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How To Avoid Stinging Insects 

Honeybees -- Wasps -- Yellow Jackets -- Hornets 

Stinging insects do not seek sustenance from humans, as do the biting insects, such as mosquitoes, flies and fleas.  The sting of these insects is only used against people for self-defense or defense of the nest. 


These bees travel in a straight line from flower to hive, and stings usually occur when someone interrupts a bee in flight, or strikes a flower in which a bee is working. 
Honeybees are attracted by flower fragrances, bright colors and smooth-water surfaces. Fragrant perfumes, colognes and powders also act as attractants. The fragrance of some house paints has been known to act as an excitant to honeybees and cause them to behave aggressively. For safety, clothing should be light in color. Hair should be short or tied up during the warm months to avoid entanglements that cause stings. 
If a person is stung and cannot identify the insect, see if the stinger is embedded in the sting site. If it is, chances are the sting was from a honeybee. 

Wasps, Yellow Jackets and Hornets 

Wasps feed on the larvae of other insects, which they kill with repeated stings. The stinger is not embedded in the sting site. 

The adult wasp lives on juices, sap and nectar; it is attracted by odors such as spoiling foods, soft drinks, fruit juices, leather, perspiration, bright colors and a water supply. 

Yellow jackets make their nests in the ground, and the paper hornets' nests may be close to the ground or high above it. Both of these stinging insects are, therefore, particularly hazardous to bare feet and ankles. 

General rules for avoidance and removal 

  • The first rule when a stinging insect approaches is to STAY STILL. Remember, people who keep bees professionally wear protective clothing AND ALWAYS MOVE SLOWLY. 
  • Never slap or brush off an insect of this kind. It will not sting unless frightened or antagonized. 
  • Be careful when you shake out clothing that has been left on the ground. Wasps or other stinging insects could be in the folds of the clothing. 
  • Avoid orchards in bloom, clover fields, and any areas that are abundant with flowers. Don't wear dark clothing, and don't wear perfume or hair sprays. 
  • Do not mow lawns, trim hedges or prune trees during the dangerous seasons. 
  • Collisions cause stings, so avoid running, riding horses, bicycles or motorcycles. A convertible automobile with the top down is especially hazardous. 
  • Keep a "bee cloth" (even in an enclosed car) to trap frightened insects before they sting, or keep an insecticide spray in the glove compartment. 
  • Caution children about not throwing stones or sticks at insect nests. 
  • Inspect property in the early spring and make periodic inspections all summer until hard frost. (Allergic individuals should not participate in these inspections). 
  • Use the skills of an exterminator or the local fire department to remove hornet nests. Beekeepers will often be glad to come to your property and relocate a bee colony.
  • Locate yellow jacket nests during the day and demolish them at night when the insects have returned home. 
  • At least two applications of gasoline, kerosene or lye are needed in the hole where yellow jackets have nested. The fumes do the job, so do not light the gas or kerosene. Wear protective clothing and call an exterminator if you are uncertain about how to proceed.
  • Wasps nests can be knocked down with a broom handle after spraying the nest with an insecticide. Protection against shock 

  • Hypersensitive individuals should obtain through a physician a prescription kit for self-administered protection against anaphylactic shock for use when medical treatment cannot be immediately secured. Hollister-Stier's prescription Ana-Kit® (Webmaster note: no longer sold - 2005), complete with directions for patient administration, is specially designed for this purpose. Medical alert tags or bracelets ensure prompt and proper treatment in case consciousness is lost. 

    Copyright 1988 Miles Inc. Used by permission of Bayer Inc. 
    Note: The original article did not specifically mention the MedicAlert organization. Webmaster insertion of MedicAlert link.

Terms of Use: The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.   Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions or concerns. 


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