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Keywords:

  • hemolysis;
  • stinging insects;
  • venoms;
  • wasps

Abstract

The direct hemolytic activities of the venoms from 21 species of stinging insects were determined. The activities spanned 3 1/2 orders of magnitude, ranging from a low of four to a high of 12,000 hemolytic units/mg dry venom, respectively, for the solitary wasp, Dasymutilla lepeletierii, and the social wasp, Polistes infuscatus. The latter activity is the highest reported for any insect venom and represents a level that is potentially harmful to humans stung by the wasp.

The social wasps as a group generally possessed highly hemolytic venoms; the ants, poorly hemolytic venoms; and the solitary stinging species, venoms with extremely low activity. For the venoms, hemolytic activity correlated with neither lethal toxicity (LD50) nor algogenicity. This finding suggests that hemolysins alone do not determine venom toxicity, and that the hemolysins of stinging insect venoms serve a variety of poorly understood roles. The range of activity of hemolysins from different venoms indicates they probably have different chemical structures and functions.