Insects of medical importance

The Northern Territory's (NT) Top End is home to a range of biting insects that can transmit diseases and cause medical conditions through their bite or sting.

Mosquitoes

The most dangerous insect is the mosquito.

There are just over 100 species in the NT. Some only bite animals such as marsupials, frogs or birds, while others will feed on animals and people.

Over 20 species in the NT bite people often enough to be labelled serious pests. Some carry viruses that can cause disease.

For more information read common mosquitoes in the NT.

Salt marsh mosquito

The northern salt marsh mosquito, Aedes vigilax, is the most important pest mosquito in the Top End because of its aggressive biting habits during the day and night.

It can carry and transmit Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus disease in the NT. You need to protect yourself to avoid being bitten. The highest risk period for these diseases is from December to January.

Get the salt marsh mosquito pest calendar from the Department of Health ePublications.

Treating a mosquito bite

If you are bitten by a mosquito, don't scratch the bite as this can lead to infection. You can use ice or buy creams and gels that contain antiseptic and a local anesthetic, which helps soothe the bite.

If the swelling becomes excessive and itchy, you may need to take an antihistamine as well. You should ask your pharmacist.

If the bite becomes infected, you should visit your local general practitioner (GP) to make sure they give you the right medication. 

Read more about how to protect yourself against mosquitoes.

Biting midges

The mangrove biting midge, Culicoides ornatus, causes widespread pest problems in mangrove areas along the NT coast.

The midges that are found around mangroves only fly two to three kilometres from mangrove areas.

Biting midges do not transmit disease to humans in Australia, but they cause an itchy bite that can sometimes become infected.

Get the biting midge pest calendar from the Department of Health ePublications.

Other insects that bite or sting

There are other insects and spiders that can cause painful and annoying bites and stings or medical conditions in the NT.

These include the following:

  • bed bugs
  • centipedes
  • flies
  • honey bees
  • itchy caterpillars
  • lice
  • march flies
  • mites - read about scrub typhus
  • scorpions
  • spiders
  • stinging caterpillars
  • stinging ants
  • wasps.

Most of these rarely cause death or longer-term after effects.

More information

Last updated: 27 June 2017