bee, wasp, hornet or???

09/30/2010 - 16:40

While harvesting grapes wife was bitten/stung on the arm by an unknown insect. Actually nipped  a bit of flesh away. Reaction has been slight, reddish, swelling and itching. We have seen yellowish, large wasps or hornets around the grapes, however this is the first time anyone has had a bite or sting. Since she did not see the varmit, not sure if it was this wasp type insect. The locals call them "gavarones." Have checked (chequed?) the dictionaries with no success. Anyone have any experience with these??? Thanks, Fred



When we were in Italy in June our friend showed us something that looked like a hornet, but didn't buzz like the hornets do in England. He called it a calabrone, which does translate to hornet. Perhaps gavarone is dialect for calabrone. Hope your wife's arm is soon better and you reap some good wine from the harvest of the grapes. Toni & John

It's not likely to have beem a calabrone - we have quite a few here. They are frightening, and we had the fire brigade here to spray a nest in the eaves. Anyone for climbing a two-storey ladder in a heavy total-cover rubber suit with a stick in one hand and a bottle of spray poison in the other? Anyway, they sting rather than bite. Some say the sting is very dangerous. Others say it is less dangerous (although perhaps more painful) than an ordinary wasp sting. I hope not to find out personally. If it nipped a bit of flesh, perhaps it was a "horse-fly"?

Hornets are to be avoided at all cost. Their sting can produce an allergic reaction which requires immediate hospital treatment. The message around here in Marche is if stung go straight to the nearest A&E. They especially like ripe fruit so are found around the grape vines, and at this time of year around fig trees as well. Would doubt that was the creature that stung/bit your wife Fred, but you are forwarned for next time you go grape picking!

Thanks all for your responses. We are aware of anaphalactic shock, etc. Have not seen horseflys around the grapes before. She has not had any other adverse reaction other than itching and headache so we are still in the dark. Will look a bit more carefully into the leaves before picking in the future. BTW, the grapes this year are not too great in our (Lunigiana) area. Thanks again, Fred

I agree with what others have said: if you can see that some skin was torn away rather than the mark of a puncture, then it will have been a biting fly of some sort. Horseflies and their nefarious ilk are much nastier than stinging insects, since bees, wasps and hornets only sting out of self defence. Sometimes late in the year, wasps and hornets get a bit aggressive about obtaining a sugar fix and you're more likely to get stung than earlier in the year when they're hunting insects to feed their young, but it's still primarily a defensive thing. On the other hand, female Horseflies, Deerflies and their like are actually out hunting for a blood meal and humans are an excellent target as far as they're concerned. Even worse, they don't even bother to slip a needle stealthily in to take a drink, but rather just rip a chunk of flesh away. Antihistamine tablets would probably help with the reaction, but I would seek a doctor's advice if the symptoms got worse or didn't clear up in a week. We've seen lots of the nasty blighters around here this year. No idea why. Perhaps something to do with the damp weather earlier in the year. Al