Why do Wasps Sting? 5 Reasons to Know About

Wasps are some of the most hated insects, unrightfully so, I would say. From an average Joe’s perspective, a wasp exists solely to inflict pain on humans and not much else. That’s not entirely true, though.

Everything that exists necessarily has a reason for its existence. If wasps didn’t have a place in the food chain, their existence would be obsolete. But it isn’t.

Today, we will discuss a feared wasp behavior – the stinging. Why do they do it, do they sting randomly, and what do the answers tell about wasps?

Do Wasps Sting for No Reason?

No, they don’t. To start things off, I first have to mention that many wasp species are rather shy and timid. Yellowjackets included. People are used to seeing them as pests and aggressive insects, but they’re not, at least not all the time.

Yellowjackets would rather flee when confronted with danger like a human. The only instances when they will prefer to attack include humans or other animals getting close to their nest or grabbing the wasp and holding it tight. The wasp is biologically designed to protect its own life and the safety of its nest; if it attacks you, it’s always for a reason.

Maybe its nest is nearby, maybe you’re wearing a powerful perfume that irritates the insect, or maybe it feels threatened by you waving your hands at it, trying to scare it away. Learning about the wasp’s behavior and biology will help you minimize and even avoid the risks of getting stung.

Do Wasps Sting if You Stay Still?

Typically, no. The risk of getting stung if you’re staying calm and still is minimal. Theoretically, it can happen, depending on the circumstances. If you’re wearing bright colors like red, pink, intense yellow, or multicolored clothes, wasps may be attracted to you. Strong perfumes may agitate them, and they might get more nervous when laying on sweaty skin.

As you sweat, your skin will emanate specific odors that triggers the wasp’s offensive instincts. Otherwise, you should be fine if you just stay still and let the wasp do its thing. Don’t crush it with your hand, and don’t try to slap it away. The wasp has incredible stinging reactions.

If the wasp gets under your clothes, you may have a different problem at hand, but the same principle applies. This already seems like a nightmarish scenario, but remaining calm is your best tool to get out of the situation safely. Or, at least, maximize your chances. Only make small movements and try to provide the wasp with an open pathway to freedom.

Remember, if you panic, there’s nowhere for the wasp to go and, since it can sting multiple times, you can imagine the unpleasant situation that will unfold.

Do Wasps Die After They Sting?

No, they don’t. Unlike bees, wasps don’t lose their stinger upon injecting because the stinger’s anatomy is different. The bee’s stinger is practically a harpoon. It has 2 barbed lancets that will penetrate the skin and get stuck inside. The only way for the bee to break free is to force itself out, rupturing its abdomen and leaving the stinger behind. Along with a lot of its insides and abdominal muscles, which will kill the bee as a result.

The muscles attached to the stinger are automatic and will keep contracting, pumping venom even after the bee is long gone. The wasp functions differently.

Its stinger is smooth, capable of going in and out just as easy. It will always only deliver moderate quantities of venom, which means that the wasp can sting multiple times before it can empty its venom sack. Multiple stings equal more pain, inflammation, and, ultimately, higher fear factor.

What Happens to a Wasp if it Stings You?

Nothing. It will simply fly away. Unless, of course, it decides to sting you a couple more times before doing that. The fact that wasps can sting you multiple times makes it more feared and hated than other insects.

This is especially true for wasps capable of delivering really painful stings with effects lasting for days. And as if that wasn’t enough, wasps are also known to display swarming behavior if you’re near their nest. This is bound to provide you with a completely different stinging experience.

Can a Wasp Sting You Multiple Times?

Yes, as I’ve already explained, they have no problem doing so. Sometimes, they are even happy to deliver some extra stings if the situation demands it. This can cause significant problems if you find yourself near the wasp colony and the attacker deems you an enemy of its ‘people’.

That’s when you will get to witness the wasp’s truly magnificent biology in the form of its swarming behavior. Most wasps are eusocial species, which means they live in colonies ranging from several dozens to thousands of members. They communicate with each other via coloring, flight movements, and, of course, pheromones. Pay attention to the latter because it concerns you directly.

When injecting venom, wasps also transmit a specific pheromone into your skin, basically marking you as an intruder. This practically places a target on your head since all wasps will sense the alarming pheromone and will instantly know that one of their own just stung an intruder. In extreme cases, the entire colony will swarm to deal with the attacker, and wasps are fearless.

It doesn’t matter how large and imposing you are or how frantic you become when waving your hands in panic; they will react with extra aggression until the danger is neutralized. Which can mean a lot of things, none good.

The swarming behavior can cause serious problems, since some people will display severe allergic reactions to the insect’s venom. You should remove all wasp nests from your property to minimize the danger of such a scenario.

Conclusion

Wasps aren’t necessarily aggressive creatures. They prefer to keep their distance and feel if they feel threatened. Sometimes, however, they might choose to attack, especially if they feel that their nest is under attack.

Keep your distance, let wasps do their thing, and try to eliminate all wasp nests near your home or garden. If you can’t, I advise relying on professionals to get the job done fast and safely.

Wasps   Updated: January 20, 2022
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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