S. Bambara, Extension Specialist
Placed on the Web 3/95 by the Center for Integrated Pest Management
But no one likes to be stung by an insect and for the 3-5 percent of the population who are allergic to an insect sting, such an event could be life-threatening. There are only a few types of insects which cause most of the problems. With the proper knowledge and precautions, the likelihood of being stung can be greatly reduced.
Social wasps such as yellow jackets, hornets, and paper wasps can be very sensitive to vibrations and very defensive of their nests. These nests, made of "paper" can be located underground, hanging from trees, or under protected areas. Though the nests are started anew each spring, the populations of insects build to substantial numbers by mid-summer. These nests should be avoided or eradicated with an aerosol hornet and wasp pesticide if located in a troublesome area. These insects are generally not aggressive unless they or their nests are threatened.
Most types of bees are not highly defensive and mean no more harm than does a fly. Notably, however, are the social bees such as honey bees and bumble bees which can be quite defensive around a nest, but under other circumstances have no desire to sting.
During picnicking, hiking, or other activities, you may be at greater risk to be stung as you place yourself in greater proximity with insects. Avoiding nests, being aware, and remaining calm are your best strategies. To help avoid being stung, the following suggestions should be useful:
NOTE: These insects are beneficial either as pollinators (bees) or in consuming other insects. Do not destroy them unnecessarily. They will not sting without cause. If you are stung, the best treatment is to remove the stinger (if present) and apply an ice pack. If you are allergic to a particular stinging insect, carry an epinephrine kit with you or have immediate access to one. See your doctor!