Bees and Wasps are most active in the warmer summer months, the time when humans can suffer from stings. Bee stings are annoying and painful for most, while a small percentage of people are so severely allergic to bee stings that an attack could be life threatening.
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Wasps are generally more aggressive than bees when disturbed and tend to display a multiple stinging behaviour that is of greater concern than bees.
Unlike bees, the wasp sting can be withdrawn from there victim.
Bees are social insects and are divided into three castes. Most people see the “workers”, but seldom the much larger “queen” bees. Males are known as “drones” and all bees have a characteristic tongue like device that helps them reach the nectar in flowers.
Bees differ from wasps in providing pollen and honey for their young, while wasps collect insect larvae, meat scraps and even fish to feed their offspring. This diet means wasps are responsible for a lot of biological control of insect pests like caterpillars.
Ways to avoid stings include the following:
• Avoid known areas of concentration such as hives and nests.
• Do not molest hives and nests.
• Take care with equipment such as lawnmowers, 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 coloured 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.
If you have had a prior significant allergic reaction to a sting, consider wearing a Medic Alert bracelet and carrying an emergency medical allergy card in your wallet or purse.
Self-care at Home
• Most simple insect stings in a non-allergic person require no more than first aid at home.
• Avoid further stings by wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent and avoiding infested areas.
• Remove any stingers remaining in the skin (most likely from bees) immediately. Some experts recommend scraping out the stinger with a credit card. However, it is probably more important to get the stinger out as quickly as possible as to be overly concerned about how it is removed.
• Application of ice to the sting site may provide some mild relief. Ice may be applied for 20 minutes once every hour as needed. Cloth should be placed between the ice and skin to avoid freezing the skin.
• Consider taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl for itching.
• Wash the sting site with soap and water. Place an antibiotic ointment on the sting site.
• If it has been more than 10 years since your last tetanus booster immunization, get a booster within the next few days.
• Most insect stings require no additional medical care. More serious reactions may need immediate medical care.
• If you have been stung by a bee or wasp and have previously had a serious allergic reaction, seek medical attention. Consider taking an antihistamine such as Benadryl as soon as possible. If any allergic symptoms develop, consider using the epinephrine part of an emergency allergy kit (EpiPen) if previously prescribed by a doctor.