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North American Arthropod Envenomation and Parasitism

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  1. Introduction
  2. Beetles and other insects
  3. Delusions of parasitosis
  4. Conclusion
  5. References

The phylum Arthropoda contains about four fifths of the known animals of the world, and insects are the largest group of arthropods. Insects are an important part of the biota of all terrestrial and freshwater environments that support life; only in marine environments are they relatively unimportant. More species of insects exist than of any other form of multicellular life, and they may well exceed all other land animals in biomass. Insects can use most animal and plant substances as food, and their feeding plays a vital role in recycling organic compounds. They compete with other organisms for the world's food supplies but are themselves a major food source for many forms of life. They are essential for the pollination of many plants. Insect life cycles are diverse and often complex, involving developmental and sexual stages that are widely different in morphology and ways of life. Although sexual reproduction is the rule, parthenogenesis (unisexual reproduction) and pedogenesis occur. Some groups, such as ants, bees, and termites, have developed a high degree of social organization. During at least part of its life cycle, an insect's body is divided into three distinct regions (head, thorax, and abdomen), with three pairs of legs attached to the thorax. Except for a few primitive or parasitic groups, most adult insects have wings.

[...] Small predatory insects, such as lacewing larvae, anthocorids, and Sclerodermus species, occasionally attack humans instead of their normal arthropod prey. Thrips may bite and produce itching macules. A small hemipteran, Leptodemus minutus, caused numerous cases of dermatitis in Kuwait. The stick insect, Anisomorpha buprestoides, a common species in Florida and adjacent states, ejects a noxious fluid from its thoracic region that deters birds and other predators. According to regional folklore, this fluid can be directed toward human eyes with painful consequences. [...]

[...] The life cycle involves larval and pupal stages before emergence of the adult. Many beetles feed on plants throughout their life cycle, many are predators or scavengers, and a few are parasitic. No beetles have a bite or sting venomous to humans, but several families have toxic secretions that may be deposited on the skin. The blister beetles (family Meloidae) are a cosmopolitan group with numerous representatives in deserts and semiarid regions. A species may suddenly appear by the thousands, especially after rains, persist for a few days, and be replaced by another. [...]

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