By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests

With Halloween almost upon us, learn about some of the scariest, creepiest and crawliest denizens of the forest. Warning for anyone with a general discomfort around insects: This piece may make you squirm!

Assassin Bug

Silent as the grave, this bug will stalk its prey until it finds the perfect moment to strike. Credit: Bernard DuPont

This bug lives up to its name! Assassin bugs use a rostum, a long tool on the front of their face, to pierce other insects and inject a toxin similar to a spider’s venom to liquefy their prey’s insides. The rostrum serves as both syringe and vacuum, as after the bug has been liquefied, it will be sucked dry. Some species of assassin bugs will then take the corpse of the unfortunate ant, beetle or termite and stick it to their back, to disguise themselves from other predators, and to mask their scent to other prey.

Bullet Ant

This insect travels in swarms and, after biting its victim, will release a chemical telling others to attack. Even Kevlar won’t protect you from this bullet. Credit: Bernard DuPont

The bullet ant has earned its name because of the potent venom found inside the stinger in its abdomen. The pain is apparently comparable to being shot, hence the bullet reference. It’s ranked as one of the most painful stings on the Schmidt Pain Index, which rates the comparative pain of different insect bites and stings. Supposedly, the sting is 30 times worse than a bee sting, and lasts for 12-24 hours. The creator of the Schmidt Pain Index, Justin Schmidt, described the sting during an interview with Great Big Story as “pure, intense, brilliant pain … Like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel.” Pretty scary!

Fishing Spider

Not only can this spider walk and run on water, it’s also able to catch its prey without the use of a web. Credit: Judy Gallagher

Some spiders from the genus Dolomedes do not spin webs, but instead perch on top of rivers and ponds, using surface tension to stay afloat. The minute that a fishing spider feels a vibration along the surface, it leaps out and grab its prey, whether that be an unlucky insect or even a fish. They can be found on every continent except Antarctica, and have been witnessed eating prey up to five times their size!


Silently waiting to suck your blood, these creatures might be the scariest on our list because there’s a chance one’s hitching a ride on you right now… Credit: Jerry Kirkhart

Invisible creatures that suck your blood and then leave you with a bacterium that causes you to feel sleepy, lethargic and sore? It’s not vampires, just the common tick! (Bran Stoker would be bitter of these blood-suckers.) Ticks are scary not because of their appearance, but because of the fact that they’re almost invisible, and transmit Lyme disease. Out of all of the creatures on this list, these are probably the most likely to run into. Read about how to prevent and remove these creepy creatures here.

Emerald Jewel Wasp

Mad scientists have nothing on this wasp, which is able to create zombie insects after it stings their brains. Victor Frankenstein would be jealous! Credit: Axel Rouvin

This parasitic wasp can create literal zombies, but only from cockroaches. The emerald jewel wasp will sting a cockroach, injecting venom directly into the victim’s brain, inhibiting the creature’s motivation to walk, run or resist. The wasp can then lead its victim back to the wasp’s nest, where wasp larvae will feed on the lethargic cockroach for the next week. The wasp is only found in Africa and Asia, and only uses its mind-controlling venom on other bugs. At least for now…

Golden Orb-weaver Spider

If something, no matter how big, gets caught in the web the golden orb-weaver spider weaves, it’s probably going to eat it. Credit: Matthew Laird Acred

This spider spins webs so strong that it will occasionally catch snakes, bats or birds as prey. The webs are strong enough that fishermen have used them as nets to catch fish. While the golden orb-weaver spider consistently feed on insects as its main source of food, if an unlucky larger creature gets caught, the spider’s not opposed to feasting for a week. While no human has even been caught by one, a recent study found that orb-weavers living in cities are getting bigger and having more children. Yikes!

Saddleback Caterpillar

Red colors, devilish horn and covered in spikes? If you’re unsure what to wear as a Halloween costume, maybe take a page out of the saddleback caterpillar’s book.

This caterpillar has “horns” that protrude from its body, a sting from which expels venom that can cause stinging, burning, fever or nausea that last up to five hours! While it may have a cute little saddle on it, don’t cuddle this caterpillar, otherwise you’ll regret it.

Even if you get dressed up this Halloween with the goal of spooking, you may not hold a candle to these creepy creatures! Keep in mind though, while these creatures may be scary, they hold an integral place in their ecosystems. If you ever spot one of these, after gasping in terror, take some time to respect the diversity of life that these animals contribute to.