Most rational people display a certain amount of caution and respect in the presence of wasps. If you’re someone who fears wasps, you may also try to avoid a dead wasp, fearing it might sting you. But can you actually get stung by a wasp if it’s already dead?
You can get stung by a dead wasp. Getting stung by a dead wasp is, in fact, not uncommon. The venom sac within a wasp’s abdomen continues to pulse for some time after the wasp has died. Touching the stinger will cause the wasp venom to enter your body.
People often get stung by dead wasps when walking barefoot or handling dead wasps. Whether you receive your sting from a dead wasp or a live one, the experience won’t be pleasant. Keep reading as I’ll discuss wasp stings: how they happen, how to treat them, and how to avoid them.
You Can Get Stung by a Dead Wasp
Wasps are generally divided into two categories: social wasps and solitary wasps.
Social wasps, like yellowjackets and paper wasps, live in colonies. But solitary wasps—like mud daubers and cicada killers—don’t.
Entomologists have identified approximately 30,000 wasp species. There are far more solitary wasp species than social wasp species. Yet, you are far more likely to be stung by a social wasp than a solitary wasp.
Whether these wasps are alive or dead, they can hurt you if you happen to touch their stingers. Their stingers have venom.
Even after a wasp has died, its venom sac (which is inside its abdomen) continues to pulse for some time. That said, avoid handling a dead wasp with your bare hands.
Solitary Wasps Don’t Form Swarms, But You Should Still Avoid Them
Solitary wasps use their stingers primarily to hunt. While they don’t form swarms, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful in their presence.
Fortunately, wasps don’t hunt humans because they have no incentive to hunt you. Generally, solitary wasps are not dangerous, but they may attack when they feel threatened.
Social Wasps Will Sting To Defend Their Nests or Colonies
Social wasps sting for several reasons. Like their solitary cousins, social wasps sometimes use their stingers to immobilize larger prey.
However, they most often use their stingers to defend their nests or themselves. Social wasps will swarm to drive the intruder away when they sense a threat to their nest. These threatened wasps emit a pheromone that rapidly causes their colony mates to go into a frenzy.
Unlike bees, most wasps are capable of stinging several times. Getting stung several times by many wasps can be a serious and painful problem. The wasps will mark you with the swarming pheromone, which explains how wasps can chase perceived intruders for long distances.
You can run, but you can’t hide. Still, I strongly recommend running fast and far when swarmed. Wasp stings hurt.
Wasp Stings Can Cause Painful Red Lumps
When you get stung by a wasp, you’ll experience burning pain at the site of the sting. If you’ve been stung several times, you’ll experience even more pain. You’ll probably also notice a raised lump in places you were stung. These are caused by your body’s reaction to wasp venom.
Areas around your raised lump (or lumps) will usually turn red, and you may even see a small white mark near the center of some of your reddening lumps. The white mark is where the stinger entered your skin. Unless you squashed the wasp while it was stinging you, you probably don’t have to worry about finding the stinger. Unlike bees, most wasps won’t leave their stinger behind.
You’ll likely experience some swelling in the area of the sting. If you experience extreme swelling, difficulty breathing, or were stung numerous times, seek medical help immediately. You could be experiencing an allergic reaction to the venom.
How To Treat Wasp Stings
Assuming you are not allergic to wasp venom, there are a few things you should do soon after getting stung:
- Clean the area you were stung with soap and water to remove any venom that has remained on your skin.
- Apply a wet towel or an ice pack to the area to reduce swelling.
- Use antihistamines to help reduce the swelling.
- Apply a medical disinfectant once the swelling has gone down.
- Get an over-the-counter pain medication if the stung area is still painful.
How To Avoid Wasp Stings
Now that you’ve understood why you should avoid wasps, even the dead ones, let’s explore the ways to avoid getting stung by live wasps.
Don’t Get Too Close to a Wasp Nest
As mentioned earlier, social wasps will sting you if they consider you a threat to their nest. Avoid approaching a wasp nest during the day. Wasps are quite active in daylight.
In avoiding a wasp nest, make sure you place a good distance between you and the nest. Active wasps cover a lot of ground and become aggressive if they think you’re invading their territory. This is particularly true in the spring when they hunt insects to feed the grubs in their nests.
Keep in Mind That Wasps Are Active in the Late Summer and Early Fall
Late summer and early fall are also dangerous times for wasp stings. When wasps are feeding their young, they receive sugary secretions in return. The young ones have grown by the late summer, and the sugary secretion supply is gone. To get their sugar fix, they turn to fermented fruits and any other sweet things they can find.
This search for sweetness is why wasps can be such a nuisance at picnics and cookouts. Please don’t forget to keep your sweet beverages and desserts covered.
Avoid picnicking in orchards where there may be fermented fruits on the ground, and make sure children wash their hands after consuming sweet treats. If wasps approach you, don’t panic. Slowly move away without waving your arms, screaming, or trying to strike them.
Don’t Swat a Wasp
Remember the swarming pheromone I mentioned earlier? If you swat a wasp, you are likely to attract a dozen. An uncomfortable situation can quickly turn into a painful one when dealing with wasps.
That said, remember not to swat a wasp even if it’s coming for you. Stand still, especially when it’s right next to you. If you’re terrified of wasps, try to move away from the wasp calmly and slowly. You don’t want to look like a threat to the wasp. Don’t run.
Despite the painful consequences of coming in contact with the business end of a wasp (either living or dead), wasps are extremely beneficial.
Wasps prey on virtually every insect pest on the planet by either using them as hosts for their larvae or eating them. Farmers worldwide have turned to wasps to help control pests in their fields.
So, the next time you see a wasp, say thanks—just make sure you do so from a safe distance.
- University of California Division of Agriculture and National Resources: Why Dead Bees Can Sting
- pestABC: Can Dead Wasps Sting (Painful Facts)
- Ehrlic Pest Control: The real truth about wasp stings
- National Geographic: Wasps
- Britannica: Wasp
- Home and Garden Digest: What Is a Wasp Sting and How Does It Work
- Colonial Pest Control: Why Do Wasps Sting?
- Psych Times: Spheksophobia (Fear of Wasps)
- eWasp: First Aid
- Brody Brothers Pest Control: What to Do When a Wasp or Yellow Jacket Chases You