I still remember the first time I was stung by a yellow jacket. It was fall; I was in elementary school playing on the playground. I went over to a bank full of enticing goldenrods, lovely fall wildflowers, and reached to pick one. Unfortunately the one I chose was one where a yellow jacket was enjoying lunch. I invaded its space and in turn, received a sting. I remember the surprise and a little swelling, but I don’t think I even cried. Luckily, I’m not allergic to bees, which was a relief to find out since my mother is. Each time I’ve been stung since, my symptoms are the same, a little localized swelling which itches, and yes, stings. For those with severe allergies to yellow jackets, their first time sting story might not have such a benign ending, and it’s imperative to try to avoid future stings as symptoms can progressively get worse.
Though insect stings cannot always be avoided, there are some good measures to take, especially in the fall when yellow jackets are more abundant after summer hive growth and more prone to stinging in their search for food. Here is what you can do:
• Wear long pants and long sleeves when you are going to be outside (hiking, working in the yard, going to the park, anywhere bees might be). Wear closed toed shoes instead of sandals as yellow jackets are often on or in the ground.
• Wear white or light colored clothes instead of dark/bright or floral patterned clothes (they’re not as attractive to yellow jackets).
• Wear gloves for gardening.
• Forego any scents, like perfume, lotions, soaps and scented deodorant.
• Use bug spray.
• Keep trash cans covered and spray them with insect repellant if you see yellow jackets.
• If eating outdoors, make sure sugary foods and drinks remained covered, or forego them altogether.
• Keep Benadryl (or another antihistamine) and an Epipen with you when outdoors. You may even choose to take an antihistamine before beginning your outdoor activities.
• Very importantly, be aware of your surroundings. If you see a lot of bees, you are probably near the hive, so get away!
• Don’t swat. Angry bees sting and the calmer you are, the less chance they will sting. Calmly walk away or if one lands on you, gently slide it off with a piece of paper, don’t flick or swat it.
Last but not least, don’t pick the goldenrod.
– Heather Legg