Bees and wasps more active this time of year

Bees and wasps more active this time of year

Bees and wasps more active this time of year
September 04
07:33 2013

Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer

Seeing a yellow and black buzzing blur coming at you in the heat of summer can set off a panic in some people. Bees and wasps are synonymous with painful stings, and for some, their venom can even lead to anaphylactic shock and death.

On top of that, bees and wasps tend to be more active during late summer and early fall than any other time of year.

“The populations of bees and wasps are building up all through the summer,” Biology professor James Kennedy said. “That’s going to bring people into contact with bees and wasps on a more regular basis.”

But there are many ways to avoid being stung. First, know what can attract the insects and avoid them.

“You want to avoid brightly colored clothing, so you don’t mimic a flower,” said doctor Sven Wust with the Lone Star Allergy and Asthma Center. “You don’t want to go outdoors with open containers containing sweet drinks. You don’t want to hang around trash cans where people have been throwing those things away.”

Second, keep in mind that most of these insects aren’t going to attack unless their nest is threatened. Many species of honeybee leave their stingers and venom sacs behind and cannot survive long after stinging, Kennedy said.

Though wasps are slightly more aggressive because they use their stingers to lay eggs in caterpillars for reproduction, their eggs won’t survive in humans so they won’t come after a person either.

Kennedy said he’s been stung many times researching in the field, but only when he’s accidentally stepped on a wasp nest or otherwise made one feel threatened.

“I don’t know of too many people that get stung walking down the street,” he said. “As long as they don’t perceive you as a threat, they won’t sting you.”

If you are stung, Wust says taking an antihistamine and putting an ice pack on the area should be sufficient unless the person has an allergic reaction.

“The venom can set off an immune response that can lead to an intense, localized reaction, or can lead to a generalized reaction and anaphylaxis and death,” said UNT director of clinical services Herschel Voorhees.

Voorhees said anaphylaxis occurs when the entire body responds to one local threat. These systemic reactions can lead to vascular collapse and throat constriction.

Both doctors said people with a history of severe reaction to bee stings should carry epinephrine on them to counteract the body’s immune response. Voorhees added that they should then seek medical attention, because sometimes the epinephrine wears off before the venom is gone.

Graphic by Nicole Arnold / Visuals Editor

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