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Bites and Stings: Snakes, Scorpions, Spiders, Ants, Bees, Wasps and Hornets

In the animal kingdom there are many creatures that can bite or sting humans, pets, livestock or wildlife.  Many of these bites or stings can cause pain, death or reactions to our systems that can be mild to extreme. Although insect and animal bites are unpleasant most are not serious. Generally bite or sting is accompanied by a local reaction to the venom in the insect's saliva. Usually these are of minor significance and the temporary pain, itching and discomfort of a local reaction do not seriously influence a person's health. Not all insects, reptiles, animals cause pain, sickness, allergic reactions or death.  Even of those creatures that have the ability to bite or sting, not all have the ability to puncture human skin.  All spiders can deliver toxins but very few can actually deliver these toxins deep enough through human skin to actually cause sickness or death. But some spider bites may cause serious local reactions and inflammation. If a wound is infected, it will appear swollen, red and develop pus.

Difference between Bites and Stings:-

Bite:- Bite is when a creature injects venom through the mouth. Creatures that bite you are spiders, ants, and reptiles.

Sting:- Sting is when the creatures sting you with a stinger. Venomous creatures that sting you are bees, wasps, hornets and scorpions . 

Although an insect bite and an insect sting are both painful, there is a big difference between the types of insects that bite and those that sting.Venomous insects sting, injecting painful toxic venom through their stingers into your system. Venomous insects attack as a defense mechanism, injecting painful, toxic venom through their stingers to punish you so you'll stay away next time.

Non-venomous insects bite and inject anti-coagulant saliva so they can feed on your blood. Wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, all bees, and fire ants are venomous. Chiggers, fleas, lice, scabies, bed bugs, ticks, and mosquitoes are non-venomous. Both may cause itching, but venomous stings cause local reactions such as pain, allergic reactions and intense swelling and redness. Venom continues to pump in through the stinger until the sack is empty or the stinger is removed. When honey bees sting, they leave the stinger and venom sack.The only good part about this is that honey bees die after they sting. Wasps and hornets however, don't leave their stings behind and can sting you over and over . Non-venomous bites may spread diseases like Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, encephalitis and malaria but for most people, they just cause maddening itches.

Bite Creatures:-


A recent summary of reported spider bites in the United States between 1989 and 1993 included fewer than 5,000 incidents per year. Only a few of the bites of widow spiders were medically serious, but over 80% of recluse bites were considered serious. Only about 10% of other spider bites had serious consequences. Most spiders found in the United States are harmless, with the exception of the black widow and the brown recluse (or violin) spider. Both of these are found in warm climates. Several species of spiders bite man accidentally.

Black Widow Spider ( Latrodectas Mactans ) :-

Some species like latrodectas mactans ( black widow spider ) attack man. Females are more aggressive and venomous than males. Black Widows are shy spiders, usually hanging out in the dark. So it's unlikely you'll encounter one while riding your bike. It's more likely one will be hiding under your CamelBak in the garage, ready to nip your finger as you pick up the pack. Black widow spiders is generally found in dark or small spaces, such as under rocks or in between two fence posts. The female spider has a red hour glass on her back and is the black widow that is venomous. The male is NOT!. A black widow will only use its venom if it really needs too. The venom is generally neurotoxic, sometimes, also hemolytic. The bite is followed by intense local pain and the part becomes tender and apastic. Generalized muscular rigidity especially marked over the abdomen, pupillary construction, salivation, excessive sweating and cardiovascular collapse may follow. Death may occur in children and debilitated subjects.

Diagnose of Black Widow Spider (latrodectas mactans ) Bite:-

A black widow spider bite is diagnosed through a physical examination and questions about the bite. You should be prepared to describe the spider, where and when the bite took place, and what you were doing at the time. Your health professional will ask what your main symptoms are, when they began, and how they have developed, progressed, or changed since the bite.

Brown Spiders ( Fiddleback Spider / Violin Spider ) :-

One of the most notorious spiders which gets a lot of bad press. The brown recluse (fiddleback spider) has tiny fangs These brown recluse spiders were captured in extreme Southern Illinois and commonly make their homes under rocks, logs, and abandoned cabins. They are usually non aggressive, and bites are usually sustained by rolling over in bed, putting on socks and shoes, or carrying boxes out of a dark basement. If you see a brown spider with a violin shaped marking on it's back you should get away because it's more then likely to be a brown recluse! The bite is almost never felt. Because this spider is reclusive, it usually isn't seen either. The bite starts as a blister, which then becomes bloody. After 6-8 hours of a stinging sensation, there will be aching and severe itching at the area. In 2-3 days an ulcer may occur at the bite site. After 2-5 weeks, a rather noticeable hole in the skin can occur. The best way to identify a brown recluse spider bite is by identification of the spider.

Treatment of Spider Bite :-

  • First of all, that funny bump on your skin almost certainly ISN'T a brown recluse bite. Second, we don't do much about them. We just bandage the hole up and watch for infection.
  • Washing the area of bite with soap and water. Administration of 20 ml of calcium gluconate intravenously relieves muscle spasm. Muscle relaxants like mephenesin in as dose of 1g orally and anticholinerigs like atrophine ( 0.5 mg given intervenously ) give symptomatic relief.
  • If itchy red swelling develops around the bite (usually the next day), continue to apply hydrocortisone cream. Add an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, 600 mg four times a day. Warm compresses may help hurry things along. Expect 4-5 days for the swelling to resolve .


Certain species of fire ants belonging to the genus Solenopisis inflict bites on the skin and also introduce he poison through the stinger situated at the posterior end of the abdomen. Local irritation and allergic reaction follows

Ant may found in the bed clothes of debilitated patients, new born babies and canatose subjects and eat away superficial tissues producing shallow ulcers. When large numbers are involved tissue loss may be considerable. This can be avoided by experting care in nursing chronically bedridden and dusting 10% D.D.T powder under the cot and beds.

Snake Bite

Each year, nearly 8,000 people receive poisonous snake bites in the United States . Even a bite from a so-called "harmless" snake can cause infection or allergic reaction in some people. However, many more cause disfigurement or nerve or tissue damage. Most of the bites occurr in persons while engaged in agricultural operations or while walking in darkness. Snakes are found more frequently around dwelling houses, embankments, cultivated fields and in bushes. They get to frequent places where they get their prey- rodents and frogs. Most of the poisnous bites (80%) are due to vipers ( Vipera russelli and Echis carinatus ). Cobras ( Naja naja ) cause (10%) and kraits ( Bungarus caerulus) cause (4%). Rarely. Poisoning due to sea snakes is encountered. Majority of inflicted by non- poisnous snakes. The indence of snake bites varies with the season in different regions.

What snakes cause poisonous bites?
Any of the following snakes cause poisonous bites:

  • Rattlesnake
  • Copperhead
  • Cottonmouth Water Moccasin
  • Coral Snake

How to identify poisonous snake:-

They have large ventral scales covering the whole of the ventral aspect.

The mouth contains only one pair of poisonous fangs in the upper jaw, placed anteriorly ( krait or cobra ) or posteriorly ( viper ).

Presence of small teeth is characteristic of non- poisonous snake.


Immediate response :- Severe fright and mental agitation leading to tachycardia, sweating, hypotension and even vascular collapse are prominent features soon after the snake bite. These nonspecific symptoms may be seen in all snakes bites.

Local reactions:- Local reactions are more prominent in the case of viper bites and less so in others. Intense pain, swelling and violaceous discoloration develop within minutes and often serosanguinous fluid exudes from the fang marks.

General Effects:- These vary with the types of snake. Cobra and krait venom are predominantly neurotoxic, while those of vipers are histotoxic.

Cobra and Krait bites:- Soon after the byte, the patient complains of a sinking feeling, drowsiness, blurring of vision, diplopia. Dysphagia and dyspnea.

Viper Bites :- with in 3-4 hours of the bite, the hemorrhagic manifestation appear in the nature of extensive bruising, bleeding from the bitten part and injection sites, bleeding from the gums.

Sea snake bites :- sea snake bites are identified by the victims as sharp pricks. The local reaction may be insignificant. Signs of envenomation occur with in one hour and initial symptoms consist of pain and stiffness of the muscles of neck, back and proximal parts of the limbs but rapidly becoming generalized.

Treatment of snake bite:-

Move the patient away from the snake to prevent repeated bites or bites to yourself. Snakes cannot sustain prolonged rapid movement so are often within a 20 foot radius of where the bite first occurred.

The most important step is to start first aid, reassure the victim and to decide upon the need of specific antivenin. The bittenpart should be immobilized using and improvised splint, washed well with soap and water and tight tourniquet applied nearest to the site of bite where there is onle a single bone.

  • Chilling the limbs in ice reduces the rate of absorption of venom. Immediate hospitalized is required.
  • Remove any rings, bracelets or other jewelry that could impede circulation if swelling occurs.
  • Since cobra and krait bites may lead to acute myasthenic reaction with respiratory paralysis, prompt administration of neostigmine can be life saving.
  • Early institution of hemodialysis and carefulo management of renal failure in an institution with facilities for renal support have helped to save many patients, who would otherwise have died.

Sting Creatures:-

Insects that sting are members of the order Hymenoptera of the class Insecta. There are two major subgroups: apids (honeybees, bumblebees) and vespids (wasps, yellow jackets, hornets). The fire ant is a nonwinged member of Hymenoptera. The average person can safely tolerate 10 stings/lb body weight; the average adult can withstand > 1000 stings, whereas 500 stings can kill a child. However, one sting can cause a fatal anaphylactic reaction in a hypersensitive person. In the USA , stings cause 3 to 4 times more deaths than do venomous snakebites. Toxic reactions to venom components may occur after 50 to 100 stings and manifest clinically as anaphylaxis.


Scorpions occur naturally in South, West and North Africa ; North, Central and South America; India; and the Caribbean . Only 40 species of scorpios are found in United States. There are many species of scorpions found in Arizona but only one is potentially lethal. This is the bark scorpion. It is one of the smaller species being one to one and a half inches long . Scorpions are nocturnal in habits and they come out at night to catch insects for their prey. They often hide in dark cracks and vegetation. Ideally, accommodation should have a ledge that is at least 20cm high to prevent entry of scorpions .The victims are killed by injecting the poison by the sting arising from the posion gland situated at the posterior end of the tail like abdomen. The venom has neutroxic, hemolytic, coagulant and cardiotoxic properties. There is intense pain, endema and redness at the site of sting. This is followed by tachycardia, sweating, salivation and vomiting. In severe cases paralysis of the tongue and abdominal muscles, convulsions and respiratory depression supervene.

Treatment of Scorpio Bite:-

  • The affected part is immersed in ice cold water and washed. Infiltration of 5 ml of xylocaine around the sting gives relied to pain.
  • Children should be observed for a week after the sting and electrocardiogram should be recorded before allowing full activity.
  • Be sure the victim's airway stays clear
  • Transport to a hospital. A specific antivenin is available.
  • Heparin has been found to be life saving in cases of DIC.
  • Painkilling injections (morphine-based painkiller) may be required and a doctor should therefore be consulted.

Bees, Wasps and Hornets:-

Bees, wasps and hornets will offer a nastier encounter. Whether you are stung by the lowly honeybee or by the aggressive white-faced hornet, which may sting a person five or ten times in quick succession, it is not a pleasant experience. Bee stings will leave a barbed stinger behind which can be removed by scraping the skin with a nail or credit card. Wasp and hornet stings may leave a distinctive red circle with a small puncture mark on the skin. These insects abound in many parts of India and other tropical and temperate regions, especially during the flowering season. During the sting, the stinger which is the modified ovipositor at the posterior end of the abdomen is inserted into the skin and the venom is discharged. In the case of the bees, the stinger is left behind in the skin and injection of the venom continues for a few minutes even after the insects left.


Initial symptoms consist of intense local pain, angioneurotic edema, respiratory obstruction and anaphylactic shock. Delayed hypersensitivity reaction resembling serum sickness may occur after two to three weeks. Multiple stings, especially over the face are associated with considerable morality.

Treatment :-

In all cases, the local site should be inspected. Use tweezers to prise it out or scrape it off with your fingernail, or a credit card. Do not attempt to press out the sting, as this will only help the poison spread under the skin. The stinger should be removed by gentle scraping. Injection of adrenaline and corticosteroids and other supportive measures may be required to combat the amaphylactic reactions. maintenance of the airway and ventilatory support are life saving when the edema obstructs respiration. Sensitized persons shouls avoid further exposure to these insects and wear protective clothing when so exposed.

First Aid for sting and bites:-

Wash bite/sting area well with soap and water.

If a tetanus vaccination has not been given within the last five to seven years, consult a physician.

Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing, preferably sterile and bandage.

If the sting is left in the skin remove it carefully. Don't use tweezers or squeeze the skin as this will inject more venom in the skin.

Wash the skin with soap and water and put a wad of cold, damp cotton wool.

If the person is unconscious and breathing, lay the person on his or her side to allow drainage from the mouth.

Use a painkilling cream or gel or an antihistamine to soothe the itch.

How to avoid getting stung or bite:-

  • Prevent flea infestations by treating your house, including all carpets, furniture, and pets, regularly during the warmer months. Frequent vacuuming can also help.
  • When you are in wooded areas, tuck your clothes in and try to keep as covered up as possible. Tuck pants into socks, shirts into pants, and sleeves into gloves. Wear shoes and socks when walking on grass, even it's just for a minute. Bees and wasps can sting your unprotected feet.
  • Be aware that spiders might be hiding in undisturbed piles of wood, seldom-opened boxes, or corners behind furniture, and proceed with caution.
  • Bees and wasps can be attracted to, or may react to, odors in the environment. It is best not to use perfume, cologne, or scented soaps if you are going into an area of bee and/or wasp activity. Unless someone accidentally collides quite hard with or swats at a bee or wasp, it is not likely to sting.
  • If surrounded by a swarm of bees or wasps, move out of the way SLOWLY. Do not try to wave the insects away. Violent movements will only excite them and make them more aggressive and likely to attack.
  • Look out for insects' nests in your home or garden and have them removed immediately.
  • Carrying a torch while walking in the snake infested areas.
  • Using a stick which, if tapped on the ground, scares away most of the snakes.

Home Remedies in case of stung or bite:-

  • Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing, preferably sterile, and bandage.
  • A slice of onion applied to the sting may help relieve the pain.
  • If a scorpion bites, then either drink Mint juice or eat its leaves to destroy the poisonous effect.
  • Make a paste using a teaspoon of baking soda and a little water, and apply to the sting. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes. The alkalinity of the baking soda has a cooling effect and will neutralize the acid of the sting.
  • Rub the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Some people experience amazing results at reducing swelling and irritation.
  • Make a paste of meat tenderizer and water and rub on the bite area. Good also for jellyfish stings. Tenderizer has papain, which helps break down the proteins present in insect venom.
  • Tea tree oil, derived from the leaves of the native Australian Melaleuca alternifolia tree, contains antiseptic compounds that make it a powerful disinfectant. Apply it full strength.
  • This remedy is useful for stings. Carefully peel the membrane from inside a raw eggshell and place it over the area that has been stung. Allow to completely shrivel and dry. This will pull out the stinger and help clear up the redness and swelling which causes severe itching and pain.
  • Put the mixture of 20 Tola kerosene and 1 Tola mustard seed oil in a glass bottle and keep that bottle in the sun. Apply this mixture on any insect's bite.
  • If a snake or scorpion bites apply garlic paste and lick 2 tsp of garlic juice mixed with honey for immediate relief and to destroy its poisonous effect.
  • If a Centipede or a mosquito enters into the ear then put few drops of honey mixed with oil so that it comes out easily and you will get relief.

When to call a doctor:-

  • If there is a snake bite, a physician or emergency room should be contained immediately.
  • If patients is known to react very badly to stings.
  • If there is severe or rapidly spreading swelling.
  • If breathing becomes difficult.
  • If there is fainting, confusion, or loss of consiousness.
  • If a sting occurs in the mouth or it there is multiple stings.
  • If the bite is from something known to be extremely poisnous.

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