Could you neutralise a bee sting with a wasp sting? © iStock

Could you neutralise a bee sting with a wasp sting?

If you think this, you've wildly misunderstood what is happening when you get stung.

Asked by: Richard Sowden, Sheffield


Although bee venom is slightly acidic and wasp venom slightly alkaline, the difference is largely coincidental. Neither insect relies on the pH of their venom for any destructive power.

A typical sting injects less than 50 micrograms of venom, so even quite concentrated acid or alkali would barely be noticeable. Instead, the venom comprises a complex cocktail of proteins that stimulate the production of the stress hormone cortisol, destroy cell membranes, raise the heartbeat and inhibit blood clotting.

Bee and wasp venom differ in the specifics of the proteins involved but their general effect is the same. They certainly don’t neutralise each other: if you somehow managed to be stung by one of each on the same spot, you would just feel twice the pain.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.