Summer is slowly winding down, but those pesky bees and wasps are still very present and more aggressive than ever during the last picnics of the season or other outdoor activities.
However, the experts at the Lanacane Itch Information Center say there is an explanation for why these stinging creatures now seem to be on the attack.
"Often in late summer and early fall, precipitation patterns change, usually meaning less drenching thunderstorms and more dry periods," says Laurence S. Kalkstein, Ph.D., a climate/health expert with the University of Delaware's Center for Climatic Research.
"Many stinging insects, especially yellow jackets, begin to invade human-frequented areas looking for liquids and other sources of nutrition to survive as long as possible," Kalkstein said.
The experts offer the following tips for avoiding and relieving stings:
- When cooking outdoors, cover food and beverages so wasps and bees are not attracted. Wasps and bees are particularly attracted to sugary foods and beverages, such as fruit and soda, but many other foods can invite these insects, as well.
- Avoid wearing certain colors that tend to attract bees/wasps, such as white, blue and yellow.
- When planning to be outdoors, avoid using perfume/cologne, scented hairsprays, scented deodorants, scented candles, etc.
- Share your feast. Put out a small plate of whatever you're serving at your picnic/barbecue before the human guests arrive, particularly something sweetened with barbecue sauce. Once the yellow jackets/bees discover this snack, carefully move the plate to a location away from your entertainment area, where they can eat undisturbed, and so can you.
- Don't wave your arms and hands to swat bees and wasps away, since this may only make them more defensive. Instead, get up slowly and walk away, taking your food/soda with you, until they've flown away.
- Don't drink directly from open soda cans outdoors, since wasps and bees can crawl inside unnoticed. Use a straw or pour beverages into cups, instead.
- When eating outdoors at parks, restaurants, etc., avoid sitting close to trash containers, where bees and wasps will forage.
- Those people who have systemic (allergic) reactions to bee or wasp stings should carry a sting emergency kit with them at all times. These kits contain a drug called epinephrine to counteract the allergic reaction, allowing more time to seek medical attention.
- If you experience shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and other abnormal symptoms after a sting, and you do not have a sting emergency kit available, seek emergency medical treatment immediately. A physician should also look at stings around the face and throat, even in a person not allergic to stings.
- Never play near or with beehives or other hives, even if they appear empty.
- If stung by a yellow jacket, quickly move away, since these wasps do not lose their stingers into the skin, allowing them to sting several times.
- If stung by a bee, remove the stinger by scraping with a fingernail, credit card or other sharp-edged tool. Avoid tweezers since squeezing the stinger can actually pump more irritating venom into the skin (from the attached venom sac at the end of the stinger. Get the stinger out as quickly as possible to lessen the amount of venom that gets into the skin, thereby lessening the reaction.
- Apply ice to a sting (bee or wasp) to help reduce swelling.
- To ease the pain of a sting, take a pain reliever such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin. However. children never should be given aspirin because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare, but life-threatening illness. You also could make a paste by mixing water and meat tenderizer and applying it directly to the bite. Insect venom is protein-based, so meat tenderizer breaks down the protein and stops the pain.
- Get your shots. Once you've had a severe reaction to a stinging insect, you have about a 60 percent chance of having another anaphylactic reaction if stung again.
- Wear shoes rather than sandals outdoors to avoid contact with low-flying bees, hornets or yellow jackets.
- Check your car before you drive. If you leave your car's windows open, check before getting in to make sure there are no flying insects inside. Running the air conditioner with the windows closed while driving can help prevent on-the-road stings. Also, keep a can of insecticide in the car with you. If a bee or wasp gets into a moving car, remain calm. The insect wants out of the vehicle as much as you want it out. They usually fly against windows in the car and almost never sting the occupants. Slowly and safely pull over off the road, open the window and allow the bee or wasp to escape.