Category: Insect Allergy  

Stinging Insect Allergy

Insect stings are a major cause of anaphylaxis in the US.  Approximately 4% of adults in the USA report systemic allergic reactions to insect stings. In adults with a history of these reactions, there is a greater than 50% chance that the next reaction will be as severe or worse. If you have had any allergic symptom remote from the site of an insect sting, then you are considered at risk for venom anaphylaxis. Fortunately, treatment is available for this potentially life-threatening condition. Venom allergy is diagnosed by performing allergy skin testing (a blood test is available but is less sensitive). If test results confirm venom allergy, then desensitization shots can reduce your chance of recurrent reactions by 95%. Testing should be done 6 weeks after your most recent sting to prevent false negative results. Insect stings for which allergy treatment has been proven effective include wasps, hornets, bees, yellow jackets and fire ants. Biting insects have also been reported to cause allergic reactions. These include the kissing bug, bedbug, mosquito, blackfly, deerfly, horsefly and flea.

Bees, Hornets, Yellow Jackets and Paper Wasps

Bees and wasps pose a threat to the public because of the allergic response many people have to their stings.  Stinging is usually a defensive behavior when a colony or an individual wasp or bee is threatened. Bumble bees are large bodied, yellow and black and are covered with fine hairs giving them a fuzzy appearance. Bumble Bees have a very sharp stinger.

Honey Bees are smaller than bumble bees, have finer hairs and have a subtle yellow and black striped abdomen


The bald-faced hornet makes the most common large exposed nests. The hornet is largely black with yellowish white markings and also has the same thick size from the head to the abdomen.

Yellow Jackets are a type of short, stocky wasp. They have a cross-banded black-and-yellow abdomen. Most common species build their nests in the ground.

Paper wasps are long and slender, with a spindle-shaped abdomen. Their nests consist of a circular, horizontal comb of paper cells, suspended from a support by a slender stalk. The cells are open on the lower side while the larvae are growing. Outside activities are affected by the activity of these wasps. Picnics, fairs, garbage cans, and dining areas are a few places to which they are attracted. These areas all have sweet beverages, fruits, and meaty foods. Hints for preventing problems


  1. Keep all food and beverages in covered containers.
  2. Clean up spills as they occur, whenever possible.
  3. Use covered waste containers; thoroughly wash trash cans daily.
  4. Clean areas where food or soft drinks have fallen on tables.
  5. Have a fan nearby to help keep the wasps away.
  6. Some wasps attract to different kinds of perfumes, soaps, or colognes. If you are attending a function that is outdoors, you may not want to use fragrances.

For very detailed stinging insect identification please visit this site

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