Bee and Wasp Sting - Bee or Wasp?

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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hornets, yellow jackets, and wasps are able to sting multiple times, since their stingers are smooth and can be easily withdrawn from the victim's skin.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.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Laura, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: October 31

I was stung or bitten 13 years ago. I don't know if it was a bee or wasp, but I suspect a wasp since the pain was so intense. I started having trouble breathing, then lost my vision and then went unconscious. I was in anaphylactic shock. I was saved by paramedics on the scene who gave me epinephrine and Benadryl. When they got to me, my face was gray, eyes rolled backed in my head. My friend thought I was dead, but the medicine saved my life. Two days ago I got stung by a bee, it's been 13 years since the first sting/bite. It felt like just a little "ting". But I brushed it off, maybe I didn't get a full sting. I didn't wait to see what would happen. I called emergency and they came within 5 minutes and gave me injections of Benadryl. I did not go into anaphylactic shock this time. I was so scared I would though, but maybe the prompt treatment helped. I carry an EpiPen since the first time, but I have never had to use it since I haven't been stung except for the sting 2 days ago.

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Comment from: Robert, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: July 08

My husband was stung by 2 yellow jackets in our backyard, once in the back (through his shirt) and once on the hand. The back sting site is hurting and itchy and has a red swollen 4 inch circle around the sting. The hand sting has swollen his hand somewhat, including fingers, even after 2 days. We're treating with Benadryl and pain medicines.

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