Retained sting analysis   
The “stingers” of ants, bees and wasps are complex structures containing a smooth, central stylet and two lancets bearing recurved barbs that alternately scissor deeper into the skin.  Except for honeybees, the barbed lancets can be shielded by the stylet, allowing for removal once venom has been injected.  However, when a wasp is forcibly removed mid-sting, the stinger may remain lodged in the skin.  For honeybees, the large recurved barbs cannot be sufficiently shielded, and thus cannot usually be withdrawn.  In addition, the posterior section of the abdomen (containing the venom sac) is designed to tear away, so that this portion is left behind as the bee leaves.  Close examination of the retained material can help differentiate whether the insect was a honeybee or another species.  Differentiation is of great value in selecting the correct venom to use in desensitization for those that have experienced life-threatening reactions to stings. 

We are developing techniques to easily differentiate between species based upon the material left in the skin of people who have been stung.  If you are stung, and are willing to send us the stinger, place it in a folded piece of paper or plastic and mail it to us at:

John Carlson/Medical Ecology Group
Tulane University, Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
1430 Tulane Ave.  SL 57
New Orleans, LA  70115

Please provide the following information with the specimen regarding where the sting took place:
1. State
2. City/town
3. Date of collection
4. Part of the body that was stung
5. Your email address or regular postal address, legibly written

Once identified, we will e-mail you the results of our examination.  If the results are to be used for medical treatment (e.g. selection of immunotherapy), we must also contact your physician directly.  Identification is provided free of charge as part of a study on identifying the sting apparatus.  This has not been cleared as research for human treatment, although we are happy to provide this information to physicians to use as they see fit.  Please provide your physician’s contact information.