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- Patient Comments: Bee and Wasp Sting - Describe Your Experience
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- Bee and wasp sting facts
- Insect stings overview
- What are the types of wasps?
- What are the types of bees?
- What are causes of bee and wasp stings?
- What are the symptoms of a bee or wasp sting?
- When should I call a doctor about a bee or wasp sting?
- How is a bee or wasp sting diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for a bee or wasp sting?
- What are the complications of a bee or wasp sting?
- How can I prevent a bee or wasp sting?
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What are the types of bees?
Bees include the honey bee, the so-called Africanized honey bee (also known as "killer bee"), and the bumble bee. Bumble bees are large, furry-appearing bees that fulfill the beneficial role of pollinating many plants. Honeybees, also active plant pollinators, are found all over the world. While honey bees are not usually aggressive, they will sting if bothered or threatened. Because their wings flap so rapidly, their presence is associated with a buzzing sound. Although the venom of the "killer bees" found in the Western and Southern U.S. is no more potent than that of regular honeybees, their behavior may be more aggressive. Killer bees may chase victims when agitated and may also attack in greater numbers, thereby increasing the chances of a severe reaction to their stings. Overall, there are more than 20,000 species of bees found worldwide.
What are causes of bee and wasp stings?
Most stings arise because an insect perceives a threat to their colony. Bees and wasps commonly sting because an intruder has neared the hive or nest. Loud noises (such as lawn mowers), bright or dark colors, and certain perfumes or perfumed body products may also encourage stings. Some types of insect venom contain pheromones, which attract other members of the colony and induce them to sting.
When bees or wasps sting an individual, they inject venom under the skin of their victim.
- Honey bees, including killer bees, have barbed stingers that tear off when they try to fly away after stinging, so these bees die after the sting and thus can sting only one time. In this case the stinger and venom sac typically remain embedded in the skin of the victim.
- Bumble bees, hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps are able to sting multiple times, since their stingers are smooth and can be easily withdrawn from the victim's skin.
Bee and wasp venoms vary according to species but typically contain toxic components as well as antigens that stimulate an immune response.