatment complete, be sure to treat affected hair for seven to 10 days.

02 of 07


Close-up view of adult Trombidiidae (chigger) mite
Alan R Walker/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0 

One of the biggest threats anyone who spends time outdoors faces may not even be seen by the naked eye but can leave terrible bites behind. Trombiculidaes, better known as harvest mites, red bugs, or the encompassing term of "chiggers," can create a very irritating and annoying rash in their wake.

Chiggers are most commonly found in warm areas throughout the world and are most active throughout the spring or summer. When an adult chigger lays its eggs on a host, the larvae feed on the host by breaking down skin cells through an enzyme and feeding off the tissue. Although chiggers do not typically spread disease in North America, those in tropical climates such as Asia and South America have been known to spread scrub typhus.

To identify a chigger bite, look for small bumps appearing in a rash-like pattern across the body. Chiggers can feed off a large area, so it is not uncommon to see a rash patch. Additionally, chiggers can camp in barrier areas, including waistbands and armpits.

To prevent chiggers, apply a bug repellent that is rated to prevent bug bites before spending​ ​extended time outdoors. Furthermore, experts recommend showering immediately after spending any time outdoors, in order to wash off any chiggers that may have attached themselves. Rashes caused by chiggers can be dealt with using an itch relief cream.

03 of 07

Fire Ants

Close-up view of several fire ants
Marufish/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0 

While chiggers are often invisible to the naked eye, fire ants present a much more visible problem for travelers across the United States. Accidentally imported from South America to the Port of Mobile at the turn of the 20th century, fire ants are now found across the Southeastern United States, Texas, and parts of California and Arizona.

Fire ants look much like regular ants and can be found in underground colonies with mound-like openings. Like other bugs, those who spend time outside are the most susceptible to fire ant stings. When a human or animal encroaches on a fire ant nest, these bugs sting by biting down on the target and then applying the stinger on their hind end. While most people will experience discomfort in the form of a pustule at the area of the sting, an estimated five percent of the U.S. population can experience a deadly allergic reaction to their attacks.

The most common symptoms of a fire ant sting include pain at the area of the sting, swelling, and redness at the point of attack. Once a fire ant releases, it will not continue to attack, but its reminders will be left behind. Pustules are a common sight at the area of the sting and will usually form within 24 hours.

To treat a fire ant sting, do not pop the pustule that forms. Instead, it can be treated by regular washing and applying bandages to the area. Pustules usually disappear within three to 10 days of forming. For those who have a more severe reaction, seek medical attention or apply rescue medication, as necessary.

04 of 07


Close-up view of mosquito biting a person.
Geoff du Feu/Getty Images

Of all the pests that are more dangerous than bedbugs, much ado has been made over ​mosquitoes recently. In 2016, mosquitoes were the primary factor in transmitting the Zika virus throughout Central and South America.​

Mosquitoes can be found throughout the world but prefer to live in warm, moist climates. Furthermore, mosquitoes are attracted to pools of still, standing water, as they lay eggs in these areas. As a parasite, mosquitoes feed off of warm-blooded creatures, ranging from animals to humans. While a bite alone can be irritating, mosquitos can also transfer a number of viruses with their attack, including malaria and Zika.

Mosquito bites are characterized by their irritation and raised, red appearance. Blistering and bleeding can also be present in the presence of a mosquito bite. While bites may not be noticeable at first, they are often exposed within hours of being bitten. Furthermore, the diseases a mosquito can transfer may not be apparent ​immediately, as some of the viruses have an incubation time.

For as painful as they may be, mosquito bites are relatively easy to deal with. Anti-itch cream can help reduce the irritation, with many bites subsiding by themselves within a week. Those who are concerned about any additional problems that may come from mosquito bites should consult a doctor.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Sand fleas

Thousands of sand fleas gathering.
arjanbestaatal/Getty Images 

No matter what you call them—sand flies, sand gnats, granny nippers, or chitra—sand fleas can turn any beach vacation into a nightmare. While they are most commonly mistaken for fleas, sand fleas are actually not fleas but are flies.

Sand fleas are most often found along sandy coastlines, including beaches along oceans and lakes. These flies can take multiple appearances, from all-black in color to a small-black fly with a green head. When swarming, it is primarily the female flies that attack and bite both humans and animals in order to reproduce.

The key difference between the sand flea and the mosquito is the severity of the bite. While both bugs bite to suck blood off the host, a group of sand flea bites can often turn into a rash. Additionally, sand flea bites can be much more irritating and take longer to heal than mosquito bites.

Much like mosquito bites, sand flea bites can be prevented with DEET-based mosquito repellent. Those who suffer from sand flea bites can use an anti-itch cream to treat the irritation of the bites. Unfortunately, those who experience a sand flea bite should prepare for a bit of irritation, as many of these wounds can take more than a week to heal.

06 of 07


Striped scorpion at water hole.
Terry L McCormick (Russellville AR USA)/Getty Images 

Often confused for bugs in their own right, scorpions are not actually an insect. Instead, they are in the same family as spiders—despite the fact that they carry two claws and a venomous tail.

While scorpions can be found throughout the world, the most common travelers hiking outdoors may face is the striped scorpion. Noted by its brown and orange coloring, the striped scorpion often blends in with the natural habitat of the rocks and desert sand. When threatened, a scorpion can use both its claws and tail to attack, delivering a toxin from the stinger at the tip of its tail.

Individuals who are stung by a scorpion can expect to feel a moderate amount of pain (similar to a bee sting or Asian hornet), along with numbness and tingling throughout the body. For those who have an allergy to scorpion stings, additional symptoms may include hives, swelling, difficulty breathing, and nausea. A small minority of people may experience life-threatening allergies, which should be treated immediately.

Those who are spending time outdoors should exercise caution when hiking. Although they may look fascinating, scorpions should be avoided at all costs.

07 of 07


A black widow spider weaving her web.
Mark Kostich/Getty Images 

Finally, spiders can provide more than just a startle in different parts of the world. Depending on the variety and type of spider, arachnids can turn an adventure into a tragedy.

While many spiders found in the United States are rather harmless, there are a number of arachnids that can send bit individuals straight to the hospital. Both the black widow and brown recluse spiders have a highly venomous bite, which can be fatal if not treated in time. In other parts of the world, spiders can also bite with enough venom to send an adult to the hospital.

When it comes to spiders, individuals would be best advised to watch out, especially when investigating cool and dark places. By exercising extreme caution, every traveler can avoid contact with spiders.

Even though bedbugs may be a major inconvenience to travelers, they are not the worst pest to encounter. From sandbugs to scorpions, these bugs may be the worst to encounter when visiting the extreme parts of the world.

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