Description

Most encounters with venomous arthropods involve stings from ants, wasps, and bees (Hymenoptera), most of which do not require professional medical treatment. However, Hymenoptera stings represent about a quarter (22%) of the annual 1 million emergency department visits due to noncanine bite and sting injuries in the United States in 2001-2010 (Langley et al., 2014). Many such sting reactions involve non-specific skin reactions involving intense localized pain, redness, itching and formation of a wheal at sting site. Although most sting reactions are not diagnostic of the stinging species, the pustule formation of the sting of the imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and the piloerection of the sting of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex spp.) are indeed unique (Reed and Landolt 2019). The intensity and duration of pain also vary due to the stinging insect with various subjective pain scales proposed (Schmidt, 2016). Such scales range from the intense, long-lasting, debilitating pain of the bullet ant Paraponera clavata of Central America to minor brief pain of the halictid sweat bees. However, other variables such as location of sting site and amount of injected venom affect the pain response. In a minority of cases, more severe reactions may occur such as a large local reaction, systemic reaction and even the potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. Deaths from stings do occur but are relatively rare. During 2000–2017, a total of 1,109 deaths from hornet, wasp, and bee stings occurred, for an annual average of 62 deaths (QuickStats 2019).

Keywords:

sting, venom, wasps, bees, ants, allergic reactions

Department

Biology

College

College of Science and Engineering

Included in

Biology Commons

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Apr 16th, 12:00 AM

Skin and Allergic Reactions to Stinging Ants, Bees, and Wasps (Insect: Hymenoptera)

Most encounters with venomous arthropods involve stings from ants, wasps, and bees (Hymenoptera), most of which do not require professional medical treatment. However, Hymenoptera stings represent about a quarter (22%) of the annual 1 million emergency department visits due to noncanine bite and sting injuries in the United States in 2001-2010 (Langley et al., 2014). Many such sting reactions involve non-specific skin reactions involving intense localized pain, redness, itching and formation of a wheal at sting site. Although most sting reactions are not diagnostic of the stinging species, the pustule formation of the sting of the imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) and the piloerection of the sting of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex spp.) are indeed unique (Reed and Landolt 2019). The intensity and duration of pain also vary due to the stinging insect with various subjective pain scales proposed (Schmidt, 2016). Such scales range from the intense, long-lasting, debilitating pain of the bullet ant Paraponera clavata of Central America to minor brief pain of the halictid sweat bees. However, other variables such as location of sting site and amount of injected venom affect the pain response. In a minority of cases, more severe reactions may occur such as a large local reaction, systemic reaction and even the potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. Deaths from stings do occur but are relatively rare. During 2000–2017, a total of 1,109 deaths from hornet, wasp, and bee stings occurred, for an annual average of 62 deaths (QuickStats 2019).