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Bee & Wasp Stings

Bee & Wasp Stings



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Published by Kirk's Lawn Care
Learn how to protect and treat yourself from bee and wasp stings.
Learn how to protect and treat yourself from bee and wasp stings.

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Published by: Kirk's Lawn Care on May 16, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Nearly everyone has been stung byan insect at one time or another. It’san unpleasant experience that peoplehope not to repeat, but for most peoplethe damage inicted is only temporarypain. Only a very limited portion of the population—one to two people outof 1,000—is allergic or hypersensitiveto bee or wasp stings. Although thispublication is about stings from beesand wasps, the information pertains tostings from re ants as well.Stinging insects are limited to theorder Hymenoptera, which includeswasps, bees, and ants. The stinger is amodied egg-laying apparatus, so onlyfemales can sting. Most hymenopteranslive solitary lives, and their behavioris more likely to be ight than ght.Social hymenopterans—includingyellowjackets (Fig. 1), honey bees(Fig. 2), bumble bees (Fig. 3), and reants—have individuals in the colonywhose task it is to defend the nest. If the nest is disturbed, these individualswill defend it vigorously. In addition,foraging members of the colony alsowill sting if they are disturbed orinjured as they go about their activities.Some, such as the yellowjacket, aremuch more likely to attack than others.For more information on the behavior, biology, and management of this insect,see
Pest Notes: Yellowjackets and OtherSocial Wasps
listed in References
The Africanized honey bee is closelyrelated to the European honey bee,which is used in agriculture for croppollination and honey production.The two types of bees look the same,and their behavior is similar in manyrespects. Neither is likely to stingwhen gathering nectar and pollen fromowers, but both will sting in defenseif provoked.An individual Africanized bee cansting only once and has the samevenom as the European honey bee.However, Africanized honey bees areless predictable and more defensivethan European honey bees. They aremore likely to defend a greater areaaround their nest, and they respondfaster and in greater numbers than theEuropean honey bee.
Stingers are effective weapons becausethey deliver a venom that causespain when injected into the skin. Themajor chemical responsible for thisis melittin; it stimulates the nerveendings of pain receptors in the skin.The result is a very uncomfortablesensation, which begins as a sharppain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache. Even up to afew days later, the tissue may still besensitive to the touch.The body responds to stings byliberating uid from the blood to ushvenom components from the area. Thiscauses redness and swelling at thesting site. If this isn’t the rst time theperson has been stung by that speciesof insect, it is likely that the immunesystem will recognize the venom andenhance the disposal procedure. Thiscan lead to very large swelling aroundthe sting site or in a whole portion of the body. The area is quite likely toitch. Oral and topical antihistaminesshould help prevent or reduce theitching and swelling. Try not to rub orscratch the sting site, because microbesfrom the surface of the skin could beintroduced into the wound, resultingin an infection.When the sting is caused by a honey bee, the stinger usually remains in theskin when the insect leaves because thestinger is barbed. Remove the stingeras quickly as possible because venomcontinues to enter the skin from thestinger for 45 to 60 seconds following asting. Much has been written about theproper way to remove a bee stinger, butnew information indicates it doesn’tmatter how you get it out as longas it is removed as soon as possible.Fingernails or the edge of a credit cardare both effective tools. If a stinger isremoved within 15 seconds of the sting,the severity of the sting is reduced.
Integrated Pest Management for Home Gardeners and Landscape Professionals
Figure 1. Yellowjacket.
Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program September 2011
Publication 7449
Figure 2. Honey bee.Figure 3. Bumble bee.
September 2011 Bee and Wasp Stings
2 of 3
After the stinger is removed, washthe wound and treat it. Several over-the-counter products or simply a coldcompress can be used to alleviatethe pain of a sting. Aerosol or creamantihistamine preparations thatcontain a skin coolant also can help.If the sting is followed by severesymptoms or if it occurs on the neck or mouth, seek medical attentionimmediately, because swelling in theseareas of the body can cause suffocation.
A small percentage of the populationis allergic to wasp or bee stings. If yoususpect that you or a family membermight be allergic or is developing anallergy, go to a physician or allergistfor testing. Allergic reactions to beeor wasp stings can develop anywhereon the body and may include non-life-threatening reactions such ashives, swelling, nausea, vomiting,abdominal cramps, and headaches.Life-threatening reactions such asshock, dizziness, unconsciousness,difculty breathing, and laryngeal blockage resulting from swelling inthe throat require immediate medicalcare. Symptoms can begin immediatelyfollowing the sting or up to 30 minuteslater and may last for hours.In allergic persons, venom componentscirculating in the body combine withantibodies that are associated withmast cells resting on vital organs. Themast cells release histamine and other biologically active substances. Thisresults in a leakage of uid out of the blood and into the body tissues.Blood pressure drops dangerouslylow, and uid builds up in the lungs.If this response isn’t reversed withina short time, the patient may die of anaphylactic shock.Anaphylaxis, if treated in time, usuallycan be reversed by the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline) injectedinto the body. Individuals whoare aware that they are allergic tostings should carry an epinephrineinjection device whenever theythink they may encounter stinginginsects. Epinephrine is obtainableonly by prescription from a physician.Antihistamines potentially have valuein combating non
life-threateningreactions but should be used accordingto a physician’s instructions.Another method of combatinganaphylaxis is desensitization. In thisapproach, the patient is subjected toinjections of the venom to which he orshe is allergic in increasing doses overa period of time. Like hay fever shots,the tactic is to build up a protectiveconcentration of antibodies in the blood that will intercept and tie upthe venom components before theycan reach the antibodies on the mastcells. Desensitization with pure venomworks about 95% of the time.
 Mass Envenomation
Occasionally a person becomesinvolved in a situation where he orshe is stung many times before beingable to ee from the nesting site.Depending on the number of stings,the person may just hurt a lot, feel alittle sick, or feel very sick. Humanscan be killed if stung enough timesin a single incident. With honey beesthe toxic dose (LD
) of the venom isestimated to be 8.6 stings per poundof body weight. Obviously, childrenare at a greater risk than adults. Infact, an otherwise healthy adult wouldhave to be stung more than 1,000times to be in risk of death. Mostdeaths caused by multiple stingshave occurred in men in their 70s or80s who were known to have poorcardiopulmonary functioning.
Renal Insufciency
A second, potentially life-threateningresult of multiple stings occurs daysafter the incident. Proteins in thevenom act as enzymes; one dissolvesthe cement that holds body cellstogether, while another perforates thewalls of cells. This damage liberatestiny tissue debris that normally would be eliminated through the kidneys.If too much debris accumulates tooquickly, the kidneys become cloggedand the patient is in danger of dyingfrom kidney failure. It is importantfor persons who have receivedmany stings at one time to discussthis secondary effect with theirdoctors. (Wasp stings are as potentin this respect as bee stings.) Patientsshould be monitored for a week ortwo following an incident involvingmultiple stings to be certain that nosecondary health problems arise.
Bees and wasps can be attracted to, ormay react to, odors in the environment.It is best not to use perfume, cologne,or scented soaps if you are goinginto an area of bee and/or waspactivity. Unless someone accidentallycollides quite hard with or swats ata bee or wasp, it is not likely to sting.Avoid going barefoot in vegetation,especially clover and bloomingground covers. Also avoid wearing brightly colored or patterned clothing.If you remain calm when a bee orwasp lands on your skin to inspecta smell or to get water if you aresweating heavily, the insect eventuallywill leave of its own accord. If youdon’t want to wait for it to leave, gentlyand slowly brush it away with a pieceof paper. When swimming in pools,watch out for bees or wasps trappedon the surface of the water. If you nd bees or wasps in the water, it’s best toremove them to avoid being stung.
Stinging incidents often occur whennesting areas of social insects aredisturbed. Be observant of the areaaround you. If you see insects yingto and from a particular place, avoidit. If you are going to be in an areawhere disturbing a nest is likely, wearlong pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Itmight be a good idea to carry a militarysurplus, collapsible mosquito/gnat veilwith you. Stinging insects often yaround the top of their targets. Becausestings in the face can be disorienting,put on the veil, or pull a portion of yourshirt over your head, and run away.Be sure that you can see where youare going. Insect repellent applied toyour skin or clothing won’t deter thesestinging insects.

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Phoebe Hepzibah reviewed this
Rated 3/5
nice visuals but doesn't address the anaphylaxis issue strongly enough -- which is the #1 reason for bee sting death.
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