Insect bites and stings


An insect bite can cause stress and even fear. In addition to resolving the sting , it is important to determine if any of the symptoms you are experiencing indicate a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis .

While most allergists perform skin tests for the entire group of biting insects, when a sting or sting triggers an allergic reaction, it can be helpful to know what type of insect has infected you.

Get Medical Information / Cindy Chang

Signs of anaphylaxis

If you have a severe allergy to an insect like a bee, you may not realize it until you first bite. Call 911 or the emergency number in your area if you begin to experience the following symptoms of anaphylaxis :

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Skin symptoms outside the bite site, such as redness, itching, and hives.
  • Swelling or tightness in the mouth, throat, or tongue.
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Feeling of impending doom

If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to loss of consciousness, coma, suffocation, respiratory or heart failure, and death.

Types of biting insects

Stinging insects belong to the order Hymenoptera. The three most common stinging insects are apids (bees and bumblebees), vespids (wasps, hornets, and yellow jacket wasps), and ants (fire ants are stinging species).

Note that if you couldn't get a good look at the bug that bit you, you can tell by the appearance of the hive whether the bug was close to the ground or higher in the air, and even on the road. that the insect flies. Here is additional information on each type of insect that bites:


Bees (or simply "bees") are not usually aggressive. A single bite if your hive is threatened or stepped on. Children who run barefoot, especially on grass or clover where bees like to stay, get the most bee stings.

Africanized bees ("killer bees") are much more aggressive and tend to attack in flocks without provocation. This type of honey bee is becoming more common in the southwestern United States.

Honey bees have jagged edges at the end, so when they enter the skin, they are left with your internal organs.

There is some controversy about the best way to eliminate a honey bee sting . Whichever method you choose, it is best to act quickly. The longer the bite stays on the skin, the more venom is released into the body.

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

A quick way to get rid of a stinger is to scrape it off with the edge of your credit card. Don't use tweezers – this can squeeze more venom onto the skin. Once the bite is gone, apply an ice pack to the skin to help slow the spread of the venom.

Bumblebees can sting, but they are not aggressive. Unlike bees, they do not have a prickly stinger, so they can sting multiple times.


Wasps come in different colors (shades of brown, yellow, and red); when they fly, their hind legs hang down. They often live under the eaves of houses in honeycomb-shaped nests. They are rarely aggressive, but can sting if disturbed. Since they don't leave their stinger, wasps can sting someone multiple times .

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Fire ants

Fire ants are found primarily in the southern and southeastern United States and build their nests out of mud. These nests can be flat in sandy areas or up to 18 inches in humid areas. Fire ants are more likely to sting if a person steps on their nest. and it can sting very quickly several times.

Sterile "pseudopustules" can form where fire ants have stung and should be left intact. Opening these pseudopustules can increase the risk of infection.

Yellow jackets

Hornet wasps, a species of wasp, are the most aggressive stinging insects. They live in nests embedded in the ground or in structures in the ground.

Yellow jackets are scavengers and can generally be found around trash cans, garbage cans, and at picnics. They often stuff themselves into open cans of soda or other sugary drinks and bite down when the person takes a sip. Because they are scavengers, their bites can sometimes cause skin infections .

Unlike bees, most yellowjackets do not have a stinger. However, it is important to find and remove the bite, clean the skin thoroughly, and apply a first aid cream such as Bacitracin or Neosporin.

If you notice more redness, swelling, swelling, or fever after a few days, see your doctor .


Hornets with yellow and white faces live in trees and bushes. The material with which they build their nests resembles papier-mâché. Hornets attack when provoked (for example, if they are concerned about the vibration of the mower).

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