Sting autotomy, a defensive mechanism in certain social Hymenoptera

  title={Sting autotomy, a defensive mechanism in certain social Hymenoptera},
  author={Henry R. Hermann},
  journal={Insectes Sociaux},
SummarySting autotomy occurs only in certain species of highly social Hymenoptera.When applied, the phenomenon of sting autonomy results in death for the individual demonstrating it but is added protection for the colony as a whole when the intruder is a vertebrate.Among species in which sting autotomy occurs, it is applied in colony defense and not as an offensive mechanism.As a defensive mechanism, sting autotomy is best employed against vertebrate intruders but would work disadvantageously… 

Comparative Morphology of the Stinger in Social Wasps (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)

Although the wasps show a broad range in body size and social habits, the central part of the venom-delivery apparatus—the sting shaft—varies only to a modest extent in length relative to overall body size, consistent with the hypothesis that stinger size is constrained by the demands of a flight-worthy body.

Characterization of Arm Autotomy in the Octopus, Abdopus aculeatus (d'Orbigny, 1834)

The relatively high frequency of individuals missing arms in the wild suggest that autotomy plays an important defense role for A. aculeatus and needs further characterization to identify the underlying cause.

Defensive biting by Tetragonisca angustula is dangerous but not suicidal

Defensive biting of stingless bees effectively protects the nest, and most guards likely are able to return to their tasks after a raid is thwarted, though studies in a more naturalistic setting are needed.

Convergent evolution in the antennae of a cerambycid beetle, Onychocerus albitarsis, and the sting of a scorpion

The first known case of a cerambycid beetle using its antennae to inject a secretion that causes cutaneous and subcutaneous inflammation in humans is reported, which is almost identical to that found in the stinger of a deadly buthid scorpion.

Sting Embedment and Avulsion in Yellowjackets (Hymenoptera: Vespidae): a Functional Equivalent to Autotomy

It is confirmed that the barbed sting of a yellowjacket wasp, Vespula maculifrons (Buysson), often becomes firmly anchored in human skin, and this mechanism of sting loss by victim-mediated avulsion appears to be functionally equivalent to true autotomy in other social Hymenoptera.

Novel aspects of nest defence in stingless bees

This thesis explores this central theme in behavioural ecology using stingless bees as study organisms, and demonstrates that through coordinated vigilance, a group level behaviour rarely observed in animals, the ability of the group to detect predators is enhanced.

A review on self-destructive defense behaviors in social insects

An overview of the self-destructive defense mechanisms that eusocial insects have evolved is provided and avenues for future research into this form of altruism are discussed.

Molecular Mechanism of the Two-Component Suicidal Weapon of Neocapritermes taracua Old Workers.

This work identifies both components of this activated defense system and describes the molecular basis responsible for the toxicity of N. taracua worker autothysis, a sticky and toxic cocktail harmful to opponents.

Appetite for self-destruction: suicidal biting as a nest defense strategy in Trigona stingless bees

The results indicate that suicidal biting may be a widespread defense strategy in stingless bees, but it is not universal and has both parallels and differences with other self-sacrificial worker insects, such as the honey bee.



The Morphology and Histology of the Hymenopterous Poison Apparatus. II. Pogonomyrmex badius (Formicidae)

The severe effects of stings are described and discussed, as is the occasional inability of this ant to retract its lancets from the victim.

Collection and Toxicity Studies of Ant Venom

  • M. W. WilliamsC. S. Williams
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
  • 1964
Venom from the desert ant, Pogonomyrmex barbatus, collected by 3 different techniques has been described and was very toxic to female weanling mice and when given intraperito-neally the LD50 was 45 (AU) per kilogram of body weight.

Toxicity of Ant Venom, Further Studies of the Venom from Pogonomyrmex barbatus. ∗

  • M. W. WilliamsC. S. Williams
  • Biology
    Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine. Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine
  • 1965
The present work indicates that 1.29 mg/kg of the relatively pure material is equivalent to 24 mg/ kg of the abdominal homogenate utilized previously, which indicates the actual venom material is far more toxic than the earlier homogenized agent.

Effect of Thyrotrophin on in vivo Thyroid Uptake of Labelled Tyrosine, Arginine and Iodine in the Chick.∗

The results of this study support the hypothesis that TSH may be controlling the rate of protein synthesis in the thyroid gland, in addition to its effect on hormone production.


On the basis of detailed studies of both the morphology and function of the sting apparatus of the honeybee and related aculeate Hymenoptera, Rietschel (1937) came to the conclusion that this anti-individualistic function is not a mere vestige of a formerly beneficial function, as considered by some previous writers.