Venomous Animals

Wasp venom

Wasp venom is alkaline and so its effects can be neutralized by vinegar or acid to reduce pain. Bee sting venom, on the other hand, is acidic containing formic acid (also known as methanoic acid) and so its effects can be neutralised with bicarbonate of soda or alkali to reduce pain. The principal component of venom is a protein — it is the protein that may cause an allergic reaction in some people. Several different proteins have been demonstrated in wasp venom, which vary among the different genera. Other components of venom include an acetylcholine-like substances, histamine, serotonin, and kinins. Kinins are peptides that cause slow contractions of smooth muscles, lower arterial blood pressure, and increase capillary permeability.

Allergic reactions to stinging

Severe allergic reactions commence rapidly after the wasp stings. The whole body is involved and a person may feel dizzy, nauseated and weak with swelling on the face. There may be stomach cramps and diarrhoea. There can be itching around the eyes, a warm feeling or coughing, hives breaking out, followed by vomiting and swelling. There can be wheezing, shortness of breath or swallowing difficulty, hoarse speech and drop in blood pressure, shock, unconsciousness and darkened skin. Reactions may begin in a few minutes and death may occur within 30 minutes in case of multiple stinging.

 Precautions from wasps

  • If surrounded by a swarm of bees or wasps, move out of the way slowly. Do not try to wave the insects away. Violent movements will only excite them and make them more aggressive and likely to attack.
  • Insect repellents are effective.
  • Never aim a blow at a wasps’ or bees’ nest or attempt to throw them because the insects will immediately attack.
  • Stay away from things that attract insects, such as flowers, trees, bushes and piles of wood.
  • Be extra careful if you are eating or drinking (especially sweet things) outside.
  • Smells and bright colours attract insects. Avoid scented creams and strong perfumes if you are going to spend time outside.
  • Long sleeves, long trousers, socks, shoes and gloves help protect you from stings.
  • Close the windows in the house and the car to keep the insects out.
  • Look out for insects’ nests in your home or garden and have them removed immediately.
  • Protective gear such as mesh covers for the face can be very effective against the nuisance of the highland midge in summer for example.

If you destroy the nests (aerial and ground) yourself, use a commercially available stinging insect control aerosol containing Baygon, pyrethrin, permethrin or resmethrin which can shoot a high-volume spray stream 15 to 20 feet, giving excellent quick knockdown and kill of wasps and bees hit. After dark or in the evening, most have returned from foraging to the nest. Thoroughly saturate the nest with spray, contacting as many insects as possible. Do not stand directly under an overhead nest, since some insects receiving some of the spray may fall but retain their ability to sting for some time. Repeat treatment if reinfestation occurs.

Spray the patio, picnic and garbage areas with permethrin (Astro, Dragnet, Flee, Permanone, Prelude, Torpedo) or pyrethrins (Kicker, Microcare, Pyrenone, Pyrethrum, Synerol). Some formulations are restricted use. A licensed pesticide applicator or pest control operator can apply restricted use pesticides such as bendiocarb + pyrethrins (Ficam Plus), bifenthrin (Biflex), cyfluthrin (Tempo), cypermethrin (Cynoff, Cyper-Active, Demon, Vikor), deltamethrin (Suspend) and tralomethrin (Saga). Other labelled pesticides include acephate (Orthene), amorphous silica gel (Drione), bendiocarb (Ficam), carbaryl (Sevin), chlorpyrifos (Dursban, Empire, Tenure), diazinon, propoxur (Baygon) and resmethrin (Vectrin).

Sting Treatment

For stings causing itch, irritation, redness and swelling at the sting site, the following may be useful: Applying Ice pack and Baking Soda or Meat Tenderizer. Make a paste with a few drops of water to a teaspoon of meat tenderizer and quickly apply to the sting to reduce pain and inflammation. Ammonia solution 1 to 2.5%, 3-4 times daily. Oral Antihistamines: Chlortrimeton, Dimetane, Teldrin. Epinephrine Inhaler, Bronkaid mist, Primatene, Medihaler. Topical Steroids: Cortaid, Dermolate, Lanacort, etc. Local Anaesthetics: Benzocaine, Americaine, Dermoplast, Bactine, Foille, Lanacaine, Solarcaine. Oral Steroids can be given on prescription only.


A bee colony has about 20,000 workers, one queen and about two dozen drones. Queen can lay up to 3000 eggs per day but normal fecundity is about 600 eggs per day. Queen can produce male or female offspring by choice; unfertilized eggs develop into males and fertilized ones into females. Growing larvae can also be developed into queens or workers by choice, both of which are genetically females.

Males are called drones, which are darker, robust and hairy and larger than workers. There are about two dozen of them in a hive and one of them manages to mate with queen during flight and dies in the process.

A worker has a lifespan of 6 weeks, the first half of which is spent in the hive attending to household chores, secreting wax and building hive, producing a highly nutritious royal-jelly and converting nectar into honey. The latter part of life is spent in outdoor duties. Workers possess morphological adaptations to carry out their duties. Their mandiblular glands secrete wax softening substance, pharyngeal glands secrete a gelatinous highly nutritious substance called Royal Jelly and stomach contains several glands that help in converting nectar into honey.

There are wax glands on abdominal segments 4-7 which open by several ducts on to the sternites 4-7. Hind legs have tibia and basitarus modified to form a pollen basket and pollen press. Workers are sterile females and hence their ovipositors are modified to form sting and accessory reproductive glands get modified to form poison glands.

Bee Venom

Honey bee venom is hemorrhagic and contains at least 18 active substances. Melittin, the most prevalent substance, is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents known. Adolapin is another strong anti-inflammatory substance that has analgesic activity as well. Apamin enhances nerve transmission. Other substances, such as Hyaluronidase, Phospholipase, Histamine, and Mast Cell Degranulating Protein (MSDP), are involved in the inflammatory response of venom, with the softening of tissue and the facilitation of flow of the other substances. Finally, there are measurable amounts of the neurotransmitters Dopamine, Norepinephrine and Seratonin.

The bee venom is easily soluble in water and acid, but almost insoluble in alcohol. The three toxic effects of bee venom are: paralysis of the nervous system, increase in the permeability of the blood capillaries and destruction of red blood cells. Melittin in high concentrations causes hemolysis of red blood cells. Hyaluronidase is believed to be the “spreading” factor that allows the toxic bee venom to infiltrate into the tissues. Phospholipase A through indirect action on the unsaturated fatty acids causes hemolysis of red blood cells. The pain experienced after being stung may well be the result of these actions.

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