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Bees, Wasps and Ants

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  1. Introduction
  2. Bees
    1. The honeybee (Apis mellifera)
    2. The first escapes from hives
    3. Fatal attacks around the world
  3. Wasps
    1. Social wasps
    2. Solitary wasps
  4. Ants
    1. Harvester ants
  5. Stinging patterns
  6. Venom and venom apparatus
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

By far the most important venomous insects are members of the order Hymenoptera, including bees, wasps, and ants. They vary in size from minute to large (up to 60 mm in body length). The abdomen and thorax are connected by a slender pedicle that may be quite long in certain wasps and ants. Bees and most wasps are winged as adults; ants are wingless, except for sexually mature adults during part of the life cycle. Mouthparts are adapted for chewing but in some species are modified for sucking. The life cycle includes egg, larva, and pupa stages before emergence of adults. Immature stages may be protected and provided with food by the adult. Both animal and plant foods are used. Many species are parasitic on other arthropods. All ants and many species of bees and wasps are social insects. Colonies range in size from a few dozen individuals to many thousands. In cold climates, most individuals die in autumn, leaving the fertilized females to winter over and found new colonies in the spring.

[...] They are attracted to sweaty skin and ingest perspiration. They nest in burrows, often in clay banks. Females sting if squeezed or trapped under clothing. The sting is not very painful, but anaphylactic reactions have been reported. The allergens are immunologically unrelated to those in other bee and wasp venoms. Wasps Social wasps occur throughout most of the world but are recognized as a medical problem chiefly in the United States and Europe. They often establish colonies close to human dwellings. [...]

[...] by large populations (one queen may lay tens of thousands of eggs), frequent swarming to 12 swarms a year), nonstop flights of at least 20 km, and a tendency toward mass attacks on humans after minimal provocation. As a result, these Africanized honeybees, also known as "killer bees," are much more aggressive than typical Hymenoptera. They attack in swarms of hundreds and chase their victims much greater distances from the hive than does any other species. The first escapes from hives occurred in the state of São Paulo in 1957, and the "Brazilian killer bees," or "Africanized bees," have spread widely. [...]

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