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5 Bugs To Avoid During Summer in Japan

From killers to just creepers, here are five bugs you might encounter this summer in Japan and ways to avoid them.

By 6 min read

After Japan’s rainy season ends, you may want to keep an eye out for some unwanted house guests. Just like how there are lots of unique things to love about living in Japan, there’s a whole assortment of insects too—possibly even making a home behind your walls.

If you’re the kind of person that would rather shoo a creepy-crawly out rather than immediately running to the poison spray, it can be hard to tell which insects are safe to pick up and remove and which ones are dangerous to handle. So today, we present some of the worst summer bugs to keep an eye out for and, more importantly, how to avoid them.

1. Suzumebachi

As venomous as they come, giant hornets are also known as “killer” or “murder hornets.”

Japan’s infamous suzumebachi, or “killer hornet,” is one of the more dangerous creatures on this list, as it does kill a dozen or so people every year.

The suzumebachi is larger and has a far more venomous sting than conventional hornets. However, a single attack is unlikely to be fatal to an adult unless you have a wasp/bee sting allergy or you are stung several times in quick succession. The danger posed by suzumebachi comes from the fact that they often live in swarms. Therefore, you might be more likely to be stung in more rural areas, making it far tougher to seek medical attention if someone does go into anaphylactic shock.

Suzumebachi are rare in urban areas, so you are unlikely to have them show up in your house unless you live in the countryside near mountains or forests. You are most likely to encounter one of these while hiking, but some simple steps can help limit your exposure to them.

Precautions

  • Wear bright colors, as these bugs are attracted to black clothes.
  • Carry antihistamine cream with you if you’re going out where they may be.
  • Squeeze the stinger and venom out as quickly as you can if you’re stung. Do not try to suck out the poison!
  • Apply cream afterward.
  • Go to the hospital as soon as you can, just to be on the safe side.

2. Mukade

Like a creature from your nightmares, you might find these centipedes right under your pillow or in your bathroom.

Unlike the suzumebachi, a mukade (giant centipede) can sneak into your house and hide in your bedding, shower drain or in your cabinets. The bite is very painful. Perhaps even more painful than the sting of a hornet.

A mukade bite won’t typically require a hospital visit, but it may be a good idea to get some anti-inflammatory medication. In addition to the pain, it can also cause some unpleasant swelling around the bite area. The pain will subside in a day or two.

 Precautions

  • These centipedes often come into your house through the pipes, be sure to cover all drains when not in use.
  • There are useful powders and sprays you can use. These are typically labeled with giant katakana for mukade (ムカデ). The chemical is spread around the foundation of your house (or even just outside your doors if you’re in an apartment) and poisons them before they can crawl through the cracks of your genkan (entryway area) or balcony.

3. Gokiburi

Scary when they crawl, horrifying when they take flight.

Gokiburi, or ゴキブリ(cockroaches) in Japanese, are by far the most common household creepy crawlers you will encounter in Japan—especially during summer. They are much bigger and more tenacious than their European and American counterparts. The hot, humid summer climate in Japan is the perfect breeding ground for these, the most versatile insects.

If you’re in a big city or newer house, spotting one of them indoors is not necessarily indicative of a nest or an infestation, nor does it call your cleanliness into question. The same might be true for cleanliness in the countryside or an older house, but here, one generally means more.

Precautions

  • To rid yourself of a possible infestation, you’ll need to buy a spray especially targeted at roaches.
  • There are also a variety of sticky and poisonous traps you can lay down to catch them. The traps are going to be working for you while you’re not in the house, but when you spot a roach, the spray is one of the best ways to keep them under control.
  • Do not step on or squash a cockroach if you see it. This may release eggs it carries and actually leads to a much bigger problem a day or two down the line.

4. Seakagokegumo

These spiders don’t normally leave their webs so make sure you don’t accidentally walk into one.

Seakagokegumo, or セアカゴケグモ (redback spider), weren’t an issue in Japan until about 20 years ago. The first redbacks found in Japan are believed to have come from Australia, with the earliest reported sightings in Osaka in the mid-1990s. In August of 2020, more than 100 of these spiders were found in Kita Kyushu, and citizens were warned not to come into close contact with them.

Redbacks are of the same spider family as the terrifying black widow, and their venom is similarly potent. However, fatalities are relatively rare. So despite them having now been confirmed in 22 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, the chances of you running into one or finding it in your home are still relatively low.

Another spider to watch out for, and one you’re far more likely to encounter, is the ashidaka-gumo, or Japanese huntsman spider. This spider is much bigger than the red back and a whole lot faster. Huntsman spiders don’t use webs to catch their prey. Instead, they run after it. Although it’s scary to find one in your home, they aren’t dangerous, and you can just shoo them out if you’re brave enough.

Precautions

  • If you are bitten, you may not immediately feel unwell. Instead, the bite itself may look similar to a mosquito bite: a small, raised, white bump on the skin.
  • What will be different, however, is the intensity of the pain. This initial intense pain is soon replaced by a deep burning sensation around the area.
  • Get to a hospital as soon as you can. Depending on the amount of venom you have absorbed, the doctor may suggest taking anti-venom and anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the pain and other symptoms until the effects of the bite wear off.

5. Ka

Did we mention that mosquitos in Japan are a bit bigger than usual?

No list of Japan’s most persistent pests is complete without a special mention of ka (mosquito). The Japanese variety does not typically carry malaria, which is far more common in Southeast Asia. In Japan, your primary worries should be dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis (JEV).

Overall, mosquitoes in Japan don’t pose much of a threat to your long-term health, but their bites are a serious irritant.

Precautions

  • Combat these bloodsuckers by applying insect repellent and using smoke and liquid type repellants.
  • Keep soothing cream handy for when you do get bitten, as well as ensuring your apartment has adequate netting in place.
  • Try not to leave any large pools of stagnant water lying around in your bathroom or kitchen sink, as these are like catnip for mosquitoes.

While you might not run any of these creatures at all, hopefully with these simple precautions you can enjoy a bug-free summer here in Japan.

What do you think? Did we miss any? How do you deal with pests and bugs in Japan? Let us know in the comments!

  • joao says:

    how much? And alive I presume.

  • Kentaro says:

    One more, the huntsman spider.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooepOPhSjv4

  • Christina Tsuchida says:

    Another insect to beware of is the ordinary TICK, because it may carry Lyme disease. (Tick=MADANI; Lyme disease=RAIMU BYOU in Japanese.) This disease is also in Japan now. If walking in woods, it is best to wear long sleeves and slacks with long socks. If bitten, find a surgeon or other way to remove the whole tick (not just the body separate from the head). There may be other things one can do.

  • YAkYAk says:

    I eat Mukade for dinner!

  • anonymous says:

    I’ve been living in the urban area of Fukushima for a year and I have encountered the suzumebachi quite a few times already this year and let me tell you, they are big and sooo menacing-looking! There’s no mistaking the loud buzzing you hear for a little bee…it sounds terrifying!

  • Vv says:

    Mukade are no joke… 🙁

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