• Danielle Fornal

Ouch! Why Did That Wasp Attack Me?

When you’re simply walking through your yard minding your own business, yet suddenly get attacked and stung by a wasp, it’s hard not to wonder what exactly provoked such an aggressive and painful attack.

The prime reason that wasps sting humans is because they feel threatened.

Basically, wasps are either trying to protect their nest, or they are trying to aid in the production of their nest. Their stings are like weapons and can be put into two categories:

An Offensive Weapon: Powerful venom used to paralyze pray before transporting it to the nest.

A Defensive Weapon: Painful sting and venom used to convince predators, such as large animals and/or humans to leave them alone.

Unlike bees, wasps do not die after stinging someone. A bee’s stinger is barbed at the end, which is why a bee will sting, leave its stinger behind, and then die. Wasps have a smooth stinger that will retract into the body and extend over and over again. In fact, wasps can sting multiple times in succession, and this is one of the reasons that wasp stings can be so dangerous. Wasps will also attack in a large number. When a threat is detected, the wasps will release a pheromone that will alert and summon other wasps from the nest to attack.

FACT: Only the female wasp stings. Males do not possess a stinger as part of their anatomy!

Wasp stings are loaded with venom. Wasp venom contains traces of acetylcholine, a chemical that stimulates pain receptors. This attack on our nervous system is experienced as a combination of itching and burning. The reactions from person to person may differ, and even differ over time each time you’re stung in your lifetime. Some people may experience allergic reactions to stings and may even be in danger of experiencing anaphylactic shock. When this happens, it’s best to seek emergency care.

We are quite aware that the human reaction is to panic when a wasp comes around, but the practical tips below may help avoid being stung:

  1. Do not panic during a wasp encounter. Try to move slowly away, do not flail your arms or swat at the wasps.

  2. Avoid wearing bright colors and wearing sweet scents, such as perfumes, that attract wasps when planning a day outdoors.

  3. Keep food and drink covered. Wasps especially like sweet drinks and can easily sneak into an open can or bottle.

  4. Keep children’s hands and faces washed and free of food and drink when spending time outdoors.

Call 911 if a situation warrants it. Wasp nests are dangerous and it’s safer allowing a professional handle the treatment of an active nest.

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