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Most people, whether they are allergic to stinging or biting insects or not, are often wary of insects like bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. After all, no one wants to experience the pain of a bee, wasp, or hornet’s stinger penetrating the skin and leaving an irritated welt at the sting site. And they certainly don’t want to experience the bite(s) of fire ants on their feet, legs, hands, or arms.

But those who are allergic to a stinging or biting insect are far more cautious (or at least they should be) of the bees, wasps, and ants nearby since their reactions go beyond a painful welt.

Woman left foot with red swelling from a bee sting on sister finger , inflammation allergy on skin old floor background top view

Symptoms of an Insect Allergy

Patients who are allergic to the bite or sting of an insect can experience symptoms that range in severity from mild to severe, the most severe being anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Mild Allergic Reactions to Biting or Stinging Insects

  • Welting at the bite or sting site
  • Redness and swelling that may spread out about an inch or two in radius from the welt
  • Swelling and pain that lasts a few hours following the bite or sting

Over-the-counter pain relievers, ice packs, and soothing topicals can help speed up recovery or minimize pain. Typically, you do not need to inform your doctor of a mild reaction.

Moderate Allergic Reactions to Biting or Stinging Insects

  • Welting at the bite or sting site
  • Mild itching or burning sensation
  • Redness and swelling that may spread out about an inch or two in radius from the welt
  • Swelling and pain that lasts between five and ten days following the bite or sting

If you experience a moderate reaction to a bite or sting, your doctor should be made aware.

Severe Allergic Reactions to Biting or Stinging Insects

Severe allergic reactions include similar responses as a mild or moderate bite or sting on the surface of the skin, in addition to:

  • Clamminess
  • Dizziness
  • Hives
  • Increased heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • Swelling in the lips, tongue, and throat
  • Wheezing

If you or someone you know experiences anaphylaxis, seek medical attention immediately and apply an epinephrine shot as directed on the injection pen (like an EpiPen) if you or the person you are with has one.

Insects that Cause an Insect Sting Allergy

There are several stinging insects that can initiate an allergic reaction. These insects include:


Bees inject venom whenever they sting a person, which is what causes welts, redness, and sometimes itchiness to develop at and around the injection site. If a person is allergic to bee venom, however, their immune system will react more severely to the venom and cause moderate to severe symptoms.

Roughly 5-7% of Americans are severely allergic to compounds in bee venom, particularly the peptide, melittin, and the phospholipase A2 enzyme.


Wasp venom is different from bee venom, although it tends to create the same mild reactions for non-allergy patients and moderate or severe reactions for allergy patients. While bee venom contains melittin and phospholipase A2, wasp venom contains Antigen 5, a protein that can cause allergic reactions in people whose immune systems are hypersensitive to it.

If a patient is allergic to wasps, it’s rare that they are also allergic to bees (but it is still possible to be allergic to both).

About 3% of adults are severely allergic to wasp venom.

What Wasp Types Are People Most Allergic To?

Nearly all wasp types have venom that can cause allergic reactions. Types common in Georgia include:

  • Paper wasps
  • Red paper wasps
  • White-faced hornets*
  • Yellow hornets*

*A note about hornets: All hornets are types of wasps, but not all wasps are hornets. Since they are wasps, hornets’ venom contains the Antigen 5 protein that leads to reactions.

Insects that Cause an Insect Bite Allergy

The biting insects that are most likely to cause allergic reactions in people with hypertensive immune systems are fire ants.

Fire Ants

While the experience of being bitten by fire ants differs from the experience of being stung by a bee or wasp, the reaction, for the most part, is the same. In mild cases, a bite tends to cause a small, red welt that can itch or burn for a while until it fades. A moderate reaction may cause more severe swelling that lasts for more than 24 hours, and a severe reaction can escalate to anaphylaxis.

The allergen in fire ants that affects hypersensitive immune systems most is the protein Sol I 3, a member of the Antigen 5 family found in wasp venom.

Roughly 1% of the population experience severe allergic reactions to fire ant venom.

Now that it’s insect season again, don’t let it be a mystery whether you have a biting or stinging insect allergy – get tested for allergies at Langford Allergy.

Dr. Langford and our team treat all allergies and allergy symptoms, including allergies to stinging and biting insects. We perform thorough testing to determine the insects that cause reactions. Plus, we offer treatments, medications, and education for protecting yourself while outside with the bees, wasps, and fire ants.

Schedule an allergy test with our team today: 478-787-4728

Langford Allergy delivers allergy, asthma, and immune deficiency care to patients throughout Middle Georgia, including:

  • Macon, GA
  • Warner Robins, GA
  • Milledgeville, GA
  • Forsyth, GA

Related articles:

The Bees Are Back: 3 Ways to Thrive Outside With a Bee Sting Allergy

How to Enjoy the Warmer Months with an Insect Bite Allergy

What Are the Different Types of Allergy Tests?