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Why do wasp and bee stings hurt so much?

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There's always a sting in the tail.

Asked by: Sophie Elliott, Aberdeen

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Wasp and bee venom are quite different chemically, but they both contain peptides (amino acid chains) that have evolved specifically to cause pain in other animals. The social bees and wasps use this to defend their nests; the solitary ones, just to discourage predators from eating them. Honeybee venom contains a peptide called melittin that directly activates the pain receptors in your skin.

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

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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.

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