Envenomation by Australian Hymenoptera: Ants, Bees, and Wasps

  • James Tibballs
Reference work entry
Part of the Toxinology book series (TOXI)


The venoms of the order Hymenoptera, comprising ants, bees, and wasps, contain numerous toxic substances including a vast array of peptides, which serve to cause cell lysis and disrupt intracellular processes. Australia has numerous indigenous species of all Hymenoptera, but the imported European honeybee (Apis mellifera) and the European wasp (Vespula germanica) have added significantly to the burden of allergic reactions expected principally from stings by members of the indigenous ant genus Myrmecia. Although Hymenoptera toxins from multiple stings may damage organs and tissues especially muscle, hepatic, and renal and disrupt coagulation, a large number of toxins are allergenic and share significant homology between species and between bees and wasps. The overwhelming clinical effects of humans are allergic reactions varying from minor local inflammation to life-threatening IgE-mediated anaphylaxis which tends to progress with repeated venom exposures. However a state of immune tolerance may be achieved by regimens of repeated exposure to small quantities of venoms or recombinant allergens (venom immunotherapy). The diagnosis, monitoring, and prediction of the immunoreactivity of individual allergic victims are major difficulties in clinical management but facilitated with wider adoption of serum tryptase measurement and new techniques of in vitro basophil activation testing.


Ants Bees Wasps Envenomation Allergies Proteins Clinical management Immunotherapy 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Intensive Care Unit, The Royal Children’s HospitalThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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