Subject: Costa Rica wasp or hornet with really painful sting
Location: Manzanillo, Costa Rica (small town on the southern Caribbean side)
June 1, 2016 12:46 am
Currently I am on a holiday in Costa Rica. Unfortunately today I bumped head first into a nest of black wasps or hornets, by accident. I have been stung in my head a dozen times and it was extremely painful. The nest was hanging underneath a tree on the beach of Manzanillo. I jumped in the water. The bugs died after the sting and left their piercer behind. The piercer was hard and light yellow. I think I managed to get them all out, but it is difficult to tell since the stings are in my hair. So now I am wondering: what are those little devils from hell and how dangerous are the stings? Do I need to get medical attention? I do not think I am allergic (it happend 10 hours ago and I am still not really swollen) but it still hurts a lot. Thank you very much in advance for your time!
Signature: Unlucky tourist
Dear Unlucky Tourist,
Though your insect sure appears to be a Wasp, we are not aware of any Wasps that lose their stingers upon stinging. That is a characteristic of Bee stings. According to the Boston Globe: “For a bee, a sting is all or nothing; the bee loses its stinger and injects a relatively large volume of venom — typically about 50 micrograms. A wasp, which retains its stinger, injects from 2 to 15 micrograms — but it can do it many times.” The nest is that of a social Wasp, and unlike solitary Wasps that are relatively docile, social Wasps will defend the nest. We believe we may have discovered the identity of your Wasps. In Discover Magazine we found an article entitled “Stung” that states: “One morning not long ago, an American entomologist named Justin Schmidt was making his way up the winding road to the Monteverde cloud forest in Costa Rica when he spotted Parachartergus fraternus, social wasps known both for the sculptured architecture of their hives and the ferocity with which they defend them.” Then we found an article on America Pink that states: “For a wasp species, Parachartergus fraternus is average in size. A typical Parachartergus fraternus forager is about 11 mm long, 3 mm wide across its thorax, and weighs about 0.05 g.” The Sting of the Wild does not describe the sting, but rather the ability of the wasps to spray venom.
Thank you so much for your response. It is strange that they lost their stinger. I am questioning right now if it was in fact their stinger, or maybe the venom had some reaction with the sea water and turned hard? I most certainly pulled something hard out of every sting. It remains a mystery. I do not know if they sprayed any venom since it all went so fast. Hopefully this information might help you in the future with similar cases. Thanks so much!