By Wendy Langhans
Who hasn’t been stung by a bee or a wasp at some point in their life? Kids scream, “Ow”! Adults often mutter something a bit more “earthy”. Now you are probably thinking, here’s another story about how to avoid or treat a bee sting. Nope. There are plenty of places where you can find that kind of advice. I want to do something completely different.
I want to provide trivial facts that you may use someday to take your mind off how much it hurts.
Hover fly feeding on Phacelia
Trivial fact #1. Only FEMALE wasps and bees will sting you. That’s because the stinging apparatus evolved from the egg-laying apparatus.
Trivial fact #2. A bee sting will deliver about 30 micrograms of venom while a wasp will deliver 3-15 micrograms.
Trivial fact #3. Bee venom is acidic and tastes bitter while Wasp venom is alkali. (Bonus points: the active ingredient in bee venom is Melitten.)
Trivial fact #4. Honey bee stingers are serrated (easy to insert and hard to remove and Bumble bee and Wasp stingers are smooth (easy to insert and easy to remove). Therefore, “Wasps and bumblebees can withdraw their stinger and reuse it, but honeybees (Apis mellifera)” cannot. And according to this UC publication, you need to “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…If removed within 15 seconds of the sting, the severity of the sting is reduced.”
Wasp feeding on Phacelia
Now if these trivial facts aren’t enough to totally distract you, you can try to figure out WHAT bit you. Was it was a bee or a wasp? As Bonnie Taylor posted earlier this week on the Facebook page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers“, “Around here, most of the bees are fuzzy, and most of the wasps are not.” But besides fuzzy hair, there are other visual clues:
- A narrow waist. Wasps have a narrow waist which connects the thorax (chest segment) with the abdomen (rear segment).
- Size. Wasps are slender while bees are more husky.
And how can you tell if it’s a Honey bee (Apis mellifera) or a Bumble bee (Bombus species)? According to “Insects of the Los Angeles Basin” by Charles Hogue:
- Bumble bees are large – 1/2 to 1 inch long.
- Bumble bees have black and yellow hair.
- Bumble bees have a loud buzzing flight. In fact, the word bumble comes from the Middle English word bumblen, which means “to hum”.
Feeling better now? If not, I have one more trick up my sleeve. You can always try Maria’s advice from “The Sound of Music”:
When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
For Facebook Users: 90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers.
Here’s a new way to familiarize yourself with our local wildflowers. Become a fan of the page, “90 Days of Santa Clarita Valley Wildflowers” and from now through April, each day you’ll receive a photo of a local wildflower and a link to a website where you can learn more.