bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Bee v wasp stings

Which imparts the most painful sting: honeybees or wasps?

The answer seems to vary according to individual reactions and circumstances, but an interesting response came from an Arizona newspaper:

The venom is fairly similar (about 20 active substances, but mainly melittin) although dosages can differ. Wasps and bees, however, have different stinging actions.
A wasp's stinger has little barbed lancets that kind of saw at your flesh after the stinger goes in. The barbs let it get a good grip on you while the stinger saws in deeper. And this sawing motion also sets up some pumping movement that sends the venom shooting from a poison sac through the shaft and into you.

Anyway, a bee's stinger works in more or less the same manner, except the lancets of a bee's stinger have bigger barbs. They really harpoon you.

The problem from the bee's point of view is that those larger barbs prevent it from pulling the stinger back out once it's stuck in your flesh. In the end, the whole package breaks off, the stinger and poison sac and all, and the bee dies.


Blogger Cat said...

The honey bee queen is able to sting multible times I'll see if I can find a picture of the queen barb compared to the worker barb.

5:10 pm  
Blogger Turlough said...

Have you ever heard of anyone being stung by a Queen? I've only heard of it once and I'm not sure that was apocryphal -- or just a very clumsy beekeeper.

4:46 pm  

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