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Avoidance of bee and wasp stings: an entomological perspective

Greene, Alberta; Breisch, Nancy Lb

Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology: August 2005 - Volume 5 - Issue 4 - p 337–341
doi: 10.1097/01.all.0000173781.58154.53
Insect allergy

Purpose of review Clinicians and researchers in allergy and immunology are often unaware of aspects of stinging insect biology that would be of practical interest to their patients. This review discusses entomological literature pertaining to avoidance of bee and wasp stings, with emphasis on risk factors associated with provoking individual foragers versus disturbing colonies and preventive measures for both circumstances.

Recent findings Recent work pertaining to sting avoidance has mostly been concerned with the development and testing of attractants, insecticides and delivery systems for toxic baiting programs to control vespine wasps.

Summary Sting risks and avoidance measures associated with bee and wasp foragers are different from those posed by disturbing colonies. Despite widespread advice to the contrary, no evidence currently exists that wearing perfume or bright, floral-colored clothing elevates sting risk. Foragers usually have to be firmly touched before they will sting; therefore, personal protection largely involves guarding against accidental direct contact. Although still under development, the most effective means for reducing local populations of foraging vespine wasps are toxic baiting programs. Preventing stings from colonies is more problematic and depends mostly on personal awareness when disturbing vegetation. The most effective measure in mitigating the severity of a mass attack is probably the wearing of white or light-colored clothing.

aService Delivery Support Division, US General Services Administration, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

bDepartment of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Albert Greene, PhD, Service Delivery Support Division (WPY), US General Services Administration, 7th and D Sts SW, Washington, DC 20407, USA Tel: +1 202 205 5703; fax: +1 202 401 3722; e-mail:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.