Ouch! Watch Out for (Piçadas)


You’re strolling along the beach, kicking up sand between your toes, enjoying the sun on your shoulders. The refreshing breeze coming off the ocean is like a soothing balm. Suddenly – OW! A sharp, intense pain shoots through your foot. You look down to see tiny transparent blobs with long trailing tentacles stuck to your skin.

What are these things? You’ve just had an unfortunate encounter with piçadas, aka jellyfish larvae. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. These nearly invisible little monsters get the best of lots of unsuspecting beachgoers. Keep reading to find out what piçadas are and how to avoid and treat their nasty stings. At only a couple millimeters long, these tiny terrors pack a painful punch. Arm yourself with knowledge before your next day at the beach.

What Is a Piçada?

A piçada is a painful insect sting caused by a Brazilian wasp known as the piçadora. These feisty wasps get their name from their potent sting, which causes a burning sensation and intense irritation.

The piçadora wasp is about the size of a honeybee, with yellow and black stripes, and likes to build nests under tree bark, inside hollow logs, and under roof shingles. The female wasps are the ones with the painful stingers. They use their stinger primarily to paralyze prey to feed their larvae.

  • The piçada sting can cause:
  • Instant burning and itching at the site of the sting
  • Swelling, redness, and discomfort that lasts for several hours
  • Occasionally nausea, vomiting or dizziness for some people

To get relief from a piçada, here are some steps you can take:

• Apply a cold compress like ice or cold water to the affected area as soon as possible. This can help reduce swelling and ease the pain.

• Take an oral antihistamine, like Benadryl. This blocks the effects of histamine in your body that causes inflammation.

• Apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the sting site. This can help with inflammation and itching.

• Take an over-the-counter pain reliever if needed. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with any discomfort from the sting.

• Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms worsen or become severe. Though rare, some people may experience dangerous allergic reactions to the venom.

The good news is that while painful, a piçada is usually not medically serious and symptoms will abate within a few hours to days. The nasty nuisance of the piçadora wasp, however, may stick around to torment you another day!

Where Piçadas Are Found

Piçadas can turn up almost anywhere, unfortunately. They tend to congregate in warm, humid environments, especially in tropical regions. Some of the places you’re most likely to encounter these annoying biters include:

  • Dense forests: Piçadas thrive in shady, wooded areas with plenty of vegetation. They use the cover of leaves and brush to sneak up and surprise their victims.
  • Near standing water: Swamps, bogs, and other wetlands provide the perfect breeding grounds for piçadas. They lay their eggs in stagnant, standing water and the larvae (called wigglers) develop there before emerging asintimate.
  • Along riverbanks: Rivers, creeks and streams also make ideal spots for piçadas to breed and feed. The combination of slow-moving or standing water and dense greenery is irresistible to these blood-sucking bugs.
  • Around livestock or pets: Piçadas are often found in areas where there are large animals present, like farmsteads, stables, kennels or backyard pet enclosures. They are opportunistic feeders and will gladly feast on dogs, chickens, cattle or even reptiles and amphibians.
  • Near human dwellings: Unfortunately, piçadas frequently take up residence around houses and in residential areas. They are adept at slipping into small cracks and crevices to get out of the elements, and once they’ve invaded a building, they can be difficult to eradicate completely.

The best way to avoid piçada bites is to steer clear of these infested environments when possible, wear protective clothing and insect repellent if you must go near them, and eliminate standing water or other breeding spots on your own property. With vigilance and prevention, you can enjoy the outdoors without worrying about these pesky parasites!

How to Avoid Getting Piçadas

To steer clear of piçadas, aka insect bites and stings, there are a few precautions you can take. These pesky bites can put a damper on enjoying the outdoors, so follow these tips to avoid becoming a bug’s next meal.

•Avoid heavily scented perfumes or lotions which can attract insects. Opt for unscented or natural citronella-based products instead. Citronella, lemon eucalyptus, and lavender essential oils act as natural repellents that insects don’t like.

•Wear loose, light-colored clothing that covers your arms and legs. Tight-fitting or dark clothes are more attractive to insects. Loose layers also make it harder for bugs to reach your skin.

•Check for standing water and empty anything holding water like pet bowls, gutters, birdbaths. Standing water breeds mosquitoes and other biting insects. Dump and drain to eliminate breeding spots.

•Use an insect repellent with DEET or picaridin and reapply as directed. Spray it on exposed skin and clothing for the best protection. Natural repellents with citronella or lemongrass oil can also help deter some insects when applied directly to the skin.

•Avoid being outside during peak biting hours when insects are most active. This is often dusk and dawn. If outside, stay in a well-lit area since most bugs are attracted to darkness.

•Do regular yard maintenance like mowing, weeding, and clearing brush. Trim plants, shrubs, and trees around entryways to your home. Fewer places for insects to hide and breed means fewer opportunities to bite you.

By taking some proactive steps to avoid piçadas in the first place, you can worry less about treatments and enjoy outdoor activities bite-free. Staying vigilant about prevention really is the best way to steer clear of these nuisance insects. With some simple precautions, you’ll be able to avoid becoming their next target.

First Aid for Piçada Stings

Once you’ve been stung by a piçada, the first thing to do is remain calm. Panicking will only make the pain and swelling worse. The following steps will help relieve your symptoms:

Remove the stinger

Use a pair of tweezers to gently remove the stinger that is still attached to your skin. Pull it out smoothly without twisting, as this can squeeze more venom into the wound. Removing the stinger will prevent any remaining venom from entering your bloodstream.

Clean the area

Wash the site of the sting thoroughly with soap and water. This helps prevent infection and reduces swelling. You can also apply a cold compress such as a cold washcloth or ice pack to the area. Do this for 10-20 minutes at a time, a few times a day to reduce pain, redness and swelling.

Apply cortisone cream

Hydrocortisone cream can help with inflammation and itching. Use as directed to ease discomfort from the sting. Oral antihistamines, like Benadryl, can also reduce swelling, itching and redness.

Seek medical help for allergic reactions

See a doctor right away if you experience signs of an allergic reaction like difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea or a rapid pulse. Epinephrine may need to be administered for a severe allergic reaction. Antihistamines and steroids may also be given to reduce symptoms.

With the proper first aid, piçada stings are typically not medically serious and symptoms will subside within a few hours. However, multiple stings at once can be dangerous, especially for children or elderly people, so medical attention may still be required. The pain from a piçada sting is usually the worst in the first 30 minutes, so remain calm and take comfort knowing that relief will come.

FAQs About Piçadas

Piçadas, or stings from insects native to Brazil, are common concerns for visitors and new residents. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about these painful encounters:

What insects are responsible for piçadas?

The most common culprits are bees, wasps, and ants. Bees and wasps, like the Africanized honey bee, can attack in swarms if they feel threatened. Certain types of ants, such as fire ants, have a nasty sting that causes a burning sensation.

How can I avoid getting stung?

The best way to prevent piçadas is to exercise caution around places where these insects live, such as near nests, hives, or mounds. Wear light-colored clothing, avoid perfumed cosmetics or colognes which can attract insects, and do not make sudden movements or swat at them. Remain calm and move away slowly from the area.

What should I do if I get stung?

• Remove the stinger immediately using tweezers to extract it. Do not grasp the venom sac, which can squeeze more venom into the wound.

• Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and apply a cold compress such as a cold pack or ice in a towel to reduce swelling.

• Take an oral antihistamine, like Benadryl, and apply hydrocortisone cream to help with inflammation and itching.

• Seek medical attention immediately if you experience signs of an allergic reaction like dizziness, nausea, or difficulty breathing.

• The pain and swelling from most piçadas will subside within a few hours. However, the area may remain irritated for a few days. Oral pain relievers can help with any discomfort during the healing process.

• See a doctor for any sting that becomes infected or if pain persists for more than a week. They may need to prescribe antibiotics if an infection develops.

With the proper precautions taken, you can enjoy the natural beauty of Brazil without fear of painful piçadas. But when they do happen, know how to properly treat them and when to seek medical care.


You’ve made it through the jungle of piçadas, those nasty little biting insects. Hopefully you’ve picked up some tips for avoiding and treating their itchy bites. While piçadas can’t kill you, they sure can ruin a day on the beach or a hike through the rainforest. Don’t let them stop you from exploring and enjoying the beauty of nature. Just remember to cover up, use repellent, and have an anti-itch cream on hand. If you do get bitten, try not to scratch too much. The swelling and itching will go away eventually. With the right precautions, you can venture into piçada territory and come out unscathed. Now go enjoy the great outdoors!

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