Many people dream about visiting Hawaii. This tropical paradise is filled with waterfalls, lush forests, towering mountains, flowing streams, and the scent of wildflowers in the wind. Poetic we know. However amongst all the beauty, there are some seriously terrifying bugs in Hawaii. They jump, crawl, fly, bite, and will scare the socks off unsuspecting tourists!

Here is a list of ten bugs in Hawaii that you could cross paths with when on vacation. Some you’re more likely to meet than others, but they all reside in this tropical paradise so you should be aware of them all.

bugs in Hawaii 

Hawaii insects

1. Centipedes

Let’s get these monsters done and out of the way.

If you don’t have any fears of centipedes, you may develop a fear of them after visiting Hawaii.

Not only are they extremely common throughout Hawaii, but these centipedes are a special breed and will grow to nightmarish sizes – they can sometimes be mistaken for snakes!

Centipedes in Hawaii can grow up to 12″. Did you get a shiver down your spine? On top of them being big and ugly, they bite! The bites of a Hawaiian centipede pack quite the wallop – think bee sting but more intense.

If a centipede bites you, the good news is that you will be okay physically. Mentally you may need therapy of course. The bite will hurt a lot and pain could stay for a day or two, then clear up in a few days. You run the risk of developing a bacterial infection if bacteria gets into the broken skin, but it’s not common.

Definitely one of the bugs in Hawaii you need to watch out for. (Related: Snakes in Hawaii – What You Need to Know).

2. Scorpions

Hawaii is home to one common species of scorpion, the lesser brown scorpion. The lesser brown scorpion is nocturnal and may make anything you leave on the ground its temporary home. Always check your shoes before putting them on, and shake out any clothes that were on the floor.

Getting stung by one of these scorpions is about as painful as getting stung by a bee – painful but tolerable, and it will pass.

If you’re not allergic to their bites, then you don’t need medical care. It should clear up within a few days. The thought of a scorpion crawling on you may last a lifetime though.

3. Stinging Nettle Caterpillar

The stinging nettle caterpillar is making its way across the islands of Hawaii. You might think, oh, it’s just a caterpillar. I’m not worried. But these caterpillars will put you in a whole world of pain, and the kicker is that they don’t need to bite or sting you. They just need to brush against you, and that can bring you to your knees.

The spikey hair covering their bodies contains an irritant that will burn when it touches your skin and eventually lead to intense itching. If you are allergic to the irritant, you may experience breathing problems, sweating, or clouded thinking, so seek medical attention.

While these caterpillars are a nightmare, they are not common. So if you’re visiting Hawaii, it’s not likely you’ll run into them. However if you do decide to go for a hike, make sure your legs and arms are covered so if you brush up against one then you won’t have direct contact with the caterpillar. This is a Hawaii bug you don’t want to meet.

4. Spiders

Hawaii has no shortage of spiders. The good news is that most of them are harmless. Although if you have a fear of spiders, then any spider is a problem. Some species you can find in Hawaii are:

  • Hawaiian Golden Spider
  • Cane Spider
  • Hentz Orb-Weaver
  • Western Spotted Orb-weaver
  • Hawaiian Happy-face Spider
  • Spiny-backed Orb-weaver
  • Red house Spider
  • Grey House Spider
  • Barn Funnel Weaver
  • Kauai Cave Wolf Spider

You need to be cautious of the Black Widow Spider and the Brown Widow Spider. Thankfully both tend to try and avoid people as much as possible, but encounters do happen. (Recommended: Spiders in Hawaii – What You Need to Know).

If you are bitten by one of these spiders, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Their bites are necrotic and can cause a wide range of complications and even death. Practice caution when going into anywhere dark, putting on your shoes, and make sure to shake out clothes on the floor. These are bugs in Hawaii that you really don’t want to meet!

bugs in Hawaii 

Hawaii insects

5. Cockroaches

Like any tropical area around the globe, Hawaii has cockroaches. In fact they have 19 species of cockroaches in Hawaii, so maybe they have more than their fair share! The most common types and the most likely that you will encounter are the American, The German, and The Surinam cockroaches.

They are harmless bugs that very seldomly bite, but when they do bite you may experience some irritation at the bite site, a lesion, swelling, and possibly an infection.

Despite being harmless, they still give people the heebie-jeebies, especially if cockroaches aren’t a pest you’re used to. If staying in a hotel or rental unit, you may cross paths with a cockroach. Clean up any food you have in your room and keep the food in a sealed container so you don’t attract any.

bugs in Hawaii 

Hawaii cockroaches

6. Dobsonfly

These bugs are giant, scary and can pack a bite; well, the females can. With massive jaws, large antennas and reaching up to 5 inches in length, seeing a Dobsonfly might just cause heart palpitations if you’re not prepared.

They tend to be attracted to light and really aren’t a threat to humans. The males are not able to bite people, but the females can. Unlike some other bugs in Hawaii, they don’t seek you out; the female will only bite if she’s agitated. The bite is painful and may even draw blood.

If you see a Dobsonfly and it doesn’t send you running for the mountains, give it space and show it some respect to ensure you don’t get a nasty bite.

7. Golden Tortoise Beetle

This beetle is entirely harmless to humans; it will not bite you or bother you at all. Its sights are set on gardens, feasting on vines, flowers, foliage, and sweet potato vines.

This is not a bug you want in your garden, but as a tourist you may find them cool to look at. They get their name from a translucent shell that covers their body, much like a tortoiseshell. That shell houses a gold body that tends to change colour during different situations.

Photo by Ilona Loser via Wikipedia

8. The Eastern Velvet Ant AKA The Cow Killer

This bug is not an ant; as the name suggests, but a wasp. With its body covered in bright red and black hairs, they will definitely catch your eye, and that is as far as you should go with these wasps. Keep your distance from them.

They are rumoured to be able to kill a cow with their sting, hence the nickname. The sting is excruciating for people. Thankfully, while the female can pack a ferocious sting, she doesn’t have wings, unlike the male. Another good thing about these wasps is that they are solitary bugs, so you don’t have to worry about dealing with a swarm of them. One of these bugs in Hawaii is enough after all.

Photo by Judy Gallagher via Flickr

9. Assassin Bug

The assassin bug has a beak that it uses to stab its prey to death, hence its name. This bug isn’t a threat to humans. However, we wouldn’t advise picking one up as they will deliver a painful bite if they are agitated or feel threatened.

Found on plants in gardens, ground covers and shrubs patiently waiting for its next victim. If you happen to stumble across an assassin bug, it would be best to leave it alone. This is a bug in Hawaii that we hope you don’t meet when on vacation.

10. Bedbugs

These little vampires are a problem worldwide. So it’s no surprise they have taken residency in Hawaii too as they love hot and humid tropical weather.

Taking precautions not to take bedbugs home with you is a wise idea no matter where in the world you travel and no matter how fancy your accommodations are. These pests love to feast on human blood while you’re sleeping and couldn’t care less how expensive of a hotel you are staying in.

Although bedbugs are common everywhere, they deserve a spot on our list as a reminder to exercise caution to ensure you don’t bring home some unwanted houseguests.

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