Hymenoptera are one of the medically most important in-
sects. The stings of Hymenoptera, including Apoidea (bees),
Vespoidea (wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets), and Formici-
dae (poneromorph ants), account for the majority of severe
allergic reactions to insects . Many of the Hymenoptera are
parasitoids. The Bethylidae is a family of Hymenoptera that
consist of approximately 82 genera and 2,200 species world-
wide have evolved to exploit coleopteran and lepidopteran
larvae and pupae, and are often found in cryptic locales such
as soil, leaf litter, wood, stems, and seeds.
Cephalonomia gallicola (Bethylidae) is a gregarious external
parasitoid of the larvae and pupae of the cigarette beetle, Lasio-
derma serricorne (Coleoptera: Anobiidae), which is an injurious
pest to stored dried products, other animals and vegetable ma-
terials . The Bethylidae is one of the most powerful epizoic
parasitoid wasps and contains anesthetic compounds, which
cause painful irritation at the site of the sting. Human stings
by Bethylidae, a parasitic wasp, have been reported in Europe
and North America , Japan , and New Zealand . In
such cases, Cephalonomia, Goniozus, and Sclerodermus species
were involved. Those species should be considered as a cause
of allergic responses in patients living in houses with visual ev-
idence of parasitoid wasp infestation. To date, there have been
no clinical reported investigations on parasitoid wasp stings in
Korea. We describe here the clinical findings of 6 cases of C.
gallicola sting detected in 2013.
The patients (Table 1) visited the Arthropods of Medical Im-
portance Resource Bank, and were referred to Yonsei Universi-
ty Severance Hospital (Seoul, Korea) because of multiple in-
sect sting markings.
Case 1 was a 39-year-old female with severe pain at the sting
sites and had erythematous papules over her hand (Fig. 1). She
had no significant abnormalities of the cardiovascular, respira-
tory, nervous, or gastrointestinal systems. She observed insects
in the bedroom of her home and suspected that they were the
cause of her complaints. She brought in an insect that had been
caught in her bedroom. On examination, the insect was identi-
fied to be a female C. gallicola (Figs. 2, 3). Casts of C. gallicola
were found in the food storage room of her home (Fig. 4).
Case 2 was a 35-year-old male with generalized sting marks
over his right arm. He was treated with oral antibiotics, oral
antihistamines, and topical corticosteroid cream by a physi-
cian at private clinic, resulting in an improvement of local
symptoms. He did not have any significant problems immedi-
ately after being stung, except for local swelling and itching at
the sting sites. He also brought in an insect that had been
caught in the living room of his home. On examination, the
ISSN (Print) 0023-4001
ISSN (Online) 1738-0006
Korean J Parasitol Vol. 52, No. 6: 681-684, December 2014
Received 6 March 2014, revised 20 August 2014, accepted 31 August 2014.
Corresponding author (firstname.lastname@example.org)
© 2014, Korean Society for Parasitology and Tropical Medicine
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Human Sting of Cephalonomia gallicola (Hymenoptera:
Bethylidae) in Korea
, Chang-Seob Shin
, Seobo Sim
, Jung-Won Park
, Tai-Soon Yong
Department of Environmental Medical Biology and Institute of Tropical Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul 120-752, Korea;
Gangnam Clean Pest Control, Seoul 135-862, Korea;
Department of Environmental and Tropical Medicine, School of Medicine, Konkuk University,
Chungju 380-701, Korea;
Department of Internal Medicine, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul 120-752, Korea
Hymenoptera stings can cause serious injury to humans. We report the clinical findings of 6 cases of Hyme-
noptera stings. All patients developed painful erythematous papules at the sting sites and had a past history of parasitoid
wasp sting. This is the first clinical report of the parasitoid wasp, Cephalonomia gallicola, causing human stings in Korea.
Cephalonomia gallicola, human sting, Hymenoptera, parasitoid wasp, Korea
Korean J Parasitol
Vol. 52, No. 6: 681-684, December 2014
insect was identified to be a female C. gallicola.
Case 3 was a 42-year-old female with severe pain at the sting
sites and erythematous papules over her abdomen. She had
no significant abnormalities in any other organ. She brought
in an insect that had been caught in the bedroom of her
home. On examination, the insect was also identified to be a
female C. gallicola.
Case 4 was a 31-year-old female with severe pain at the sting
sites and erythematous papules over her left leg. She also
brought an insect that had been caught in her bedroom. On ex-
amination, the insect was identified to be a female C. gallicola.
Case 5 was a 51-year-old male with swelling and itching at
Table 1. Summary of the clinical finding of 6 cases of Cephalonomia gallicola sting in 2013
Residence House type
1 May 10 F 39 hand 7 Sanggye, Seoul apartment bedroom 3
2 May 27 M 35 arm 4 Galmal, Gangwon private living room 2
3 June 13 F 42 abdomen 3 Gahoe, Seoul private living room 1
4 June 29 M 31 leg 3 Seongnam, Gyeonggi apartment living room 5
5 July 6 M 51 abdomen 5 Yeonhui, Seoul apartment bedroom 2
6 August 3 M 3 arm/leg 3 Ansan, Gyeonggi private bedroom 3
Fig. 1. Erythematous papules with central punctums on the hand
of a patient, caused by Cephalonomia gallicola.
Fig. 3. Apical abdominal segment with a needle-like stinger ( ×
Fig. 2. A female of Cephalonomia gallicola, whole body. Scale
bar = 0.5 mm.
Fig. 4. Cast of Cephalonomia gallicola.
Lee et al.: Human sting of Cephalonomia gallicola in Korea 683
the sting sites and generalized sting marks over his abdomen.
He also brought in insects from his bedroom. On examination,
the insects were identified to be female C. gallicola. His lesions
disappeared 1 week after the discovery of the insects without
medical treatment of antihistamines or corticosteroids.
Case 6 was a 3-year-old male with signs of redness, swelling,
and pain at the sting sites. His father suspected the presence of
insects in the boy
s bedroom. Three captured specimens were
submitted to us for identification and were all found to be fe-
male C. gallicola. He was treated with topical corticosteroid
cream resulting in the subsidence of local symptoms.
Measurements of 16 C. gallicola females were obtained from
observing the specimens with a microscope equipped with a
micrometer. C. gallicola while monomorphic, do vary slightly
in length and are approximately 1.98 mm to 2.59 mm long
(average 2.23 mm) (Table 1). Body usually rounded and brown
entirely. Antennae well developed and 12 segmented. Thorax
with pronotum bell-shaped. Abdominal segments well devel-
oped and postabdomen with a diminutive sting (Figs. 2, 3).
Antihistamines and/or corticosteroids were given to all pa-
tients and the signs and symptoms in all patients improved
within 2 weeks. Disinfestation of the patients
houses was per-
formed using treatment with commercial insecticide (0.5%
permethrin) in all rooms of the house, keeping it sealed. Three
days after the insecticide treatment, an investigation was per-
formed to confirm the elimination of insects from the house,
and no parasitoid wasp, C. gallicola, has been found to date.
Hymenoptera sting is a major clinical problem. Hymenop-
tera venoms contain many pharmacologically active constitu-
ents, including histamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, dopamine,
noradrenaline, melittin hyaluronidase, apamin, and phospho-
lipase . The typical human sting reactions include headache,
giddiness, nausea, pain at the sting sites, shortness of breath,
and anaphylactic responses.
The parasitoid wasp, C. gallicola, has a diminutive stinger
and stings if it is irritated. Stings from C. gallicola causes medi-
cal problem. In our case, C. gallicola sting was associated with
indoor activities. Probably, the females were searching for lar-
val forms of Coleoptera in household. The stings were inflicted
on the hands, arms, legs, and abdomen. In case of skin lesions,
exhibited redness, swelling, and pain at the sting sites, with the
development of pruritic erythematous papules, similar to oth-
er arthropod bites and stings. C. gallicola wasp most frequently
sting humans during the spring (May) and summer (June-Au-
gust), though the pattern depends on parasitoid wasp activity
The parasitoid wasp fauna of Korea, C. gallicola , Scleroder-
mus harmandi , and 5 species of Goniozus, including G. kore-
anus, G. mesolevis, G. akitsushimanus, G. yoshikawai, and G. mau-
rus , have been documented. Goniozus and S. harmandi are
found mainly in the outdoor environment, while C. gallicola is
found indoors. C. gallicola coexist with Pachycondyla chinensis
in the indoor environment in Korea. C. gallicola are very simi-
lar to P. chinensis morphologically and the 2 are very difficult
to distinguish. C. gallicola is a wasp and P. chinensis is an ant. P.
chinensis was reported to be the only ant sting in the home en-
vironment. These stinging ants included a total of 12 species
in 6 genera of the poneromorph group in Korea . Anaphy-
lactic reactions were occasionally induced by P. chinensis [9-11].
An ant sting can cause a wide range of allergic responses in
sensitized individuals. The sensitization rate to P. chinensis was
found to be 23.0% in residents living in an endemic area, and
2.1% of the residents were reported to have a history of sys-
temic allergic reactions to the ant in Korea .
The characteristic morphology of the skin lesion and history
are very important in making the diagnosis of Hymenoptera
sting. Skin lesions can be similar to various types of dermatitis
and other skin pathologies. Diagnosis should be based on the
history and physical findings of Hymenoptera sting. The skin
lesions caused by C. gallicola, an etiologic diagnosis may be
difficult. Confirming the diagnosis of a C. gallicola, sting is
sometimes difficult to be suspected unless to obtain a detailed
explanation of the home environment.
The clinical diagnosis of C. gallicola sting should take into
accounts the many potential reactions to the insect
Further investigations are necessary to examine the possibility
of cross sensitization between allergic disorders caused by C.
gallicola and P. chinensis.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first clinical find-
ings report of human stings by the parasitoid wasp, C. gallicola,
This study was supported in part by the National Research
Foundation of Korea (NRF-2012M3A9B8021806). We thank
Prof. Seunghwan Lee, Division of Entomology, Seoul National
Korean J Parasitol
Vol. 52, No. 6: 681-684, December 2014
University, Korea for his kind assistance in the identification of
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
We have no conflict of interest related to this study.
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