The Pain in Spain

Wasp Stinger

Wasp Stinger

The Tour of Spain along with the more famous Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia are the top three long distance bicycle races in Europe. Stinging insects can be a problem for bicyclists and this year’s (2013) Tour of Spain was no exception. On a training ride on the day before the September 4 time trial, Italian Vincenzo Nibali was stung in the “tail” by an insect. The sting was not detrimental to his performance as he went on to win the time trial and take the lead in the race. American Chris Horner, who went on to win the race last Sunday (September 15, 2013) did not fare as well. The leader going into the time trial, Horner had just begun his ride when a bee flew into his mouth. What to do? Horner describes his technique:

“It was disturbing and scary. I couldn’t get it out. I also tried to swallow it. Eventually, I coughed it up.”

Horner lost 90 seconds to Nibali during the time trial and dropped to fourth. In the end, both riders overcame their stings with Horner finishing first, 37 seconds ahead of Nibali.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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21 Responses to The Pain in Spain

  1. Molly Shaughnessy says:

    Did Nibali’s body have any reactions to the sting or was it unfazed? Also, does Spain have a large bee population?

  2. Adrian Fong says:

    If Chris Horner actually swallowed the bee inside his mouth, would the bee be still alive? Even the sting is not harmful, would it hurt when it goes inside the body?

  3. Zarko Coric says:

    Is there any way that the stinger would stay in his throat after he got stung? If so, what damage could that stinger cause?

  4. Brittany Humble says:

    If Chris Horner were to actually swallow the bee, if the bee stung parts of him from inside the body, could it potentially get him sick or cause any pain or internal damage?

  5. Anonymous says:

    If stinging insects are such a pest on these types of races, why don’t they take precaution to keep them away from the riders? How come they don’t spray for insects, or the riders don’t wear bug spray?

  6. Sedrick McDonald says:

    If Horner actually swallowed the bee, would the bee still be alive and able to sting his stomach and throat. Also how did he only lose 90 seconds. If that was me I would not have finished the race.

  7. Nick Kuntz says:

    I would be terrified if a bee flew into my mouth and I couldn’t get it out. How many times was Horner stung in the mouth? That would really be painful.

  8. John Kuzmic says:

    I would freak out of the inside of my mouth got stung. It must have been really hard to finish the race and to not stop to get treatment.

  9. Will Barr says:

    Would you consider these multiple occurrences of stinging as self-defense by the insects or more of just a coincidence that the bikers rode into the insect?

  10. Kyle Lanthier says:

    What would be the consequences of swallowing a bee? Would it just keep stinging until it died? I’m surprised Horner kept riding.

  11. Elizabeth Hammel says:

    Did Horner have any side affects from being stung inside the mouth? If Horner has successfully swallowed the bee would it have any effect of his digestive track or stomach?

  12. Savannah Little says:

    I would be so mad if I lost the trial because of a bee! At least he came back and won though!

  13. cjwilhight says:

    I would be terrified if I swallowed a bee. I would have instantly stopped racing. Couldn’t the bee sting the inside’s of Horner?

  14. jjneal says:

    Apparently he wasn’t stung which could have cause swelling that affected his breathing.
    I personally was stung once on a bike. The wasp hit the corner of my glasses and stung me under the eye. It swelled shut for several days. :>(

  15. Collin McGraw says:

    I can’t imagine training as hard as those guys do, with all the preparation, pressure, and anticipation…and then to have a freak accident like a bee flying into your mouth! That would probably made me crash the bike. I’m glad he was still able to get first!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    These bikers go through a lot to do what they do. I am very surprised that neither one panicked. Then I realized that these athletes train to not panic when obstacles happen. Is there a more common season that wasps appear more?

  17. Marcus English says:

    I would find it hard to remain calm if a bee flew into my helmet when I was riding my motorcycle. Are there bees that carry a venom that is a lot more dangerous than others, or all all bee’s venom typically the same? Sorry to hear about your eye Professor Neal, that must have sucked!

  18. Anonymous says:

    It is impressive that Horner won the race. You would think the bee incident would set him way back.

  19. Kasey Fell says:

    If Chris had been stung from the inside rather then the outside, could the side effects be any worse or different?

  20. says:

    First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you
    do not mind. I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
    I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?
    Thank you!

  21. jjneal says:

    Write your thoughts without editing as a series of phrases or bullet points
    Settle on a message
    Organize the phrases and points into like groups
    Toss ideas that don’t fit.
    Turn your outline into sentences.

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