Adults have trouble identifying stinging insects: study

Joint Base Andrews, MD – Have you been stung by an insect lately? Although the ability to identify bees, wasps and other stinging insects is useful for providing proper treatment, a recent study shows that most adults have trouble telling these insects – and their nests – apart.

Researchers from the Malcolm Grow Medical Center asked 640 participants at Air Force bases in Maryland, Florida, Ohio and Nevada to identify pictures of honeybees, paper wasps, bald-faced hornets and yellow jackets, as well as nests of bald-faced hornets and paper wasps.

Only 3.1 percent correctly identified all six insects and nests, while 1.6 percent were unable to identify any of the pictures. Most (91.3 percent) were able to identify the honeybee, while the paper wasp was the least correctly identified (50.9 percent). Men and participants who were stung multiple times by at least four of the insects were more accurate.

Stinging insects might not be seen, are small and look similar to each other, making identification difficult, according to the researchers.

Injuries from stings range from pain and swelling to, although rare, death.

The study was published online June 23 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.