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In English, some insects bite you (like mosquitos), while other insects sting you (like bees). A bite generally involves an animal's mouth, while a sting involves another part of the animal (a bee's or scorpion's stinger).

Is there any way to make this distinction in Spanish, or do all animals picar?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The verb picar is definitely the most common (in my experience, in Spain) for insect (and related) bites. However, morder is also used. For example, Wikipedia shows 211,000 hits for "picadura de araña" vs. 147,000 for "mordedura de araña".

Like in English, picar is more associated to a stinger and morder to a mandible or biting device. Notice that mosquitoes pican, because although they do it for feeding purposes and using their mouth organs, these are needle-shaped and hence picar.

BTW, and slightly off-topic, scorpions and spiders are not insects but arachnids. ;-)

With regard to other animals, most people would commonly use picar for snakes, but it's more proper to use morder in this case. Fish with stingers pican, of course.

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Is there any way to make this distinction in Spanish, or do all animals picar?

No, not all animals always pican but insects always pican,even the biggest insect.

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I've often heard that "avispas" (wasps) "muerden" or "pican" depending if they use their "mouth" or their sting. Indeed in google some people say that male wasps "muerden" while female wasps "pican". But I'm not an expert in wasps. Anyway, "me ha mordido una avispa" is common in Spain. – Javi Jan 19 '12 at 18:56
@Javi Thanks for the comment. That's news to me. I would always say: Me picó una (hdp) avispa :D – Icarus Jan 19 '12 at 18:58

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