Tips for eliminating stinging insects near your home -

Getting rid of bees and wasps

Bees and wasps can be harmless to humans, but if you get too close their nests, you could find yourself under attack.

Thousands of people in the U.S. are stung by these stinging insects annually.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 100 people die from allergic reactions each year.

Earnest Jones was lucky he wasn't bitten after discovering a gigantic nest near his yard.

"I've never seen a nest like that before," Jones said.

He was shocked when he discovered there could be more than 8,000 hornets inside.

Harrison Kennedy wasn't so lucky after stumbling onto a nest of yellow jackets located near his Georgia home.

"They sound like jets are coming at you, like an engine," and he added, "I was going boom, boom, just fighting them."

Left undisturbed, yellow jackets, bees, wasps and hornets will go about their business building their nests, pollinating plants or preying on other insects harmful to our plants -- which is a good thing.

But if you get too close to their turf even in your yard, then watch out!

"They're just going to swarm around and make life miserable for anyone who gets close," says Horticulturalist Quin Hall.

Each of these stinging insects reacts differently when threatened and that's why it's important to know what you're dealing with first by looking it up online, or by calling a professional exterminator in your area.

Yellow jackets are probably the worst threat to humans because they build nests in the ground. Most people don't usually know where the nest is until they accidentally step on one.

When you're outside and you see even a few yellow jackets swarming around, look for what's known as the 'bee line.' That's the one spot on the ground where they're constantly coming and going.

"That gives you a good indication of where not to stand," Hall says.

Bees and hornets will come after you, too, but it's easier to avoid them because they tend to build their nests high up in trees, or under a roof overhang.

Their gray, papery nests can be as small as an adult's head or as big as two or three basketballs combined.

Wasps tend to build honeycomb-like cells under eaves, windowsills and open barns—areas protected from the rain.

They will even build inside exterior garbage cans likes the ones commonly found in public parks. So, be careful when discarding trash in these containers. 

If you don't do a little homework to find out exactly what you're dealing with and understand the appropriate way to exterminate the nest, you could inflict serious injury and this could be life-threatening for a hypersensitive person.

For yellow jackets, mark the spot with a small flag or something else, but spray only before sunrise or after dusk, because they don't see well at night and your chances of being stung are greatly reduced.

Horticulturalist Quin Hall says you have to be careful about the way you spray the insecticide.

"Aim at the hole and walk straight to the hole, because the nest is underground. All you're seeing here is just the opening," he says.

Be sure to saturate the poison deep into the nest, which is likely buried a foot or more beneath the ground.

If you find a wasp nest, you can spray them during the day as long as you can clearly see the cell, but be sure to keep a second can of spray nearby just in case you need it.

For bees or hornets, if their nests are out of reach and they're not bothering you—its best to leave them alone, because the colony will eventually die out when it turns cold in your area.

You can cut down the nest once you have had a long period of extremely cold weather and you are sure the nest is completely dead.

Like nectar in flowers, the foods we toss into our garbage, especially sweets and meats, attract foraging insects.

Keep garbage cans closed and clean, and be sure to wash recycling bins periodically to get rid of any residue.

Screw tops back onto your empty containers, or rinse out thoroughly before tossing them into the trash.

The key here is to eliminate any leftovers that could lure these insects into making your home their permanent residence.

If you take a soda outside to sip on while you are doing chore, remember to place the cap back on your soda to prevent insects from crawling inside the bottle.

Some people have been bitten in the mouth while trying to quench their thirst.

Additional Information
The following information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Stinging or biting insects or scorpions can be hazardous to outdoor workers. Stinging or biting insects include bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. Outdoor workers at risk of exposure to them include farmers, foresters, landscapers, groundskeepers, gardeners, painters, roofers, pavers, construction workers, laborers, mechanics, and any other workers who spend time outside.
  • The health effects of stinging or biting insects or scorpions range from mild discomfort or pain to a lethal reaction for those workers allergic to the insect's venom. Anaphylactic shock is the body's severe allergic reaction to a bite or sting and requires immediate emergency care. Thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90–100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions. This number may be underreported as deaths may be mistakenly diagnosed as heart attacks or sunstrokes or may be attributed to other causes.
  • It is important for employers to train their workers about their risk of exposure to insects and scorpions, how they can prevent and protect themselves from stings and bites, and what they should do if they are stung or bitten.
  • Bees, wasps, and hornets are most abundant in the warmer months. Nests and hives may be found in trees, under roof eaves, or on equipment such as ladders.
  • Bees, wasps, and hornets are found throughout the United States.
  • Employers should protect their workers from stinging insects by training them about:
    • Insect identification
    • How to prevent exposure
    • What to do if stung
  • Workers should take the following steps to prevent insect stings:
    • Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.
    • Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants.
    • Don't wear cologne or perfume.
    • Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries.
    • Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. (Sweat may anger bees.)
    • Wear clothing to cover as much of the body as possible.
    • Avoid flowering plants when possible.
    • Keep work areas clean. Social wasps thrive in places where humans discard food.
    • Remain calm and still if a single stinging insect is flying around. (Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.)
    • If you are attacked by several stinging insects at once, run to get away from them. (Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees.)
      • Go indoors.
      • A shaded area is better than an open area to get away from the insects.
      • If you are able to physically move out of the area, do not to attempt to jump into water. Some insects (particularly Africanized Honey Bees) are known to hover above the water, continuing to sting once you surface for air.
    • If a bee comes inside your vehicle, stop the car slowly, and open all the windows.
    • Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.
  • If a worker is stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet:
    • Have someone stay with the worker to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
    • Wash the site with soap and water.
    • Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
    • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
    • Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.
  • CDC Stinging Hymenoptera: Pictorial Key to Some Common U.S. Families
  • National Ag Safety Database: First Aid for Bee and Insect Stings
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension – NebGuide: Stinging Wasps and Bees
  • Colorado State University Extension: Nuisance Wasps and Bees

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