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Pest Information - Wasp and Bee Stings
There are several species of social wasp found in this country. They are all bright yellow and black and about 10 - 20 mm in length, except for the hornet which is somewhat larger and brown and yellow in colour. They have a very slim waist and are a lot less hairy than bees.

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The only wasps which can survive the winter are the young fertilised queens. A queen will emerge from her winter hibernation around mid-April and find a suitable site for her new nest. In nature this will be on a branch, inside a hollow tree or underground. Unfortunately, a loft space, wall cavity or shed will do just as well! The queen then builds the first cell to the new nest herself using chewed wood pulp and lays between 10 and 20 eggs. She then feeds the resulting larvae until they emerge as workers and take over the tasks of enlarging the nest and providing food for the subsequent larvae, which mainly consists of other insects.

The adults satisfy their craving for sweet foods by drinking a sugary secretion produced by the larvae. The nest will usually grow to the size of a football and will be home to about 5000 individuals although in some cases can be quite a bit larger. In the late summer, a generation of males and young queens emerge. They mate and the queens seek a place to hibernate. The other wasps will gradually die off as the weather cools and the cycle starts again the next spring.

Wasp and Bee Stings

Stinging insects are limited to the order Hymenoptera, which includes wasps, bees and ants.  The stinger is a modified egg-laying apparatus, so only females can sting.  Most hymenopterans live solitary lives and their behaviour is more likely to be flight than fight.  Social hymenopterans, including yellow jackets, bumble bees, honeybees and fire ants, have individuals in the colony whose task it is to defend the nest. If the nest is disturbed these individuals will defend it vigorously. In addition, foraging members of the colony will also sting if they are disturbed or injured as they go about their activities. Some, such as the yellow jacket, are much more liable to attack than others. 

Stingers are effective weapons because they deliver a venom that causes pain when injected into the skin. The major chemical responsible for the pain of a honey bee sting is called melittin; it stimulates the nerve endings of pain receptors in the skin. The result is a very painful sensation, which begins as a sharp pain that lasts a few minutes and then becomes a dull ache. Even up to a few days later the tissue may still be sensitive to the touch.

When the sting is caused by a honey bee, the stinger usually remains in the skin when the insect leaves because the stinger is barbed. Remove the stinger as quickly as possible because venom continues to enter the skin from the stinger for 45 to 60 seconds following a sting. Much has been written about the proper way to remove a bee stinger, but new information indicates that it doesn't matter how you get it out as long as it is removed as soon as possible. If removed within 15 seconds of the sting the severity of the sting is reduced.

Multiple Stings

Mass Envenomation - Occasionally, a person becomes involved in a situation where he or she is stung many times before being able to flee from the nesting site. Depending on the number of stings, the person may just hurt a lot, feel a little sick, or feel very sick. Humans can be killed if stung enough times in a single incident. With honey bees the toxic dose (LD50) of the venom is estimated to be 8.6 stings per pound of body weight. Obviously, children are at a greater risk than adults. In fact, an otherwise healthy adult would have to be stung over 1,000 times to be in risk of death. Most deaths caused by multiple stings have occurred in men in their 70s or 80s who were known to have poor cardiopulmonary functioning.

Bee Stings: What Should I do?

It is recommended that you always contact your physician concerning bee stings or any other type of insect bite that you or your family may experience as allergic reactions could be a serious health concern.


Renal Insufficiency

A second, potentially life-threatening result of multiple stings occurs days after the incident. Proteins in the venom act as enzymes: one dissolves the cement that holds body cells together, while another perforates the walls of cells. This damage liberates tiny tissue debris that would normally be eliminated through the kidneys. If too much debris accumulates too quickly, the kidneys become clogged and the patient is in danger of dying from kidney failure. It is important for persons who have received many stings at one time to discuss this secondary effect with their doctors. (Wasp stings are as potent in this respect as bee stings.) Patients should be monitored for a week or two following an incident involving multiple stings to be certain that no secondary health problems arise.


In most cases, if you are stung by a bee, you will have:

Pain, Redness, Swelling, Itching

The pain, redness, swelling and itching occurs because the bee has placed her stinger inside your skin. The stinger has a venom sac attached to it. Once the bee puts her stinger in you she dies. However, the stinger remains in you skin and works like a pump. The stinger pumps the venom sac so that the venom will enter your skin. The venom is what causes the pain, redness, swelling and itching. The stinger will continue to pump the venom into your skin until you remove it. The longer the stinger remains in your skin, the worse the pain will be.


The best way to prevent a bee sting is to avoid the bee! Be alert when outdoors!

  • Always wear shoes on your feet. Most bee stings happen when people step on a bee with their bare feet.
  • Wear white or solid light coloured clothing. Bees are attracted to dark colours and prints.
  • Avoid walking through gardens or orchards. Bees like to nest in gardens and orchards.
  • If you see a bee remain calm and cool. Gently move out of the way. Most bees will not attack if left alone. If you become jumpy you could scare the bee and she might sting.
Wasp and Bee Sting Information   More information on the Common Wasp   More information on the Hornet


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EX15 2BB
Freephone| 0800 0 662 473
E-mail | info@valleypestcontrol.co.uk
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