Staying safe around bees and wasps

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It’s mid-summer and you’re probably noticing that bees and wasps are especially active these days. It’s their favourite season!

Where will you find these insects?

While each species may have a favourite type of nesting spot, in general, nesting places can be anywhere and include:

  • Inside hollow trees, or in walls, attic, etc. (the entrance is usually a very small hole).
  • Nests that hang from branches or overhangs such as eaves of a building.
  • In shrubs, bushes, hedges, or on tree limbs.
  • In rubber tires, crates, boxes, abandoned vehicles, etc.
  • Under shrubs, logs, piles of rocks and other protected sites.
  • Inside rodent burrows or other holes in the ground.

Note: some insects can chew through ceilings and walls to get into other rooms, while others can bore into wood or dirt to make tunnels or enlarge the hole for their nest. To prevent these stinging insects from moving into buildings or other structures, keep holes and entry spaces caulked and screen any ventilation openings.

Do not try to get rid of the nest or hive yourself. Each type of insect or situation will likely need different removal methods. It is best to call pest control professionals for this service.

Why worry about stinging insects?
Bees sting and leave their stinger in your skin. Wasps don’t leave a stinger, but their stings tend to cause worse reactions. In general, most stings only cause temporary pain, swelling and skin redness. In more severe cases, however, stings can have life-threatening effects, depending on where the sting occurs and what allergies you may have. Being stung in the throat for example, may cause fluid to build up and cause swelling in the tissues around the throat. The swelling makes it difficult to breathe.

Although rare, the most severe allergic reaction to a sting is anaphylaxis (also called anaphylactic shock). Of those people who die from a severe allergic reaction to a sting, half die within 30 minutes and three-quarters within 45 minutes. This reaction can occur the first time you are stung or with a subsequent sting.

Watch for these symptoms, which tend to appear immediately or up to 30 minutes after you have been stung:

  • Hives, itching and swelling in areas other than the sting site
  • Swollen eyes and eyelids
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing
  • Hoarse voice or swelling of the tongue
  • Dizziness or sharp drop in blood pressure
  • Shock
  • Unconsciousness or cardiac arrest

What precautions can you take?
The best way to prevent stings is to avoid the insects. Leave the area, if possible. If there is a travelling swarm, they will likely leave within a few days. Note that insect repellent (bug spray) does not affect these stinging insects. Avoidance and awareness are the keys to not being stung.

For more information on bee and wasps stings, visit the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.