Many venomous arthropod species that can be found in Massachusetts are well known for inflicting bites or stings that can have medically significant consequences. Some of these potentially dangerous arthropod species include European fire ants, bald-faced hornets, European honey bees, northern black widows, yellow-sac spiders, and multiple yellow jacket and caterpillar species. While the deadliest arthropods in Massachusetts are disease-carrying pests, like mosquitoes and ticks, the deadliest venomous insects (which does not include arachnids) in the state are hornets, wasps and bees. These pests are responsible for causing 79 fatalities every year nationwide, and unfortunately, they often establish nests on residential yards and within homes in Massachusetts. In fact, yellow jackets attacked and killed a Foxborough resident three years ago while the man had been mowing his yard. That being said, it will please residents to know that Massacusetts is the state that sees the lowest annual rate of fatal insect envenomations. Generally, wasps and bees are responsible for a comparable number of medically serious sting incidents in Massachusetts every year.
The European honey bee is the bee species responsible for most bee envenomation incidents that occur in Massachusetts each year, and they are well known for establishing nests within a variety of indoor areas, including attics, wall voids, and ceiling voids located above light fixtures. Pest control professionals, beekeepers and animal control officers have removed indoor nests containing as many as 20,000 to 60,000 honey bees, but indoor nests are typically a bit smaller than average. Sweat bees are a lesser known group of solitary bees that are abundant around homes throughout the US, and due to their natural pollinating activities, they can become a nuisance during the warmer months. While sweat bees will not establish nests within indoor wall voids, they often nest within rotting wood and below the ground on residential lawns. Due to their natural attraction to human perspiration, sweat bees frequently gravitate toward humans in large numbers and land on skin, prompting people to swat the bees in response. Doing this often results in a sting followed by a mild shock-like sensation, but stings are reportedly less painful than honey bee stings. While sweat bees are not particularly aggressive toward humans, and only sting in defense or when disturbed, numerous cases of severe allergic reactions and systemic symptoms have been documented in response to their stings. Sweat bees can be recognized for their ½ inch long body, dark and/or metallic exterior and pollen is commonly visible on their legs.
Have you ever sustained a sting from a sweat bee?