"Bicarb for Bees, Vinegar for Vasps".
So goes the mnemonic for what you should put on an insect sting. Bee stings are acidic and should be neutralised with an alkali - the typical household example being bicarbonate of soda - while wasp stings are the other way round, i.e. they're alkaline, and should be neutralised with vinegar.
Also of note: bee stings are barbed, and will stay behind in your skin - which has the side effect of killing the bee shortly afterwards - while wasp stings aren't barbed, and stay attached to the wasp instead of to the victim, leaving the insect free to fly off and re-offend.
I've known all of that for years, but it's always been a hypothetical bit of information, as I've never been stung by either... until now. Went to pick up a box outside the shop today, and next thing I knew there was a barbed sting stuck into my left hand around the area where the thumb joins on.
Fat lot of good all my theoretical knowledge of insect stings did me, though, when the opportunity arose: what's the point in being able to identify it as a bee sting, and knowing that the correct antidote would be an alkali, if there's no alkali available, hm? Answer: not much point at all. Just had to suffer.
To be honest, I was surprised to discover it'd been a bee because I'd always thought insect stings were supposed to hurt a lot worse than it did. Not saying it didn't hurt, just that I would have expected it to hurt more. Not complaining though. Not about that, anyway - in retrospect, I was rather more put out about not being able to make use of my knowledge on the subject than I was about having been stung in the first place!
No, I'm not asking for another round so I can have another shot at putting baking powder on myself. Just for the record.
- The Colclough