Thomas W. Wallace, M.D.
Department of Neurology
Robert N. Ludwig, M.D.
Department of Gastroenterology
IN 1938 a case of polyneuropathy from the sting of a honeybee was reported.1 In August 1969 we treated a patient who was stung by hornets, rehymenopterous insects, and suffered severely painful polyneuritis. As with the honeybee (Apis mellifera), the hornet (Vespa vulgaris) and other types of wasp have caused central nervous system damage and mononeuropathy as well as other bodily reactions, but to our knowledge polyneuritis from their sting has not been mentioned previously.
Report of a case
A 46-year-old Caucasian man, an assembly worker, was first examined at the Cleveland Clinic on September 16, 1969, because of pains in the limbs, and a 20-lb. loss in weight within a few weeks. In mid-August 1969 he was stung by hornets while painting his house. He had a history of having urticarial reactions to numerous bee stings suffered while growing up on a farm where hives of honeybees were kept, but he had no recollection of having been stung by hornets or other wasps before. The loss in weight he attributed to impaired taste—an unrelenting “salty taste” to everything.
When attacked by Vespa vulgaris, five wasps stung him on the back between the scapulae, two stung him on the back of the neck, and one of the insects stung him on the right ear lobe. The immediate reaction was only local swelling, but two days later neuropathic symptoms developed rapidly, still without indications of a generalized reaction. He felt steadily increasing pain in the back sides of both lower . . .