Ant Sting or Bite?

I was stung by a scorpion the other day, and when telling friends about it, I was amazed how many said “I was bitten by a scorpion.” Scorpions have a pronounced stinger which they use to introduce venom. Their mouthparts aren’t involved at all. Yet somehow the act becomes “bitten.” I wonder why.

That got me thinking about ants. Many species of ants lack a stinger, and in fact do bite to defend themselves. Others, like fire ants, hold on with their mandibles to pull up the skin and then inject their stings. In that case, I guess it would be bitten and stung. Other ants are more like their wasp relatives and certainly deliver a sting, but with no bite.

For an absolutely wonderful photoessay about why only certain ants sting, see Alex Wild’s “Why do only some ants sting?”

Why do you think people say “bitten” when they mean stung?

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