How many Americans have been bitten or stung by a variety of critters?

Taylor OrthSenior Survey Data Journalist
September 08, 2022, 6:23 PM GMT+0

Have you ever been stung by a bee? If so, you share that experience with three in four of your fellow Americans. Recent polling by YouGov explores how many Americans have been bitten or stung by a variety of land, sky, and sea critters. In total, the poll asked about encounters with 21 creatures, which were selected based on an assessment of online accounts of bites and stings.

The most widely shared experience among the 21 polled is having been bitten by a mosquito: nine in 10 people (91%) say this has happened to them. Bee stings are the next most common (75%), followed by bites or stings from wasps (52%) and fleas (51%). Slightly fewer Americans have been bitten or stung by fire ants (46%), spiders (45%), horse flies (40%), or ticks (39%). Between one in four and one in three have been bitten by hornets (30%), chiggers (28%), lice (23%), or bed bugs (21%).

Experiences with bites and stings vary by region. Bites or stings by certain types of critters appear more common in the South and Midwest than in the Northeast or West, including wasps, ticks, and chiggers. The largest regional difference is on bites by fire ants, which we find are by far the most common among Southerners. Bites from horse and deer flies appear to be more frequent in the Midwest compared to other regions. Jellyfish stings are least common among people in the Midwest – the only region of the country that doesn't sit alongside jellyfish's favored ocean saltwater. 

People who live in rural areas are more likely than Americans overall to have experience with most of the critters polled about. They're 27 percentage points more likely than people who live in cities to have been stung by a wasp and 18 points more likely to have been stung by a bee. Suburbanites are less likely than people in cities or rural areas to have been bitten by bed bugs.

We followed up with people who said they'd been bitten or stung by each type of critter polled to find out how painful their experience was. Out of the 15 types of bites and stings that at least 100 respondents had experienced, we find that the largest share (61%) say that being stung by a hornet is "very painful." Wasps come in a close second (60% say very painful), followed by yellowjackets (55%). Next are fire ants (47%), jellyfish (46%), and bees (36%). The least painful are lice (5%), ticks (7%), and fleas (6%). 

Which creatures do people who haven't been bitten or stung by them fear most? Among creatures which at least 100 respondents didn't have experience being bitten or stung by, we find that the most feared is snakes, which 36% of people are very scared of being bitten by. (A YouGov poll from earlier this year asked Americans about 30 different potential fears — including many that didn't involve bites or stings — and found that snakes topped the list.) Large shares also fear scorpions, hornets, and yellowjackets. 

— Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See crosstabs and toplines for this poll.

Methodology: This U.S. News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online from August 30 - September 4, 2022. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 Presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the entire sample.

Image: Adobe Stock (sergo321)

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