Mass bee and wasp attacks can lead to death due to the high amount of venom injected into a human’s bloodstream by numerous insects. Falling victim to an unusually high dose of bee or wasp venom after sustaining numerous stings is known as “massive envenomation”. Most stinging events occur when one single wasp or bee specimen becomes disturbed by a human while searching for food. These stings usually occur during the late summer or fall when wasps are attracted to the food that humans eat outdoors. However, mass envenomation occurs when an entire colony of bee or wasps attack an intruder that they perceive to be a threat to their colony. In this case, an individual is attacked by hundreds or thousands of individual insects. Most documented attacks of this sort see victims sustaining hundreds of stings. Most stings are inflicted to the head and neck, as these are the preferred target body parts for bees and wasps. Kidney failure and death occur after an individual sustains 150 to 200 wasp stings and 150 to 1,000 bee stings. Most victims that sustain over 1,000 stings will survive if treatment is administered in time. The Vespa orientalis and Vespa affinis wasp species are responsible for a majority of envenomation deaths involving wasps.
Although there exists many differences between wasp venom and bee venom, the symptomatology resulting from their stings are similar. In mass envenomations, both bee and wasp stings cause affected individuals to develop edema, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fever, and unconsciousness. The histamine response to mass envenomations can result in the sudden onset of diarrhea and incontinence. In fact, one case report describes a victim who defecated the bees that he had inadvertently swallowed during an attack. Most deaths that result from mass envenomenations occur within a few days following attack, but sometimes death occurs up to 12 days following an attack. An 88 year old died four days after sustaining as many as 200 stings during an attack by a killer bee swarm and another individual died 12 days after sustaining around 130 stings.
Have you ever witnessed a swarm of wasps flying through the air?