Spider Bite vs Wasp Sting: Unraveling the Greater Danger

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When encountering creatures like spiders and wasps, you might wonder which one poses a bigger threat to your health and safety. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between spider bites and wasp stings and determine which one is more dangerous.

Spider bites, for the most part, are harmless, but they can occasionally cause allergic reactions. In some cases, bites from venomous spiders like the black widow and brown recluse can become dangerous, leading to symptoms such as redness, pain, and swelling at the bite site. On the other hand, wasp stings can cause severe allergic reactions and even neurological complications in some instances. Wasp venom contains various enzymes, amines, peptides, and other compounds that can cause harm.

While both spider bites and wasp stings can be risky, your overall risk largely depends on the species, your location, and your body’s unique reaction to the bite or sting. It’s essential to educate yourself on the potential dangers and first-aid measures related to spiders and wasps, so you can stay prepared and take appropriate action in case of a bite or sting.

Identifying Spider and Wasp Bites

When you experience a bite or a sting, it’s essential to identify whether it’s from a spider or a wasp. This can help you determine the appropriate treatment and gauge the level of danger.

Spider bites can cause itching or rash and pain that radiates from the bite site. They may also result in muscle pain and a reddish to purplish color or blister at the bite site. Increased sweating may accompany these symptoms as well1.

Wasp stings, on the other hand, typically manifest as localized pain, swelling, itching, and mild redness at the sting site2. Remember that wasp stings can be associated with bees and hornets too, as their stings are similar.

Here are some key differences to look out for:

  • Spider bites often display a distinctive puncture wound and cause radiating pain
  • Wasp stings usually leave a small red mark and can cause swelling, itching, and a burning sensation

Consider the following points:

  • Both spider bites and wasp stings can cause skin reactions
  • Some spider bites may lead to more severe reactions than wasp stings, such as the ones from black widow or brown recluse spiders

To help with identification, refer to this comparison table:

Feature Spider Bite Wasp Sting
Appearance Puncture wound, reddish to purplish color Small red mark, swelling
Pain Radiating from bite site Localized at sting site
Symptoms Itching or rash, muscle pain, increased sweating Swelling, itching, mild redness
Associated Insects Spiders Wasps, bees, hornets

So, always keep these features in mind when you encounter a bite or sting and act accordingly to ensure the best possible outcome.

Symptoms of a Spider Bite

Spider bites can cause various symptoms ranging from mild to severe. When bitten by a spider, you may experience itching or rash, and pain radiating from the site of the bite. Additionally, muscle pain or cramping, and reddish to purplish color or blisters are also common symptoms.

In more severe cases, symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, dizziness, numbness, and even diarrhea. Abdominal cramping and muscle cramps may also be present. It’s important to note that each individual may react differently to a spider bite, and the severity of symptoms can depend on factors such as the type of spider, the person’s overall health, and their sensitivity to the spider’s venom.

Symptoms of a Wasp Sting

When you experience a wasp sting, it is natural to feel a sudden pain at the sting site. Along with pain, you may notice swelling and itching. These symptoms are generally mild and last for a short period1. Moreover, people can have varying reactions to wasp stings, so it’s important to know what to look out for.

Some individuals may experience more severe symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, and dizziness. These symptoms could indicate a stronger reaction to the venom and may require medical attention2.

Occasionally, a wasp sting can cause numbness or even blisters at the sting site. This might be alarming, but it’s not uncommon. Just be sure to keep the area clean and try not to scratch or puncture the blisters3.

Apart from the local symptoms at the sting site, a small percentage of people may develop systemic reactions, including abdominal cramping4, muscle cramps, or diarrhea5. If any of these occur after a wasp sting, it’s important to monitor your condition and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms worsen or persist.

In summary, the symptoms of a wasp sting can vary from mild local reactions to more severe systemic manifestations. Knowing the possible symptoms will help you identify when to seek medical assistance. Remember to stay vigilant and seek appropriate care if needed.

The Link Between Venom and Allergic Reactions

When you’re exposed to a spider bite or wasp sting, venom plays a significant role in eliciting allergic reactions. Both spider bites and wasp stings contain venom that can cause discomfort and in some cases, more severe symptoms.

  • Spider Bites: Most spider bites cause mild itching and redness. However, bites from venomous spiders like black widows or brown recluses can lead to more serious symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and infection. In rare cases, complications can include severe allergic reactions and even anaphylaxis.

  • Wasp Stings: Wasp stings, including those from yellow jackets, can cause similar localized reactions, such as itching, swelling, and redness. In some cases, they may lead to severe allergic reactions that require immediate medical attention.

When assessing the danger, consider the potential allergic reactions:

Symptoms Spider Bites Wasp Stings
Itching ✔️ ✔️
Hives ✔️ ✔️
Rash ✔️ ✔️
Difficulty breathing ✖️ ✔️
Swelling of the tongue ✖️ ✔️
Wheezing ✖️ ✔️
Loss of consciousness ✓ (rare) ✔️
Anaphylactic shock ✓ (very rare) ✔️
Death ✓ (extremely rare) ✔️ (rare)

For minor allergic reactions, both spider bites and wasp stings can be treated with over-the-counter medications to alleviate itching and inflammation. In the case of a severe allergic reaction, administering epinephrine can be life-saving and you should seek medical help immediately. It is important to recognize when a reaction is severe and to act accordingly.

Areas Most Affected by Spider Bites and Wasp Stings

When bitten or stung, the most commonly affected areas are the skin, throat, tongue, eyes, and lips. Let’s explore how each area is impacted:

  • Skin: Spider bites and wasp stings can cause redness, swelling, and itching at the site of the bite or sting. In some cases, a small puncture wound may be visible.

  • Throat: Swelling in the throat is a possible, but less common, symptom after being bitten or stung. In severe cases, it may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing.

  • Tongue: Your tongue may swell if bitten or stung in or around your mouth. This can be uncomfortable and may also affect speech or swallowing.

  • Eyes: If stung near the eyes, you may experience redness, swelling, or itching. In some cases, your vision could be temporarily affected.

  • Lips: When bitten or stung on or around the lips, you might see redness, swelling, and itching. This can make talking or eating uncomfortable.

Here is a comparison table for quick reference:

Affected Area Spider Bites Wasp Stings
Skin Redness, swelling, itching, puncture wound Redness, swelling, itching
Throat Less common, possible swelling Less common, possible swelling
Tongue Swelling, discomfort, speech difficulty Swelling, discomfort, speech difficulty
Eyes Redness, swelling, itching, possible vision impact Redness, swelling, itching, possible vision impact
Lips Redness, swelling, itching, discomfort Redness, swelling, itching, discomfort

Remember to seek medical attention if the symptoms worsen or if you have an allergic reaction to a bite or sting. Stay safe and be aware of your surroundings when outdoors!

Complications and When to Seek Medical Attention

When comparing spider bites and wasp stings, it’s crucial to understand the complications and when to seek medical attention. Both can cause pain and discomfort, but the severity of their symptoms can vary significantly.

Spider Bites

Venomous spider bites from black widow and brown recluse spiders can be dangerous. Some possible symptoms include itching, pain, muscle cramping, and fever. In rare cases, complications like infection or anaphylaxis can develop. You should seek medical attention if:

  • Your symptoms worsen or persist beyond 24 hours.
  • You experience an allergic reaction, such as trouble breathing, rapid heart rate, or swelling of the face or throat.

Wasp Stings

Wasp stings might cause temporary pain, swelling, and redness. However, some people can have a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. Contact 911 or seek immediate medical help if you observe the following symptoms after a wasp sting:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Swelling of the face or throat
Spider Bites Wasp Stings
Signs of a severe event Worsening symptoms, muscle pain Difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate
When to seek help Persistent symptoms beyond 24 hours Immediately if severe allergic reaction occurs

In summary, be aware of the differences in spider bites and wasp stings, as well as their potential complications. Don’t hesitate to seek medical help if you experience any severe symptoms or if your condition worsens. Always prioritize your safety and well-being above all else.

Treating Spider Bites and Wasp Stings at Home

Treating Spider Bites:

  • Ice: Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off to reduce swelling and numb the area.
  • Clean: Keep the bite area clean by washing it with soap and water to prevent infection.
  • Elevate: If the bite is on a limb, keep it elevated as much as possible to reduce swelling.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can ease pain.
  • Antihistamines: An over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl can help reduce itching and redness.

Treating Wasp Stings:

  • Ice: Use an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to lessen swelling and provide numbness, just as with a spider bite.
  • Remove the stinger: If a stinger is still present, gently scrape the edge of a credit card or flat object across it to remove it.
  • Clean: Rinse the sting area with soap and water to avoid infection.
  • Elevate: Keep the stung limb elevated, if possible, for the same reasons as with a spider bite.
  • Pain relievers: Oral over-the-counter pain relievers can be used for relief.
  • Antihistamines: As with spider bites, over-the-counter antihistamines can help alleviate itching and redness from a wasp sting.
Spider Bites Wasp Stings
Ice Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth
Clean Wash the bite area with soap and water Rinse the sting area with soap and water
Elevate Keep the bitten limb elevated, if possible Keep the stung limb elevated, if possible
Pain relievers Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen Use over-the-counter pain relievers
Antihistamines Use over-the-counter antihistamines like Benadryl Take over-the-counter antihistamines

Remember to monitor your symptoms after at-home treatment. If the bite or sting shows signs of worsening, or if you experience difficulty breathing or other severe symptoms, consult a medical professional immediately.

Prevention and Safeguarding Against Insect Bites

When dealing with insects like spiders, bees, wasps, and hornets, it’s important to take preventive measures to reduce the risk of bites and stings. Here are some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe:

  • Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeves, pants, and closed-toe shoes, especially when venturing into areas with a high concentration of insects or arachnids.
  • Be cautious in places where these creatures are commonly found, like near flowers or rotting wood. Always check before reaching into hidden spaces, such as under a porch or in a woodpile.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin (following the product’s instructions) to help deter insects from biting or stinging you.
  • Avoid using strong perfumes or wearing brightly colored clothing, as these can attract insects.

In case of a bite or sting, here are some general treatment tips:

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Apply a cold compress, such as an ice pack, to help reduce pain and swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication, as needed, to alleviate discomfort.
  • Monitor the site for signs of infection or an allergic reaction. If either occurs, seek medical attention.

Regarding dangerous spiders, it’s important to be aware of the types of spiders in your area and how to identify them. In North America, for example, the Black Widow and Brown Recluse are two spiders to be particularly cautious of due to their venomous bites.

For wasp and hornet stings, be aware that they can sting multiple times and can sometimes cause severe reactions. If you know you are allergic to their venom, carry an epinephrine injector with you and seek medical help if stung.

Finally, don’t forget about tick prevention when spending time outdoors in wooded or grassy areas. Use CDC-approved methods such as wearing long sleeves and pants, using repellents containing DEET, and performing regular tick checks to prevent tick bites and the spread of diseases like Lyme disease.

Remember, being cautious and prepared can greatly reduce the dangers posed by insect bites and stings. Keep these prevention and treatment tips in mind to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Different Types of Spiders and Wasps

When exploring the world of spiders and wasps, it’s essential to consider the variety within each group. Let’s take a closer look at some examples for each category.

Spiders: Several spider species are known for their potent venom and potential danger to humans. Among these are:

  • Black widow: known for their red hourglass marking, their bites can cause severe muscle pain and cramping.
  • Brown recluse: identified by their violin-shaped marking, their bites can lead to severe skin necrosis.
  • Hobo spider: found in the Pacific Northwest, their bites are painful but not as medically significant.
  • Tarantula: generally non-aggressive, their bites can be painful but are not dangerous to humans.
  • Wolf spider: although their bite can be painful, they are usually not dangerous to humans.
  • Jumping spider: small and quick, but their bites are usually harmless.

Wasps: Stinging insects like wasps can also pose a threat to humans. Some of the common wasp species include:

  • Yellow jackets: aggressive and known for their painful stings, they can be dangerous if a person is allergic or stung multiple times.

To help you understand the differences between these creatures further, here’s a comparison table:

Species Pain Level Venom Severity Aggressiveness
Black widow High High Low
Brown recluse High High Low
Hobo spider Moderate Low Moderate
Tarantula Low Low Low
Wolf spider Moderate Low Low
Jumping spider Low Low Low
Yellow jackets High Moderate High

Remember, these creatures typically use their stingers or fangs as a self-defense mechanism. So, if you encounter them in the wild, respect their space and avoid disturbing them to reduce your chance of being bitten or stung.

Understanding the Role of Insects in Self-Defense and Attack

Insects, like bees, wasps, hornets, and some spiders, have developed various means of self-defense and attack. They use specialized structures such as stingers and fangs to inject venom into their target, either for protection or hunting purposes.

Among these insects, the venom potency varies. Bees use their stingers primarily for defense. When a bee stings you, it usually dies as the stinger is pulled out of its body. On the other hand, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times without losing their stingers, making their attacks more aggressive.

Spiders, like the dangerous spider species, also employ venom. They use their fangs to inject venom into their prey or in defense against potential threats.

Here is a comparison table for your better understanding:

Insect Primary Use of Venom Stinger/Fangs Retained after Attack
Bees Defense No
Wasps Defense & Hunting Yes
Hornets Defense & Hunting Yes
Dangerous spiders Hunting & Defense Yes

Some insects are more dangerous to humans due to the potency of their venom. For instance, hornets and some spiders have particularly potent venoms and can cause more severe reactions in comparison to bees and wasps.

Remember that understanding the role of insects in self-defense and attack can help you take appropriate action if you ever encounter one. In general, it’s wise to be cautious around these insects and avoid provoking them.


  1. Symptoms of Venomous Spider Bites | NIOSH | CDC 2

  2. Bees and Wasps | Washington State Department of Health 2

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448343/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5501123/

  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12398066/

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Probably Spider Wasp from India


Spider Wasp? (from India)
I shot this near Bangalore City in South India. Is this a spider Wasp? Please do point me to more information.. regards
Vijay Cavale

Hi again Vijay,
We tried to get more definite information, but our web search proved fruitless. We believe this is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae.

Letter 2 – Spider Wasp


I need help identifying this insect
Hello, I found this insect crawling across my driveway towards the swing I was sitting on with my husband. It appeared to be dragging another "critter". As I did not have my glasses on at the time, I asked my husband what it was. He got up to get a closer look and the insect flew off. It circled us a few times and came back when my husband sat back down. Every time my husband got up, it would fly off. Finally, my husband got up and went inside, at my urging, to get the bug cage that our granddaughter uses to catch fireflies. While he was fetching the cage, the insect came back and found the other "critter" it was dragging originally. I finally got a close enough look to see that the other "critter" was a rather large, but I believe dead or maybe stunned, spider. As you can see in the pictures, it has irridescent blue/black wings and a reddish color to the rest of its body. It was slightly more than an inch long. I caught the insect long enough to try to find out what it was by searching the internet, but no luck! I took these pictures and let him go on his merry way. I have never seen one of these in my almost "half a century of life". Can anyone identify it? We live in Norwalk, Ohio and the pictures were taken August 2008. Thanks,
Kay Perry

Hi Kay,
This is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae. We believe it is Tachypompilus ferrugineus as evidenced by this photo on Bugguide.

Letter 3 – Spider Wasp


Insect in New Mexico Garden
Location: Rio Rancho, New Mexico, USA
September 4, 2011 5:06 pm
Wondering what this creature is – it is about 1.5-2 inches in length and was crawling in the sand/clay near a low stone wall in my back yard. It spread its wings briefly but not again before disappearing into the stones so I didn’t get a picture of the wingspread. Thanks for your help!
Signature: mnchilemom

Spider Wasp

Dear mnchilemom,
You had an encounter with a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, and we believe it is in the tribe Pepsini, a group that includes the Tarantula Hawks.  You may browse through the possibilities on BugGuide.

Thank you so much! I look forward to reading your book on my iPad!

Letter 4 – Spider Wasp


Subject: Black and Orange ?
Location: Claremont & Upland California
May 3, 2014 10:39 am
Area found Claremont and Upland, Ca
Found in April and May 2014
One was about 1/2 the size of a dragonfly and the other was a little over 1 ” long.
25 years of gardening and I have never seen this bug, any idea what it is?
Signature: Dee

Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp

Hi Dee,
This is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, and it appears to be a small Tarantula Hawk.
  You can see some examples on BugGuide that are classified in the genera Hemipepsis and Pepsis.  The female Tarantula Hawk preys upon Tarantulas and other large spiders including Trapdoor Spiders, not to eat, but to feed her young.  The Tarantula is paralyzed and buried with a single egg.  When the larval wasp hatches, it feeds on the fresh meet of the living, but paralyzed Tarantula.  Adult Tarantula Hawks are nectar feeders, and the sting is reported to be quite painful.

Letter 5 – Spider Wasp from South Africa


Subject: Insect identification South Africa
Location: wellington, western cape, South Africa
January 30, 2015 12:16 am
Hi there, we found this insect on the farm that we live on in the western cape. It appears that he kills spiders larger than himself and then carries them away to eat. He has very long legs. Please could you help identify him?
Signature: Jody

Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp

Dear Jody,
This is a rather distant view is of a Spider Wasp in the family Pompilidae, and there are several Australian relatives that look very similar.  We believe this may be a member of the genus
Hemipepsis based on this image on iSpot.  In North America, the genus members are called Tarantula Hawks.  Your interpretation of the natural drama you witnessed is not correct.  The female Tarantula Hawk does the hunting.  Both she and her mate visit blossoms for nectar, and the high sugar content gives them energy to mate and provide for their young.  All provisions are the responsibility of the female, who hunts large spiders, including Trapdoor Spiders and Wolf Spiders as well as Huntsman Spiders and Tarantulas.  The Spider Wasp stings and paralyzes the spider, and then drags it back to the burrow where a single egg is laid on the spider.  Since the spider is paralyzed and not dead, the meat stays fresh while the wormlike Wasp Larva eats first nonessential muscles before turning to the vital organs, eating the spider alive.

Thank you so much, Daniel!  That is most fascinating!  I really appreciate you getting back to me and sharing your knowledge with me!
Best regards,

Letter 6 – Spider Wasp


Subject: Tarantula Hawk Long Beach
Location: Long Beach CA
April 20, 2016 2:49 pm
Hi, I first saw one of these beauties scouring my yard in the early mornings and late afternoons 3 years ago. I could not find anyone who’d seen one here and my tentative identification of Tarantula Hawk seemed insane. But they keep showing up the 2nd-3rd week of April every year and my neighbors are seeing them now too.
I notice you said you’d never seen one in Mt. Washington and assumed this was because their prey had diminished. That’s my REAL question. Since they are successfully reproducing, I wonder what kind of spiders are also making a comeback? Is my yard home to tarantulas? Trapdoors?
I’m about 10 blocks from the ocean and quite a ways between both rivers. I think tarantula were native here before urbanization and, well, every year now is the hottest year on record…
Incidentally, I think their behavior (the females) is noteworthy for identification purposes. They are OBSESSED. They fly very low over grass, or run around cracks in concrete, over and over and over for a couple of hours every day and return to the same place the same time the next day. They take off in a hurry at my approach but immediately return to their task. I suspect they divvy up territory and I’m seeing the same wasp return to the same place? (There’s a different spot in my front yard that attracts another). I THINK the occasional stray that cruises in, flies higher, lights on a branch or just plain doesn’t appear to have OCD disorder is the male hoping to get lucky? I’ve spent lots of time observing them, but I’ve yet to figure out where they go when they’re not hunting (do they live in the ground too?) or see one catch a spider.
Signature: Curious

Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp

Dear Curious,
To the best of our knowledge, only two genera from the Spider Wasp Tribe Pepsini are officially Tarantula Hawks.  We believe your have a member of the tribe, possibly
Calopompilus pyrrhomelas based on this BugGuide image and others posted to the site.  The brown tips on the wings is similar to your individual.  According to BugGuide, the prey for the species is this Trapdoor Spider.  Despite the similarity in coloration, we believe your individual is a Spider Wasp, but not the more specific Tarantula Hawk.  Arachnoboards has an interesting discussion regarding Tarantula Hawks in Long Beach.

Thank you so much. They may “belong” here, but no one I know has ever seen one and suddenly they’re enjoying a population boom. Don’t know if its a comeback, or they arrived on native plants, or they abandoned a habitat that’s gotten too hot. But we apparently have the spiders they need!
I’m normally paranoid of wasps due to allergies, but these aren’t even slightly aggressive. I’ve gotten to watch them so closely because they fly in easy range of my fascinated cats, so I supervise the cats’ outdoor time in order to stop them from pouncing on the wasps.
I’m attaching a better photo, and if I ever catch sight of the the trapdoors, will try to pass along a photo of them.
Your service is fantastic!

Spider Wasp
Spider Wasp

Letter 7 – Spider Wasp


Subject: Blue Wing Bug
Location: Hong Kong
January 19, 2017 2:41 am
Would you please help to identify this bug?
It’s around 30-40mm long, blue wings, orange head and legs, dark blue body.
Thanks a lot!
Signature: Alex L

Spider Wasp

Hi Alex,
This is a Spider Wasp in the family Pompillidae.  We will attempt a species identification when we have more time.

Spider Wasp

Letter 8 – Spider Wasp: Tachypompilus ferrugineus


Subject: Red body w/black stripes, blue wings
Location: Northeast Ohio (Fairport Harbor)
August 13, 2017 2:39 pm
I searched an insect identification website and could not find anything that matched this. It’s similar, but different enough from a flying carpenter ant or digger wasp.
This insect was found in my basement, in an empty laundry basket. I took it outside and photographed it. It’s got a smooth body (not hairy like a digger wasp) and the body is more red than a carpenter ant. This insect is probably 1.5 inches long, and the legs appear to also be more than an inch long. It was very slow moving, as if stunned.
August 13 (summer here in northeast Ohio). Today was 75-80 degrees and partly cloudy. My house is near Lake Erie, in the Village of Fairport Harbor.
I appreciate any insight.
Signature: Adam

Spider Wasp

Dear Adam,
This Spider Wasp is
Tachypompilus ferrugineus.  Spider Wasps are solitary wasps and they are not aggressive.  Female Spider Wasps hunt for Spiders as food for a developing brood, often located in an underground burrow.  You can compare your images to this BugGuide image.  Spider Wasps tend to be very active, so the sluggish behavior on the part of your individual might be related to its being trapped in your basement without food.  Adult Spider Wasps are pollinators frequently found visiting blossoms.

Spider Wasp

Thank you very much for taking the time to provide me the information. Your BugGuide image is exactly what I saw. I’ll keep an eye out for more in the future.  I have plenty of flowers and spiders in my yard.  Have a great day!



  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts
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