Ants, Bees, Wasps and Stings

Most insect bites and stings are nothing more than a temporary nuisance – annoying and uncomfortable for most people. However, in some cases the effects can be dangerous. Read on to learn more...

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Bug bite or bee sting?

Many insects bite or sting and you may wonder what’s the difference? The difference is that bugs that bite use their mouthparts and aren’t actually poisonous. However, these little guys may have saliva that can cause reactions such as pain, itching or infections.

Stinging insects all use small, sharp, needle-like organ called a “sting” to inject venom into another animal by piercing the skin. This usually causes pain, swelling, redness and itching. While all stinging insects have venom, the small dose you get when stung isn’t usually dangerous unless you happen to be allergic to it.


Bugs in Canada

Common biting insects in Canada include:

  • Flies (e.g., black flies, sand flies, deer flies, horse flies)
  • Mosquitoes
  • Bedbugs
  • Fleas
  • Ticks and spiders (arachnids are technically not insects)

Common stinging insects in Canada include:

  • Honeybees and bumblebees
  • Wasps (yellow jackets) and hornets
  • Fire ants

Health concerns (bites)

Allergic reactions to bug bites are rare, but the saliva of these insects can sometimes cause other problems. Below is a list of some of the health concerns related to certain biting insects.
Health concern
  • West Nile virus
  • Malaria (uncommon in Canada)
  • Yellow fever
  • Lyme disease
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Temporary paralysis
  • Plague
  • Bacterial infection

Health concerns (stings)

There’s no getting around it, if you’ve been stung you know it! For most people the pain is sharp followed by an intense burning feeling at the spot where you were stung. Next you will likely see a red ring or bump where you were stung, and some swelling and soon the pain turns into a major itch. Usually the pain and swelling go away after a few hours. Unfortunately, a small percentage will have a serious allergic reaction that needs immediate emergency treatment. Common symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • Dangerously low blood pressure (dizziness, fainting)
  • Hives
  • Nausea, cramping, diarrhea, or vomiting
  • Swelling of the face and throat
  • Difficulty breathing


Ten tips to avoid being stung

1. Don’t use flowery fragrances, lotions, shampoos or soaps
2. Stay away from fruit, juices and sugary drinks when outdoors
3. Don’t walk through clover fields
4. Apply insect repellent
5. Wear long-sleeve shirts, pants, socks & shoes
6. Tuck your shirt into your pants, & your pants into your socks
7. Clear away garbage & animal feces
8. Keep food containers & trash cans covered
9. Be careful when working on your lawn or garden
10. Have hives and nests near your home removed by a professional

Those with allergies to stings should wear ID bracelets & carry an epinephrine autoinjector

First aid

Did you know that most stinging insects keep their stinger? However, a bee’s sting is barbed & often stays in your skin?
If you’ve been stung by a bee, the first thing to do is remove the sting to stop any more venom being released & lower the chances of infection.

All stings should be washed with soap and water.

For most bites and stings, no treatment is needed. However, ice, over-the counter pain medicine, antihistamines, hydrocortisone cream & calamine lotion can help soothe pain and itching.

If you are allergic to bug bites or stings your doctor is likely to prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector in case of emergency.


Important information

The Pharmacist at Walmart is knowledgeable about all kinds of first aid to help keep you safe this summer. Just ask!

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

The pharmacist at Walmart does not endorse or recommend any sponsor or their products or services.
Any representation, performance claim, warranty or guarantee in any materials herein is the sole responsibility of the sponsor that has prepared such materials and is not independently verified by Walmart.

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This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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