Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine
Could you neutralise a bee sting with a wasp sting? © iStock

Could you neutralise a bee sting with a wasp sting?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

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

Asked by: Richard Sowden, Sheffield

Advertisement

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.


Advertisement

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.

Authors

luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content