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Tiny flying stinging insects

This post appears here because I have no image, other than the one I describe. My impression is that ID Request is reserved for posts requesting identification accompanied by a photograph.

While digging (a french drain) in loose pine straw, mulch, near the base of a small maple tree, my son, my wife, the cat, and I were all stung by tiny swarming insects which none of us were able to see clearly (in part, for running). I know that they are very small, perhaps smaller than a housefly, and dark in color, and that they apparently can sting through our light clothing. (I was stung through a T-shirt, and my wife was stung twice through her sweatpants. The cat was not clothed, and the creature that bit my son did so, apparently, having made its way inside his shirt. The wounds that the boy and I received, as well as the cat's, have subsided. My wife continues to deal with pain and spectacular welting.) I have to remove the tree, and will need to control the pest, given its proximity to our driveway, and would like any advice about a) what it might be, and b) the best way to remove it responsibly.

I am in Central Virginia, in an area of rolling hills, near a creek (the creek concerns me a great deal in connection with the use of pesticides), and the tree is at the edge of the wood. There is slash and some loose fill in the immediate vicinity, as the house is recently built. The pine straw is old and dry and the dirt near the base of the tree has been disturbed in the construction, and is fairly dry and dusty. That is all the detail I can think to give.

I think
I know what you're talking about now. Was the area around the tree wet? Because I think that happened to me to, though I never found out what it was. That happened a while back though.

Brandon K.

Comment Removed
For all the reasons Eric mentioned, Brandon's response has been removed.

Gasoline for Unidentified Bug Management
Dear Troy & Eric

Thank you for your highly responsible censorship of Brandon's amazingly inappropriate post.

I know that it took courage to do that, particularly in view of the fact that a) he acknowledged that it was a silly idea, b) he is a 13 or 14 year old boy, and c) I suggested that anyone with the wits of a 16-year-old should stay safely inside if an adult was daft enough to douse unidentified stinging insects with gasoline. He did, however, beat you both to the punch.

Of course, you might have just done it on account of the spelling, which I have to say (are you reading this Brandon?) was incendiary.

Now, do you suppose that one of you could venture a guess as to two or three or four possible identities of this bug for me? It's very tiny. It flies. It stings worse than a stinging fly and not as bad as a yellow jacket. It makes almost no sound. It lives in the loose ground in the vicinity of tree roots. It apparently likes the dusty pine straw. It does not attack unless we are practically standing on it. It attacks in small groups, although only one of several that were swarming around me actually struck. It stings through our clothes, and apparently on the wing. It lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge in Central Virginia.

Any ideas? If I get out my camera, I'm going to get stung again, I fear. Please try. Thanks.

Hang in there, Brandon, keep making suggestions, make sure that you lay it on a little thicker about how they are not to be taken too seriously, but for Pete's sake, use your spell-checker.


I had figured they were yellowjackets for sure based on your initial description. I've been attacked en masse on several occasions and my experience sounded similar to yours.

Hmmm, do you happen to have any dead ones left over from the initial attack? Perhaps one was caught in your clothes or might be lying close to the nest, but not so close you have to get stung again retrieving it. Try scanning one on a flatbed scanner and submitting it here.

We're happy to take a look, but your local county extension is still a good resource. It's a free call and they have local knowledge of your fauna.

With all due respect....
Recommending any kind of insect control involving flammable liquids is completely irresponsible, opens BugGuide to liability issues I don't even want to comprehend, and is not the kind of advice we dispense here anyway. Attempting to control ANY pest without getting a proper identification first is just asking for trouble. Generally, we ask that people with this kind of problem, and no images for us to look at, contact their local county extension agent, usually affiliated with their state's land grant university, but located locally. My apologies to this questioner for the inappropriate response, and the gross spelling errors. None of this reflects well on Bug Guide as a whole.

Great Minds
Thanks for your suggestion, Brandon. It sounds very like something my son (age 16) and I were thinking about. Actually, I was thinking about it, and my son thought, prudently, that he would watch me through the window.

Thanks again.

sorry everyone
I'm verry sorry everyone.I didn't mean to mess up anything and I'm extremely sorry to the site.I didn't want to hurt anything. Troy I sent you a email. Please read it.I'm sorry I let every one down.

My apologies

Brandon K.

Yes, got your email
Clearly you got the intended message, so we'll say nothing more about it. Just be careful in the future. Unfortunately we live in a world that forces us to consider the legal consequences of someone following your suggestion and getting hurt in some way.

As far as spelling, the forums are a less formal part of the site, but it's always a good idea to convey an image of professionalism. I encourage everyone to proofread their posts for gross errors. Mistakes are inevitable though, and nobody's looking to nitpick (pardon the pun).

I'm glad to know that everyone forgives me now.

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