In contrast to the honey bee, the common wasp and hornet can both insert and withdraw their sting with comparative ease – the picture on the left shows the much smoother outer casing of the wasp sting. The single wasp is therefore able to deliver multiple stings with ease. This multi-sting capacity suits its generally more aggressive nature and you will often find that wasp and hornets will try and sting their victim more than once.
The volume of venom delivered by a wasp sting is much less than that delivered by a bee. Depending on the type of wasp the volume can range from as little as 2 micro-grams to as much as 15 micro-grams A bee sting on the other hand is generally regarded as containing 50 micro-grams This difference in volume is then illustrated by the fact that a single wasp can sting its victim a number of times in succession, whilst a bee just has the one off sting.
|The Wasp Sting has a smooth outer lining – easy to insert in and out of the victim||The Bee Sting has a barbed outer sheath which are like a fish hook – easy to insert but difficult to extract|
The hornet on the other hand can deliver a much greater payload of venom than a wasp due to the sheer size of its venom sac – perhaps in the 30 micro-gram range as an educated guess. Whilst rather fearsome in size and presentation, the hornet is generally speaking less likely to sting than a wasp although when it does sting it is generally accepted that the pain is greater.
It should be remembered that the sting apparatus itself consists of a venom sac, which contains the venom, and a redundant egg laying tube which acts rather like the needle on a hypodermic syringe. This needle allows the wasp to curl up its abdomen, squeeze the venom from the sac into the sting apparatus, and inject the venom into the poor victim.
Another feature unique to the wasp and hornet is that the venom contains a pheromone which alarms all other wasps in the area and invites them to join the attack on the victim. Whilst one can see the evolutionary and defensive benefits of such an alarm system, it is particularly worrying for the victim. Whilst bees therefore do fly in swarms and have the reputation for attacking in swarms, do not let the comparatively solitary journey of the wasp deceive since not only can one wasp sting more than once, but it calls all wasps nearby to come and help.