Insect Stings and Bites

Bees or Wasps

Some insects stings are deadly while others are merely annoying. If you are stung, try to kill the insect without getting stung again. This way if you become ill and require medical attention, you can bring the insect with you to help the doctors determine the best treatment. You'll also know what insect to avoid in the future.

Bees or Wasps

Some people are deathly allergic to bee stings, while others just feel temporary pain. If you are stung by a flying buzzing insect, try to get a good look at your winged assailant. If you are allergic to the sting, identifying the bug will be helpful to your doctors.

Bee or Wasp
If the stinger is left behind, stuck to your skin, you've been hit by a bee. If the bug stings you more than once and does not leave a stinger behind, it's a wasp. Wasps are in general more aggressive than bees. A bee's stinger has a barb that catches onto your skin. As the bee pulls away, part of the bee's abdomen is left behind, killing the bee. By contrast, a wasp has nothing to lose. It can sting multiple times if threatened. Both types of bugs will not sting you if you don't aggravate them. If there's a single bee or wasp flying around you, just remain calm and don't swat at the bug. If you've accidentally hit a nest, it's too late to play nice. The bugs will likely defend their nest and you would be smart to leave in a hurry!


Medium sized Slightly fuzzy Grayish-yellow with black or brown banding on the abdomen


Large, black and yellow, very fuzzy

Frequently bump into things. That's how they got their name!

Yellow jackets (wasp)

A long slender abdomen, thick black and narrow yellow bands, smooth

Highly aggressive if aggravated

What to do if you are stung
If the stinger is still in your skin, do not grab it with your hands or tweezers to remove it. This will only squeeze more venom or toxin into your body. Instead take a credit card and slide it across the skin. This will push the stinger out and to the side without injecting more toxin.

If the stinger remained, the dead bee should be on the ground where you were stung. If you ran for your life, the bee may have fallen off someplace along the way. Save the dead be if possible and seek help.


Ticks are small dark colored insects that grow to the size of a sunflower seed. Ticks in the US can carry any of 7 diseases, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

To eat, a tick crawls up a blade of grass or a branch and waits at the end of it for a warm-blooded host to come along. As a host walks by the tick grabs on. In a few hours, the tick begins to bury the front part of its head into the skin of its host and sucks blood from the site.

To avoid ticks...

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants in wooded areas.
  • Wear light-colored apparel so ticks can be seen.
  • Tuck your pants into your boots or socks to prevent ticks from walking up your leg.
  • Wear shoes instead of sandals.
  • Spray your clothes with a tick repellent, such as Permethrin, and spray your skin with a tick protectant such as Deet.
  • Check yourself, your pets and companions for ticks after passing through wooded areas, and before entering your car or house.
  • Ticks lay large numbers of eggs. Since most ticks don't travel far they can be highly concentrated in a small area. Therefore, once you see a tick check your entire body for more and stay out of that area.

If you find a tick:

  1. Remove the tick promptly and carefully. Use a fine pointed tweezers to grasp the tick near its head or mouth and pull gently to remove the whole tick without crushing it. If the tick has buried its head in your skin, make sure you get all the mouth parts out of the skin. Do not use nail polish remover or a hot match.
  2. If possible, seal the tick in a plastic bag and keep it in case you later need to see your doctor. Otherwise flush the tick down the toilet or bury it.
  3. Wash your hands after handling the tick.
  4. Wash the bite area thoroughly and apply antiseptic.

Pay attention to your health for the next few weeks. If you develop any of the following symptoms see your doctor immediately, and bring the tick with you.

  • Feeling sick
  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain and swelling

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