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. [...]
[...] Solitary wasps are predators, feeding largely on other insects and spiders. Adults often carry the prey alive and paralyzed to the nest as food for the larvae. Some wasps excavate burrows, whereas others make mud nests that may be plastered on shaded walls of buildings or under bridges. Although many nests may be grouped together, the adult wasps have no social organization and make little effort to defend them. The cicada killers (Specius speciosus) and tarantula hawks (Pepsis species) are among the largest North American wasps. [...]
[...] Intense pain after stings by hornets and other social wasps is largely caused by serotonin and acetylcholine, which constitute to of dry venom weight. Wasp kinins (peptides) contribute to pain production and have strong, brief hypotensive effects. Mastoparans are similar in action to MCD peptide but are weaker. Phospholipase phospholipase and hyaluronidase are present in relatively large amounts. Unidentified proteins, some of which appear to be major allergens, are also present. A lethal protein in Vespa basalis venom releases serotonin from tissue cells and has hemolytic and phospholipase A activity. [...]
[...] Wasps and bees sometimes are swept into the interior of a moving automobile, exposing the occupants to risk of both a sting and a highway accident. Many foods, particularly meats, ripe fruit, or fruit syrups, attract yellowjackets; they often swarm around picnic areas and recycling bins. Syrups, flowers, sweat, and some perfumes attract bees. In such aggregations the insects are not particularly aggressive but may become trapped in clothing or hair. In temperate zones, the incidence of hymenopteran stings is highest in late summer and early fall, when insect populations are highest. [...]
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