Mysterious Stinging Insects

Yellow Jacket

The Yellow Jacket is responsible for more stings than any other Indiana wasp.

Over 90% of residents of the US report being stung by an insect before reaching adulthood. Most people are unable to accurately identify the insect responsible.  Accurate identification is important to people who have an allergic reaction to an insect sting so they can avoid repeated stings.  Allergists want to know the identity of the insect that caused the reaction as part of the patient education.

A group of scientists tested the ability of allergists and random individuals to recognize 4 types of stinging insects: honey bee, yellow jacket, paper wasp and hornet. Ninety percent of allergists and non-allergists correctly identified honey bees from pictures, but fewer than half correctly identified dried specimens. Allergists were better at identifying Hornets and Yellow jackets from pictures than non-allergists. In most cases, people were able to identify the insects from pictures with more accuracy than from dried specimens.

How does this affect allergy treatment? Many people with sting allergies fail to get a close look at the insect. Those that do may misidentify it. It is common practice for allergists to test a suite of insect venoms on patients with allergies. Cross reaction to venoms is common and this practice helps identify multiple allergies. The identity of the insect is not as important to the characterization of the allergy as it is to the education of the patient on avoiding future stings.  This study suggests that the need for improvements to teaching identification of stinging insects.

*Troy W. Baker; Joseph P. Forester; Monica L. Johnson; Jeremy M. Sikora; Adrienne Stolfi & Mark C. Stahl. Stinging insect identification: Are the allergy specialists any better than their patients? Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. (2016) 1-4.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.anai.2016.01.025

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.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, Education, Health, Taxonomy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s