The wasp sting – a dreaded element of summer that causes many victims considerable pain. The majority of people don’t know what goes on when a wasp administers its painful sting, so as a follow on from our past article on The Anatomy of a Wasp, here we dig a little deeper into how a wasp sting works.
Evolution of the Wasp Sting
The evolution of a wasp sting dates back to prehistoric times. It started out as a reproductive organ, called an ovipositor, that the wasps initially used to lay their eggs on their victims, such as caterpillars and other small creatures. With time, the ovipositor evolved into a sharp tool that allowed the wasps to inject their eggs into the insect hosts. As wasp larvae feed on protein, this gave them an immediate food source and avoided the need of the adult wasps having to feed their young.
As time went on, the reproductive organ not only administered eggs, but also a venomous sting, which would paralyse the victim. Although many species of wasps no longer lay eggs in other insects, they have retained the painful sting. The two main uses of the sting now are to paralyse insects to take back to the nest to feed to the young, or the give a sharp painful warning to larger animals (including us!) that they will fight back.
Why a Wasp Sting is so Painful
Anyone who has been stung by a wasp will know the pain that can last a considerable amount of time. Worse still, it can cause allergic reactions and the potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. So why is a wasp sting so painful?
Without getting too scientific about it, the venom administered by the sting attacks the central nervous system. It is administered directly into the blood stream, and signals are sent back to the brain, which we experience as pain. The reason that the pain can last for several minutes, or in many cases a lot longer, is that elements of the venom slow the blood flow. The venom then seeps into surrounding cells and this is where swelling and redness occurs.
Wasp Stings: A Job for the Females
As it is the job of the female wasps to go out and gather food for the young, it is only them who actually sting, not the males.
The retractable stings are located inside a sheath inside the abdomen and the female wasps put them into action as soon as they detect danger. The venom that is produced in the venom gland and then stored in the venom sack covers the outside of the sting. When the sting is inserted into the victim, the venom gets to its pain-inflicting work.
Although males do not have stings, video evidence has shown that they will threaten to sting by brandishing their abdomens, with the hope that the predator will back off…or female back up will appear!
How to Control the Pain of a Wasp Sting
For tips on how to control the pain of a wasp sting, read our article – Wasp Attack: How to Control the Pain.
Top Dog Pest Control is at your disposal when you find you are in need of London wasp control. Available London-wide 24/7, we will have a skilled technician out to you the very same day, often within the hour.
This article was written by Dean Mannion, Senior Pest Control Technician for Top Dog Pest Control. Top Dog Pest Control provides London wasp nest removal services.