Camping with wasps

March 7, 2011

Dealing with Wasps

The reason I am informing people of this specific topic is I have a few family members who are allergic to wasp stings. Unfortunately wasps and other stinging insects are a part of camping and the great outdoors. If you are allergic to bee or wasp stings you will need to be extra careful to protect yourself. You don’t want to find out you are allergic when help could be miles away.

Yellowjackets and paper wasps are winged black and yellow, or black and white,insects. Most are social, living in a nest, or colony,and caring for their queen and her young. It is difficult to tell one species of wasp from another. They are sometimes confused with similar looking bees and flies. Most wasps do not bother humans.

How to tell a wasp from a bee.

Wasps are thinner, can be aggressive, and interested in food and garbage. Bees are generally plumper, mild mannered and interested in flowers, not your lunch or garbage can.

People are scared of yellowjackets and other wasps because they can sting humans. Unlike bees, female wasps can sting repeatedly. Most species of wasp will not sting unless provoked. Yellowjackets are an exception. They are aggressive by nature and become especially persistent when foraging for limited food at the end of the summer. Normal reactions to stings includes pain redness, itching and swelling at the sting site. Symptoms can occur immediately after a sting, or may take longer to appear. They last for several hours.

Yellowjackets aggressively forage for protein foods, such as meat, earlier in the summer, and become more aggressive in the late summer and fall, they prefer sweets  like ripe fruit,fruit juices other sugary drinks as fall approaches.  Have you ever noticed when you are outdoors you may see the odd wasp flying around until you bring out the food. Wasps can spoil your outdoor dinner in a hurry.

Places wasps like to nest

  • Aerial nests hanging high in a tree, or in low shrubs or hedges. Be careful when walking in the bush.
  • Ground nests in small holes or abandoned rodent burrows. They can become very large and may be under shrubs, watch the ground when out hiking you will not want to step on a nest.
  • Inside woodpiles or decayed tree trunks.

If a nest is disturbed move slowly away and do not swat or crush because some crushed yellowjacket species release chemicals that call others to attack. If the wasps start to swarm find a safe destination area, preferably indoors, and move toward it very quickly. Do not stay in a stationary position or jump into a lake or body of water assuming the insects will leave you alone; they won’t. Remember to protect your face and eyes as much as possible.

Ways to avoid stings include the following:

  • Avoid known areas of concentration such as hives and nests.
  • Do not hit  hives and nests with sticks or throw rocks at them.
  • Take care with motorized equipment such as ATV’s or motorbikes, because they may provoke the insects.
  • If flying insects are around, leave the area and refrain from swatting at them.
  • Avoid activities outdoors with sugary drinks, brightly colored clothing, and strong fragrances or perfumes because some insects may be attracted to them.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts because they may also provide some protection.
  • Keep outdoor dining and camping areas clean and free from garbage.

Especially at increased risk are small children,  serious problems may occur within the first few hours of being stung or may be delayed for days after being stung. Even a single sting in the mouth or throat can cause swelling and obstruction of the airway, seek medical attention immediately. Children are at increased risk for these types of breathing problems from a sting.

If you do get stung there are a lot of home remedies you can try, apply a cloth soaked in vinegar on the sting site for about 30 minutes will relieve the pain and swelling, Afterbite is an over the counter remedy, I carry this in my first aid kit. Another treatment is to apply salt or meat tenderizer with a little water to the sting site. An antihistamine will take the itch out of a sting.

An allergic reaction is always a possibility, if you have never been stung before you will not know if you are allergic or not. Some symptoms of a reaction may be difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea or you may be having a reaction if you start to feel very tired, if you are stung and want to sleep get medical attention right away. If you are allergic it is imperative you carry an epi-pen and you should also wear a medical alert bracelet.

Make a simple water trap. Use a razor knife to cut the top from a 2-liter plastic pop bottle. Cut just above the top of the label. Fill with water about halfway and add a few drops of dish liquid and a ¼ cup of vinegar, the vinegar will discourage wasps form entering the trap. Coat the neck with jam, invert it and set it back on the bottle. Use two pieces of tape to hold it together. Wasps will go down the funnel to get the jam, but will be unable to get back out most will fall into the water and drown. The dish soap will make it hard for them to tread water.

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