allergic reactions to insect stings are caused by just
a few types of closely related stinging insects. In the United States, the
stinging insects that most commonly cause allergies include:
Honeybees. Honeybees are commonly found throughout
Europe and the United States. They usually nest in hives built in hollow trees
or rock crevices or in building walls. They are not usually aggressive unless
they are near their hive. They sting only once and leave behind a barbed
stinger with a small venom sac attached. The Africanized honeybee (the
so-called "killer bee"), found in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and California,
is more aggressive and quicker to sting than other honeybees. The venom of
Africanized honeybees is the same as in other honeybees, but the Africanized
bees are more likely to swarm and deliver multiple stings.
Wasps. Wasps are able to sting more than once. They
build paper nests that resemble a bee's honeycomb without any covering. They
usually nest under eaves or rain gutters, behind shutters, in crevices and vent
openings, and sometimes on the underside of wooden decks and outdoor furniture.
You can often see wasps on the outside of their nests.
Yellow jackets. Yellow jackets are a kind of wasp
that are aggressive and sting with little or no provocation, especially when
near food. They are able to sting more than once and usually do not lose their
stinger. They are more common in the late summer and fall. They usually make
their nests underground, but nests may be found in walls, crevices, and hollow
logs as well. They are attracted to food and may be found around open trash
cans and dumpsters. You may come upon a yellow jacket while doing yard work,
gardening, or farming.
Hornets. Hornets are extremely aggressive and able to
sting more than once. They build paper nests in shrubs, trees, and other high
places, such as the eaves of houses. Hornets are sensitive to vibration, and
people are often stung when they disturb a nest while clipping hedges or trees.
Some hornets fly at night and may be attracted to lights.
Ants. The most common types of stinging ants are fire
ants and harvester ants. Fire ants are red or black and are common in the
southeastern region of the U.S., particularly along the Gulf Coast.
Fire ants often leave multiple stings in a small circular or semicircular
cluster. They build large underground nests that show as mounds above ground
and can be very aggressive, especially if the nest is disturbed. Harvester ants
are found throughout the southern and western U.S. and in western
Canada. Their sting is more painful and their venom more toxic than that of
The types of stinging insects around you depend on where you live,
the time of year, and the local climate. Most people are stung while outdoors
in the late summer and early fall, when the populations of these stinging
insects are highest.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.