Luciana Musetti, PhD | CuratorThe Ohio State University | Triplehorn Insect Collection | 1315 Kinnear Road, Columbus, OH 43212-1157 | Office 614-292-2730 | Fax 614-292-7774
I just got a frantic email from distraught parents begging for an identification of a monster they just discovered in their lawn that is certain to be the death of their precious doe-eyed child. They were desperate to know: What is it and how do we murder it?
We all get these emails, but do you guys have a standard (prewritten, copy and paste) response concerning stinging insects, or do you provide a custom answer every time?
I'm putting together a rough draft of a standard statement about stinging insects that I would include with (or within) stinging insect ID requests. I've included it below. Any thoughts/ideas?
Scared of getting stung by a bee or wasp?
Visit the links below for information and advice. The following is not meant to be taken as medical advice.
Only female insects can sting. Stinging is expensive and dangerous for the insect (they only have so much venom, and don't want to get close to you), she doesn't "want" to sting you. Insects only sting when they feel threatened. If you get stung you may have accidentally gotten too close to a nest or accidentally brushed against her.
Are you "Allergic"?
A lot of people say they are "Allergic" to bee and wasp stings. What kind of reaction do you have?
Systemic, Allergic, Life Threatening: About 2 out of 1000 people are allergic (hypersensitive) to bee/wasp/scorpion stings (http://www.ars.usda.gov/Research/docs.htm?docid=11067&page=1 , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anaphylaxis). For these people a bee sting can be life threatening. A severe reaction includes vomiting, shortness of breath/inability to breath, stomach cramps, unconsciousness, etc. Allergic people may have a major reaction to pretty much ANY sting, whether from a giant scary wasp, a boring little ant, or a helpful honey bee.
Local Reactions: For most of us the sting hurts, we experience local swelling (e.g., a few inches around the sting, half an arm, etc.), redness, etc. Generally the swelling subsides in a few minutes to hours and the pain goes away. Amazingly, the average person (adult or child) could tolerate more than 100 bee stings and not die (but it wouldn't be fun, either!).
Fun fact: There is an entomologist who created a sting pain index by letting things sting him and then rating the pain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmidt_sting_pain_index). He just wrote a book, The Sting of the Wild (http://amzn.com/1421419289).
In my experience getting stung is 1) a rare event, 2) not fun, 3) but not the end of the world, 4) helps place minor aches and pains in perspective, and 5) results in an important increase in awareness of one's surroundings.
Good sites to get more information about insect stings: