Wasp stings, self-healing with natural methods

Wasps belong to the order Hymenoptera. Endowed with a sting, they also belong to the suborder of the Apocrites. In wasps, females, i.e. workers and queens, can sting. Species that compete with humans in their foraging also sting occasionally. In reality these insects
bite especially to defend themselves against other hymenoptera, for example when they loot the nest or want to capture adult animals.

The common wasp, the Saxon wasp and the German wasp are the most common wasps living in colonies and the ones we encounter most often. They often set up their nests in dry and warm places, for example in attics or in roller shutter boxes. They feed mainly on sugars and juices (sugar water, honey, very ripe fruits). Wasp nests can support 400–500 individuals if summer is favorable; up to 10,000 animals can be found in some nests.

A wasp colony captures several kilograms of other insects, mainly flies, in one summer to feed its larvae. Wasps are therefore extremely useful for humans, as are insectivorous songbirds (tit, flycatcher). Wasp nests should not be removed or its occupants poisoned as long as they are not in the way!

Presentation of wasps

There are two main genera of wasps → the Vespinae and the Polistinae:

The common wasp (Vespula germanica and Vespula vulgaris):

It is the most important species in Europe and North America. Wasps are thin, and their bodies are made up of alternating black and yellow rings. The sting rarely stays in the skin during a sting, and wasps can sting repeatedly. Bites occur more frequently in late summer and fall.

Polist wasps :

They are found in temperate regions of southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Hornets (Vespa crabro) are part of the same family as wasps. They are similar in appearance but can measure up to 34 cm. The bites are more painful and the quantity of venom injected more important. The composition of their venom is similar to that of wasp venom and the allergic reactions identical.

What does wasp venom contain ?

Venoms are most often composed of high molecular weight glycoproteins which exert enzymatic activity. The venoms also contain histamine, dopamine, acetylcholine and kinins responsible for local reactions with pain, burning and itching. The amount of venom released from a bite varies greatly from insect to insect. An average wasp sting releases 2-3 mg of venom.

The main allergens in wasp venom are antigen 5, hyaluronidase and phospholipase A1. Cross reactions between the different members of the Vespidae family, therefore between the common wasp and the hornet for example, are important. On the other hand, they are much less important between the family of Vespinae and that of Polistinae.

The different types of reactions that wasp stings can cause

Local reactions :

In most people who are bitten, a local reaction develops in the form of a small papule with itching and pain that goes away within a few hours. A severe local reaction can occur in about 20 to 25% of bitten individuals. This manifests as a papule larger than 10 mm which usually persists for 24 to 48 hours but can last up to ten days. This damage can be quite extensive and affect an entire limb. It may be accompanied by local lymphadenitis and systemic manifestations in the form of generalized malaise and feverishness.

Systemic reactions :

They range from only skin involvement to anaphylactic shock. These reactions are in the vast majority of cases mediated by IgE. They most often occur within an hour of the bite, but can appear up to 24 hours after. Anaphylactoid reactions (not mediated by IgE) are rare; they appear after multiple stings (usually 100 stings in adults) and are linked to a toxic effect of the venom.

Some tips on ecological ethics concerning wasps

  • Do not smoke or remove honeycombs, wasps and hornets, nor poison animals
  • Leave the nests in place as long as possible. And don’t forget this: the animals only stay for a summer in one place – in the fall the colony is dissolved (exception: honey bees)
  • If necessary, during the winter, the following measures can be taken to prevent a new colony of wasps or hornets from establishing themselves the following spring: carefully plug the openings of old nests, without destroying the nests! Indeed, if we remove a nest without blocking the accesses, the chances are very strong that a new queen will choose in the following spring this same obviously favorable location to make her nest.
  • Do not forget that these animals are extraordinarily useful from an ecological point of view, but also for humans (pollinators, biological pest control auxiliaries)

Some tips to avoid the risk of being stung by wasps

  • Hymenoptera only sting if they feel threatened. In their presence, it is therefore advisable to remain calm and not to gesticulate in all directions! To prevent the intrusion of insects (including mosquitoes) into homes, a special mosquito net or curtain can be installed in the window frame. A mosquito net installed above the bed prevents unintentional bites at night (naturally, mosquitoes bite intentionally!)
  • Wasps are often unwanted guests at outdoor meals. They munch on sugary foods like fruit or jam, as well as leftover meat that they bring back to their broods. Care should therefore be taken not to accidentally swallow a wasp – a glance before biting a piece is recommended.
  • Also think about straws if you give sugary drinks (syrup, fruit juice) to children! The risk of swallowing a wasp while drinking is thus considerably reduced

What to do in case of a wasp sting ?

If, despite all preventive measures, a wasp stings, an adequate reaction may lessen the effects. In principle, an injection is painful but not dangerous; Moreover, the sting of a hornet is no more dangerous than that of a wasp or a bee. Only people with allergies who do not take the countermeasures prescribed by the doctor should expect complications.

A sting in the tongue or throat area can be dangerous because it can swell and prevent breathing. In this case it is absolutely necessary to consult a doctor.

In the event of a wasp, hornet, bumblebee or bee sting, in another region of the body (the stings are often localized on the soles of the feet) there are a few “tips”:

  • Immediately pump the venom with a special “Aspivenin” device, similar to a medical syringe; minimizes the consequences (pain, swelling)
  • Press a freshly cut onion onto the bite (min. 15 minutes)
  • Apply honey or moistened sugar to the bite
  • Chew a leaf of lanceolate plantain (Plantago lanceolata) and apply it to the bite
  • Cool the swollen area (apply ice)

Usually, the swelling goes away completely after 2 to 3 days at the latest.

Medicinal plants side :

Healing, vulnerary, analgesic and antitoxic, this emergency essential oil is essential for quickly relieving and healing wasp stings.

This essential oil is renowned for its skin calming properties on insect bites.

The blackcurrant bud acts on anaphylactic symptoms that may follow insect bites.

This highly fragrant flowering herb is wasp repellent.

The eugenol in clove reduces inflammatory reactions caused by insect bites by inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis and reducing white blood cell chemotaxis.

Homeopathy side :

Dosage: 1 application several times a day

  • Apis mellifica :

In case of pinkish, stinging, burning edema, improved by cold applications.

Dosage: (30 CH: 1 dose immediately) + (15 CH: 5 granules every 1/2 hour).

Preventive interest, to limit reactions to insect bites in reactive people.

Dosage: 5 granules per day during the exposure period.

In case of pruritus not improved by cold.

Dosage: 5 granules every hour until improvement.

In case of inflammation: redness, heat, throbbing pain, worse by touch.

Dosage: 5 granules every hour until improvement.

If allergic reaction, to modulate the mechanism of the allergic reaction.

Dosage: 5 granules every hour until improvement.

Sources :

  • Golden DBK. Insect allergy. In: Adkinson NF, et al. Middleton’s allergy principles and practice, 6th edition. Saint-Louis: Mosby, 2003
  • Demain JG, Minaei AA, Tracy JM. Anaphylaxis and insect allergy. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol 2010
  • Hofmann SC, Pfender N, Weckesser S, et al. Added value of IgE detection to rApi m1 and rVes v5 in patients with hymenoptera venom allergy. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2011
  • Mit Hornissen leben? Fiche technique de l’office pour la protection de l’environnement et de la nature, Allemagne

 

Clémentine. M.
Naturopath – Aromatherapist / Herbalist – Phytotherapist
Consultant in clinical phyto-aromatherapy and ethnomedicine

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