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Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

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Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby strollinbones » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:38 am

I thought this might be the place to find an answer to a point of curiosity that recently became quite personal.

I have been in the Sierras many times before and often seen my share of flying bee-like insects. The ones I typically see are most definitely NOT traditional honeybees. I have noticed that they are attracted to the smell of especially savory or sweet foods, and we've been known to leave a chunk of food as a sacrifice, simply to concentrate their focus on a location a number of yards from our actual meal. Some call them "meat-bees," but I've never been clear on what they really are, as "meat-bee" sounds pretty slangy.

Well, this week I was up at Kennedy Meadows with my son fly-fishing. We were having a great day all around, and at 3:30 a great big hatch of some sort was coming off the river. I led him to one particularly promising bank when I suddenly felt a searing stinging pain in my leg. I looked down to find some sort of flying bee/wasp/hornet/yellowjacket/meat-bee attached to my thigh. Then I noticed about 5 more hits, and it became clear that I had disturbed a nest/hive that was underground. Things got ugly, and I shouted at my boy to get out of there fast, which he did. I came away with numerous stings, and I did my best to promptly remove the stingers.

The immediate symptom was simple, clear, stinging pain, localized at the point of impact. Not being allergic, I wasn't terribly nervous, but we decided to get out of there for the sake of sanity. I figured I could stop in at the resort store to pick up Benadryl if I needed it.

Anyway, today the sting is gone and it's crazy itchy all over in each stung area, no longer precise but broad and ambiguous.

Can anyone tell me for certain:
What are these little beasts? Those who know of "meat-bees" claim that they are biting, not stinging insects, and I know I plucked little stingers out. Are they naturally aggressive, or does nest intrusion do the deed? Would an allergic victim (my son, for instance) have experienced a typical honeybee-sting-like reaction, or worse?

Just curious...

Strollin (and stingin') Bones

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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:30 am

I've seen honey bees, hover bees and yellowjackets in the Sierra. The only ones that eat meat are yellowjackets, and when they sting, they inject a kind of venom, but don't leave behind any stingers. The only ones that do that are honey bees, an act which causes their demise. Yellowjackets also nest in the ground and I've stumbled on one of their nests in the ground when I was out fishing. Luckily it was really cold out and they were quite lethargic and I was able to leave the area quickly. Your experience sounds like a yellowjacket to me, but perhaps there is another stinging insect out there that I am not aware of. I've also heard that trout love to eat yellowjackets, but I've never seen a fly that imitates them.
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby Cloudy » Fri Aug 24, 2012 7:37 am

I have always thought of them as Yellowjackets. They invite themselves to dinner and love to hover around whatever it is that you're cooking. I have heard the term "Meat Bees" but have always equated it with "Yellowjacket".
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:02 am

Meat bees and yellow jackets (same thing) are wasps. They don't sting, but they really bite hard and hurt a lot.

I stopped bringing soups with meat in it after having a huge cloud of the things chasing me around and dive-bombing into my salmon chowder.

There are a lot of different kinds of wasps out there, though. Perhaps a visit to whatsthatbug.com would help clarify things. (careful, lots of pictures of icky bugs on that site... :D )
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby oldranger » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:40 am

I've always called them meat bees since that is what I was taught. The bite causes instantaneous excruciating pain that lasts for a couple of days if untreated. Found that an application of hydrocortizone cream immediately stops the pain fairly rapidly. Always carry some with me.


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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby SSSdave » Fri Aug 24, 2012 8:49 am

AlmostThere wrote:...They don't sting, but they really bite hard and hurt a lot...

AT is probably vaguely recalling that male yellow jackets don't. Actually female yellow jacket wasps do sting and indeed they inject poison.

http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4577783_ye ... sting.html

Bees sting venoms are usually more unpleasant than most adults remember when they were a child. The sting is immediately painful in the local area of the sting but what is more unpleasant is when one's blood with venom reaches the brain. That can cause a fainting like feeling of queasiness with an unpleasant headache soon to follow. We always called them yellow jackets. The bees that used to really scare us kids were those occasionaly giant black tarrantula wasps.

While growing up near Sacramento we older neighborhood kids would sometimes amuse ourselves during summers in our grassy front yard when the local moms had come over for a coffee yak session. They would bring their little kids over and by noon turn on the lawn sprinklers so the kids could run around playing and yelling running about after each other as little kids do. Well our lawn had a fair amount of white clover flowers honey bees readily landed on. So we would watch a bit and it usually wasn't long before one of them would step on a bee and get stung. The little kid would usually stop still from running and with eyes suddenly wide have an unpleasantly surprised look on their face. At that point we mean spirited little devils sitting in the shade would bust out laughing because we knew in a few seconds as soon as the venom reached their brains, the tyke would open their mouths wide then after a momentary delay start bawling . All the moms would then run outside our front door and my sister might blurt out something like, Jimmy stepped on a bee.
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby Jimr » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:07 pm

Wasps and hornets don't normally leave stingers behind unless it has been broken off. If there was a small piece of flesh attached to the stinger left behind, it was from a bee. If it was ground-dwelling, it was not a honey bee. Unless you witnessed them going into or coming out of a hole, you cannot assume just because they were around holes, that the holes belonged to them.
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby PatrickQuin » Fri Aug 24, 2012 12:44 pm

Yeah, I would agree with the Meat Bee, Yellow Jacket, same difference response. But I would also add i had a medical professional call them ground wasps once. Ground wasp does get you a good image search, but also shows there are many different creatures with overlapping lay names. I think what we have are simply yellow jackets.

I once worked at a golf course where we had a problem with the yellow jackets making nests in the ground around the course. I have very clear memories of them pouring out of the ground and taking to the sky one after the other, like they were bombers launching on a mission. One afternoon while knocking balls back onto the driving range, I had the pleasure of hitting a ball that had directly lodged itself into one of these nest openings. I will say they both bite and sting. I was bit maybe four times or so, but only stung once. The sting swelled terribly while the bites were much quicker to return to normal. I have "tested" this theory a few times since, it seems pretty solid.

As far as allergies go I am not allergic to bee stings but a yellow jacket sting swells terribly, doesn't go away for several days and the whole area will get kind of dry, tender and itchy. I talked to a doctor about this and she tended to think the yellow jackets just have a powerful venom, and it was not an "allergic" reaction like some will have to bee stings.


I have posted some of these photos before, So forgive me if you've had the pleasure, but this is the result of a yellow jacket sting at Peter Pande lake. The thing kept coming right up to my ear and i swatted it, it got stuck under the brim of my hat, and miraculously latched itself directly to my lip...
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby ucangler » Fri Aug 24, 2012 2:01 pm

Bees= Eat Honey/Gatherers
Wasps= Carnivorous/Hunters

Bees= Communal live together
Wasps= Communal and/or solitary

Bees= Die after sting, they leave their stinger behind due to barbed end and stinger will have sac around it that will continue to pump venom. Must check the area and pull stinger out asap. More you leave it in there the more pain and venom in the your system.

Wasp= Can stings multiple times, does not leave stinger in whatever was stung.

If living underground, they are the ground dwelling yellow jacket wasps. They can be found up to 10,000 ft and are out during summer and fall.

ive been stung by yellow jackets with minimal swelling. I believe that the sensitive areas such as your lip, will swell like that due to the need for your body to heal it fast so you can eat.

The mouth and eyes are one of the fastest healing areas of your body. Faster healing means swelling faster or/and severity. However, that translates to faster healing.
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Re: Hey, Entomologists? What just stung me?

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:29 pm

I have nothing to add, except that a) I really, really hate yellowjackets; b) yellowjackets were my high school mascot; and c) a) does not necessarily follow from b).
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