How to avoid getting stung by bees, wasps and hornets

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My brother recently asked me if I’m still allergic to hornets, which got me thinking. On one hand, I haven’t experienced anaphylactic shock since that unfortunate game of hide-and-go-seek when I was 11 years old — the last time I was stung by a hornet. I think my mom is secretly upset she’s never had an opportunity to use my EpiPen on me (joking, people, but they are ridiculously expensive). On the other hand, I’ve still had really bad reactions any time I’ve been stung by something other than a hornet.

The most recent time that comes to mind occurred three years ago when my dog stepped on a yellow jackets’ nest in my parents’ backyard. It may not have been full-on anaphylaxis, but it was no picnic. The immediate effect was a lot of swelling around the sting site, dizziness and a rash. The aftereffect was a lot of itching and light-headedness.

Incidentally, I recently spotted a large hornet’s nest on my daughter’s clubhouse at the edge of the woods in my parents’ yard. I’m guessing I’m still allergic because my stomach dropped and my eyes got wide when my daughter pointed it out — I think that counts as survival instincts.

As summer dwindles down, so do the food supplies bees, wasps and hornets rely on. Fewer food sources make bees, wasps and hornets aggressive — they’re hangry. In fact, both of the instances I mentioned above occurred during this time of year. It’s not only a good idea to brush up on ways to treat stings, but also to do what you can to prevent them. You never know what kind of reaction you’re going to have.

10 ways to avoid getting stung

  1. Skip fragrances. Sweet-smelling fragrances can attract bees and wasps looking for nectar, especially hungry, desperate bees and wasps. Avoid wearing scented hair spray, soaps, lotions and oils during late summer through the first frost.
  2. Don’t wear brightly-colored clothing and floral patterns. There’s a reason beekeepers wear white. Bees are attracted to bright colors. Try to stick to khaki, white, beige or other light colors if you don’t want to attract bees.
  3. Be careful when eating and drinking outdoors. Sugary foods and drinks will attract hungry bees and wasps looking for food. Think ripe fruits and pop (soda, for you out-of-towners). Try not to leave pop cans laying around, especially, if they’re not empty. Additionally, dispose of fruit waste — peels, pits, etc — away from any type of outdoor entertaining space.
  4. Wear shoes. If you like to go barefoot you’re at risk for obvious reasons. Flowers in your lawn are food sources for bees and wasps. However, you’re even more at risk in the fall because it’s more likely hungry wasps with underground nests are going to be upset they’ve been disturbed.
  5. Keep your calm. If a bee or wasp lands on you, try to relax. If you swat at it, it will defend itself and sting you. If you stay calm, it will leave you alone once it realizes you’re not a food source. If you’ve disturbed a nest, move away from the nest without aggravating the bees further.
  6. Beware of body odor. Natural predators of bees and wasps have a strong odor of sweat — think bears. Incidentally, bees, wasps and hornets can be provoked by body odor. When you’re out working in the yard for a long time, try to take a break to freshen up.
  7. Stay away from hives. Bees, wasps and hornets will defend their territory. Stay away from their hives. Leave them alone and don’t try to remove them until they’ve gone dormant this winter.
  8. Limit yard work. Bees, wasps and hornets feel threatened by the strong vibrations lawn mowers and weed eaters produce. If you know of a hive anywhere near where you mow or trim, avoid doing yard work in this area.
  9. Roll your car windows up. Bees and wasps may find their way into your car and become trapped there once you pull out of your driveway. Keep your car windows rolled up when it’s parked and try not to panic if there’s a bee in your car. Roll the windows down to encourage it to exit or pull over until it flies out.
  10. Keep your garbage and recycling cans sealed. Putting lids on your garbage and recycling cans will prevent them from attracting bees, wasps and hornets. It’s also a good idea to rinse them out periodically to keep them from building up the sweet sticky substances that attract stinging insects.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, Ohio, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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