Stinging Insects

Yellow Jacket Wasps

Late summer is the time of year when populations of yellowjackets (commonly called “bees”) and other social wasps become large and noticeable. Yellowjackets build paper nests similar to hornets, but either in the ground, a log or landscape timber or building wall or attic. If a nest is located where it is out of the way and not likely to be disturbed, it is best left alone. If, however, a nest is located in a “high traffic” area such as along walks or near doorways, control is justified to reduce the threat of being stung.

Bumble Bees

Bumble bees are big, fuzzy insects recognized by almost everyone by their robust shape and black and yellow coloration. The common species are 3/4 inch in length or more. Bumble bees usually nest in the ground in a deserted mouse nest or bird nest. Occasionally they nest in cavities within a wall or even in the clothes drier vent. If the vicinity of a bumble bee nest can be avoided, then leaving them alone and waiting for them to die in the fall would be the preferred “management” option. However, bumble bee nests are often found in yards, flowers beds, wood piles, or walls in high traffic places where the threat of being stung is great.

Trapping bumble bees is not practical and exclusion techniques may not solve the problem. When controlling bumble bees is necessary, using insecticides to poison bee colonies is the control method of choice.

Brown Recluse Spider

Adult brown recluse spiders are soft-bodied, yellowish-tan to dark brown, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and have long, delicate grayish to dark brown legs covered with short, dark hairs. The leg span is about the size of a half dollar. Distinguishing characteristics are the presence of three pairs of eyes arranged in a semicircle on the forepart of the head and a violin-shaped, dark marking immediately behind the semicircle of eyes with the neck of the violin pointing towards the bulbous abdomen.

The severity of a person’s reaction to the bite depends on the amount of venom injected and individual sensitivity to it. Bite effects may be nothing at all, immediate or delayed. Some may not be aware of the bite for 2 to 8 hours, whereas others feel a stinging sensation usually followed by intense pain if there is a severe reaction. A small white blister usually rises at the bite site surrounded by a large congested and swollen area. Within 24 to 36 hours, a systemic reaction may occur with the victim characterized by restlessness, fever, chills, nausea, weakness and joint pain. The affected area enlarges, becomes inflamed and the tissue is hard to the touch. The spider’s venom contains an enzyme that destroys cell membranes in the wound area with affected tissue gradually sloughing away, exposing underlying tissues. Within 24 hours, the bite site can erupt into a “volcano lesion” (a hole in the flesh due to damaged, gangrenous tissue).

The open wound may range from the size of an adult’s thumbnail to the span of a hand. The sunken, ulcerating sore may heal slowly up to 6 to 8 weeks. Full recovery may take several months and scarring may remain. Plastic surgery and skin grafts are sometimes required.

The brown recluse spider is not aggressive and normally bites only when crushed, handled or disturbed. It is aptly named since it is a reclusive creature seeking and preferring seclusion.

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