Venomous insects are grouped into four families of the order Hymenoptera: Apidae (honeybees), Bombidae (bumblebees), Vespidae (wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets), and Formicidae (ants). With the exception of Vespidae, most Hymenoptera sting only when disturbed or when the hive is threatened. Yellow jackets and other vespids may attack without provocation and are the most common cause of insect-induced anaphylactic reactions.
Mechanism of toxicity. The venoms of Hymenoptera are complex mixtures of enzymes and are delivered by various methods. The venom apparatus is located in the posterior abdomen of the female.
The terminal end of the stinger of the Apidae (honeybees) is barbed, so the stinger remains in the victim and some or all of the venom apparatus is torn from the body of the bee, resulting in its death as it flies away. The musculature surrounding the venom sac continues to contract for several minutes after evisceration, causing venom to be ejected persistently. The Bombidae and Vespidae have stingers that remain functionally intact after a sting, resulting in their ability to inflict multiple stings.
The envenomating Formicidae
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