We went camping last weekend and the bees were everywhere! This time of year they seem to be particularly annoying because they seem almost sluggish and way more persistent.
Even though you’ve taken steps to keep the bees away using suggestions in our previous post, “How To Keep Bees Away From Your Next Outdoor Party…and You!“, we discovered how to take steps to keep them away from you. But what do you do if they aren’t fazed by your prevention efforts and won’t go away?
Let’s pretend we’re a bee for a minute…
What Bees See
The pollen and nectar of flowers is a source of food for a bee. Their favorites are, blue, yellow and white. Bright orange and purple flowers come in a close second, and their least attractive flower color is generally red.
Bees see similarly to a color blind person, and because they see colors differently, they interpret the world differently than we do. Bees don’t see the color red, and have trouble distinguishing it from the green background of leaves. Bees that prefer red flowers is not that they are attracted to the red color, but that they perceive them in a color that they can see, such as hues of oranges and yellow. Bees can see UV fluorescence. As long as you’re not wearing a flourescent yellow shirt that glows in the sun, bees will most likely find their flowers more interesting than you!
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Which are Which?
Because of the many species of bees, and the many variations of body type, coloring, and behavior, the below descriptions and facts are only a very general description of each.
Something I was surprised to learn is that the term wasp is a general term that includes both hornets and yellowjackets. A wasp is not the name of a particular bee, it’s the name of a type of bee. In other words, all hornets and yellowjackets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets or yellowjackets. Interesting, huh?
- Hornets grow to a size of .75 inches. They come in different variations of black and yellow.
- Despite their larger size, most hornet species (but not all of them) are less aggressive than the yellow jackets
- Hornets usually stay above ground, nesting in trees, shrubs and perhaps under eaves of homes.
- Hornets build their nests from a papery substance that is produced from chewing wood and mixing it with their saliva.
- Hornets have a smooth stinger, and can sting many times. Their sting can be very painful.
- Yellowjackets are slightly smaller than hornets, with a much smaller head. Their face is primarily yellow with dark eyes. They have black and yellow markings on the front of the head, and yellow banding around the abdomen.
- Yellowjackets build their nests out of wood materials ground up into paper, and are often found nesting underground in areas that have been hollowed out by rodents or other animals.
- They are attracted to meat, fruit and sweet drinks.
- Yellowjackets have a smooth stinger, can deliver a very painful sting, and can sting many times.
- Honeybees are normally about 3/4 inch long. Normally their bodies are hairy, reddish-brown and black, with orangish-yellow rings on the abdomen. The head, antennae and legs are black.
- Their hives are usually located in a hollow tree.
- Honey bees will usually leave you alone, but can get confused and be attracted to some soaps, hairsprays or perfumes.
- Their stinger is barbed. The sting apparatus is pulled from the bee’s body when she moves away causing massive abdominal rupture and death. Despite common belief, it is the only species of bee to die after stinging.
- Bumblebees have a roundish-square-shaped body, 3/4 to 1 inch in length. They come in a range of colors,and are generally more hairy than the honey bee.
- Bumblebee is slow and gentle, wandering around collecting nectar and pollen. They are less aggressive than the honeybee.
- Only worker bumblebees and Queen bumblebees have a stinger. It’s smooth, and they are able to sting as many times as they want.
- Bumblebees nest in a variety of different places. Some nest underground, in places such as abandoned rodent holes, under sheds and in compost heaps. Others make nests in thick grass, bird boxes and in trees.They can nest in leaf litter or soil.
What To Do When a Bee Lands on You
Unless someone accidentally collides quite hard with or swats at a bee or wasp, it is not likely to sting. If you remain calm when a bee or wasp lands on your skin to inspect a smell or to get water if you are sweating heavily (good luck with THAT!), it will eventually just leave. If you’re not patient enough (or calm enough) to wait, gently and slowly brush it away with a piece of paper. Never swat at it. Bees sting when they feel threatened. Don’t alarm them or piss them off by moving quickly. Just gently direct them away from you. Some experts believe that if you don’t show fear of bees, they won’t sting you and that it’s often the one running away who gets stung.
Bees most commonly sting in skin around clothing with high contrast areas, like collars and cuffs. Because bees’ sight is so hindered by color, those clothing areas are perceived as the “weak spots” of their predators i.e. their eyes and noses.
What Will Happen if I Get Stung?
If you’re stung, you’ll usually experience an initial sharp pain that lasts a few minutes, then it becomes a dull ache. It’s normal to experience pain, burning, itchiness, redness and swelling. The pain should only last for a few hours. If swelling of your hands or fingers should occur, be sure to remove any rings you’re wearing. The sting area may be sensitive to the touch for several days.
A beesting can lead to very large swelling around the sting site or in a whole portion of the body. The area is quite likely to itch. Try not to rub or scratch the sting site because microbes from the surface of the skin could be introduced into the wound and result in an infection.
A very limited portion of the population is allergic to bee or wasp stings, but if you or the person you’re with has a bee allergy and is stung, get medical help ASAP!
When the sting is caused by a honey bee, the stinger usually remains in the skin when the insect leaves because the stinger is barbed. Remove it as quickly as possible by scraping it out before treating. Venom from the stinger continues to flow into the skin for 45-60 second following a sting, so the faster you remove it, the better, and the severity of the sting will be reduced. After the stinger is removed, wash the wound and treat it.
This also means that a dead bee’s stinger can sting you.The force of your weight on the bee’s body can result in venom injection. So, don’t step on, sit on, or play with dead bees!
Bee Sting Remedies
Before trying a remedy, make sure the stinger has been removed from the skin. Keep the wound clean with soap and water to prevent a skin infection (wash regularly for several days). You can also sterilize with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Oral and topical antihistamines (such as Benadryl or Claritin) can help prevent or reduce the itching and swelling. We found some home remedies that people swear by. The below remedies are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The below information is for general knowledge purposes only.
- Ice: Place an ice cube or ice pack on it and press for about 20 minutes, will help reduce pain. Ice can also be used to help reduce the swelling that will occur. Make sure to protect the skin by covering ice with a thin cotton towel or paper towel first.
- Baking Soda: Cover with a thick paste of baking soda and water.
- Salt: Same as baking soda above but using salt instead.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Soak a small cotton pad with apple cider vinegar and hold on wound until pain disappears (the acid content neutralizes the venom).
- Vinegar: Same treatment as apple cider vinegar, can also drizzle a few drops directly onto skin (the acid content neutralizes the venom).
- Lemon Juice: Same procedure as apple cider vinegar, can also drizzle a few drops directly onto skin (the acid content neutralizes the venom).
- Lemon: Cut a fresh slice of lemon and hold in place over skin (the acid content neutralizes the venom).
- Garlic: Smother with crushed garlic then cover with a bandaid.
- Onion: Slice an onion and press in place until there is no more discomfort.
- Cucumber: Place a freshly sliced piece of cucumber on top and hold in place.
- Potato: Cover with a sliced (uncooked) potato with the cut end side, hold in place.
- Olive Oil: Rub with olive oil for relief and to help with healing.
- Marigolds: Rub the flower head of a marigold over the area (must be a freshly picked marigold and not dried).
- Basil: Roughly crush a fresh leaf or two to release the herb’s natural oils and press directly on area, hold in place.
- Winter Savory: Crush the leaves roughly to release the herb’s oils then apply.
- Aloe Vera: Split open a leaf and slather the aloe gel directly to the area.
- Plantain: Chop roughly and mix with a bit of warm water then apply. You can also chew a leaf or two then apply to bite.
- Calamine lotion can be applied to help soothe things and relieve itching.
- A paste made with Epsom salts and water can provide relief.
Old School Remedies:
- Chew tobacco a bit to wet it, then apply it to the sting area. Wrap a strip of cloth around it to hold it in place.
- Mix dirt with water or saliva to make a mud then apply it to the wound.
- Press a penny on top of it and hold it in place for 10 to 15 minutes until there is no more discomfort (…umm??)
We hope you have fun this holiday weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer…and be careful out there!
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