Skip to Main Content

What Does a Wasp Sting Feel Like?

One of the first questions I get asked as a pest control operator is if I have ever been stung. The answer of course is yes, but not because of the reasons most people think. Despite having done hundreds of wasp jobs inside & out, I have only been stung once on the job. The other instances have included:

  • water skiing (yeah! that wasp was as confused as I was)
  • trail running (not my favorite motivation to run faster, but it worked)
  • reaching for the water spigot (apparently that was HER spigot)
  • rock climbing (hard to make a quick escape here despite what the olympics show)

With such a plethora of wasp experience, I will attempt to answer the question for those lucky folk who wonder, “What does a wasp sting feel like?”

A Sting or a Bite

Since the lovely butt-tool we refer to as a stinger is an ovipositor, we can be certain that any wasp delivering a sting is a female. If a male joins the attack, they are going to have to resort to biting. If a female really wants to send you a message, she may bite you to get a good grip and increase her leverage for penetrating that ovipositor through your flesh.

The bite is quite pleasant compared to the sting. It is very similar to the pinch you feel when an ant bites you (excluding fire ants and bullet ants). If you haven’t been bitten by an ant, it is quite similar to a doctor giving you a small shot or a quick hard pinch between fingernails.

Wasp mouthparts

The best part about a bite vs a sting is the reaction. A bite may turn red but doesn’t typically swell into a welt. Bites usually disappear about as quickly as they appear. Because of the possibility of secondary infection, it is wise to wash and disinfect the bite site even if you don’t think it broke the skin.

The Sting

When a wasp jabs that stinger down into the skin, it is not only puncturing the skin, but injecting proteins, allergens, and pharmacologically active compounds. The three most relevant ingredients appear to be:

  • antigen 5
  • phospholipases
  • hyaluronidase (don’t confuse this with the delicious egg sauce)
The ovipositor

Unfortunately, the reactions from person to person to the different elements are going to vary. For some people, it really isn’t much while in others it can be deadly. Also, keep in mind that with an anaphylactic reaction, they can morph over time. If you notice reactions getting progressively worse, you should take extra care in preventing stings and having a doctor’s advice ready to go if the unfortunate should occur.

For me, the stings from wasps (usually yellow jackets that have it in for me) have the same process. The initial shock is similar in feel to an electric jolt. It reminds me of a cattle fence back from the farm days or from those nasty dangly wires in mud runs. It then feels like a burn for about 12 hours. After the burning sensation starts to subside, an itchy welt similar to a more persistent mosquito bite takes over.

Just Hold On

My greatest achievement regarding wasps was restoring order to a home that was overrun with wasps that were nesting in the walls and were claiming all the rooms of the interior of their own. My second greatest is I have been stung 3 times while hanging onto a cliff face and have managed to avoid falling!

Regardless of which situation feels more like yours (or if you simply want to avoid them altogether), we have a plan to help you on your way. Give Rove Pest Control a call or shoot us a message and we will connect you with a wasp expert to take care of the stinging menaces for you.