Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Clinical observations of bee envenomation in toucans

There are numerous reports on envenomation, even fatal, secondary to bee attacks in humans and other mammals. In birds, reports on those incidents are scarce and there are none regarding honeybee (Apis mellifera) stings in toucans. In the first case presented, an adult female red-breasted toucan (Ramphastos dicolorus) received at least five bee stings in the periophthalmic area. Within 5 h the bird was lethargic and dehydrated. The urates were yellowish. Three days later the bird showed a moderate anemia, but no changes in the leukocyte count, beyond an elevated heterophil: lymphocyte ratio. Blood chemistry showed hyperglycemia, hypoalbuminemia and elevated aspartate aminotransferase and creatine kinase. Alterations in electrolyte values were also noted. Fourteen days later bile acid elevation was observed. Hematocrit levels normalized after 2 wk. A second incident involved a breeding pair of toco toucans (Ramphastos toco). While the female toco toucan received 10 stings and showed mild clinical manifestations, the male toco toucan was more severely attacked, receiving 40 stings, and died overnight. Despite the relative gravity of the attack (in terms of number of stingers in relation to body weight) both surviving birds recovered in less than 2 wk. To the authors' knowledge, fatal bee envenomation in birds has been reported only in pigeons and macaws. The findings described in this report suggest that toucans are less sensitive to bee venom when compared with pigeons and may have higher tolerance to bee venom compared with mammals. Honeybee envenomation must be considered a potential threat when considering toucan husbandry in zoos and collections.

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