Summer is great, isn’t it? The weather is beautiful. We get to cook out and eat hamburgers and hot dogs fresh off the grill. Sure, it’s hot, but that’s what the pool is for. And it’s all fun and games until someone steps on a fire ant hill. Then, the sun goes down and out come the mosquitos… and then the mosquito bites. (And mosquito bites bite, believe me.) Well, leave it to me to start wondering. Ants and mosquitos don’t really ‘bite’ us, per se, so why do we call their annoying, painful inflictions bites?
The truth behind ant bites is probably less-known. Ants (at least the ones we commonly encounter) don’t leave marks by munching on human victims. They grab your skin with their pinchers and then swing their gaster (butt) around and sting you…with their stinger. That’s what leaves the itchy mark. But the mark is still called an ant bite, not an ant sting. (Even though it stings.) In reality, it’s both a bite and a sting. Or a bite, then a sting, to be precise. Confused yet? Well, when you catch an ant in the act, what does it look like? It looks like it’s biting you. The phrase ant bite just kind of caught on from the beginning and never got shaken.
I think the ant just doesn’t look mean enough to be considered a stinger. Bees sting. Wasps sting. Scorpions sting. Compared to that, ants kind of just nibble…
Mosquitos don’t have teeth or stingers. They have a proboscis. Yet, what do you call the itchy bump left behind? A bite. (I guess you could call it a probe, after the proboscis, but that’s a little weird.) Same question, then. Why is it called a bite? Clearly, mosquitos are sucking your blood when they land on you. In fact, they’re injecting saliva into you at the same time.
Unfortunately, mosquitos fall into a similar trap as ants. Their annoying existence doesn’t merit a mean-sounding feeding habit. We don’t call mosquito bites sinister injections. We don’t even call them pricks, which is actually pretty close to the needle-like action. Nope. It’s a bite. The English language has hundreds of thousands of words and the best we could come up with was bite. . . and it’s not even that accurate.
By: S. Cole Garrett