Thousands of people in the United States sustain insect stings on a daily basis, and in some cases, stings result in severe allergic reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal. Most people associate stinging insects with the southern US, but a great number of aggressive stinging insects can be found in the northeastern states as well. For example, a Massachusetts man died from a yellow jacket attack on his own property earlier this year, and last year a New Hampshire man was killed by yellow jackets that had been nesting on his back porch. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 62 deaths from wasp and bee stings occur in the US each year, and death rates from stings have been rising dramatically in recent years. Surprisingly, more Americans die each year from bee and wasp stings than from snake bites. Some of the most aggressive venomous wasp species in Massachusetts include bald-faced hornets, eastern yellow jackets, and European hornets.
In addition to wasp stings, painful encounters with venomous ants occur in the northeast as well. While most medically significant ant species dwell in the southern US, Massachusetss and other northeastern states are home to the non-native European fire ant. European fire ants are not as dangerous to humans as their red-imported fire ant relative, but European fire ant stings have been known to induce anaphylactic shock in rare cases, and their stings are reportedly quite painful.
Bee, ant and wasp stings can kill humans in two ways. One way sees humans sustain so many stings that they die from venom toxicity, but most sting deaths occur in response to allergic reactions. Many individuals develop an allergy to insect venom as a result of sustaining numerous stings over time. Therefore, people who have never experienced a serious allergic reaction to an insect sting can eventually experience one at some point in the future.
Have you ever sustained multiple insect stings at one time?