Jim Casada

Outdoors column: Dealing with dangerous insects

MCT

A few days ago a service technician doing semi-annual maintenance on our heating and air conditioning units had the misfortune of encountering a wasp nest. He unfortunately received multiple stings from the angry wasps.

Stinging members of the bee tribe are but one of a number of insect-related dangers the outdoorsman, or anyone who spends time in lawns, gardens, woods, or outside potentially faces.

Bee Stings

Yellow jackets, wasps, bumblebees, hornets, and even the humble honeybee can sting in painful and potentially dangerous fashion. I’m super sensitive to this as a cousin died from anaphylactic shock from a single wasp sting.

Bees most commonly attack when their nests are disturbed. Awareness of their building preferences can help avoid encounters. Yellow jackets and bumblebees usually nest in the ground, although occasionally nest above ground. The easiest way to avoid them is to be vigilent when walking through the woods, along trails, or through lawns. The colonies grow as summer lengthens with numbers being highest in early fall.

Wasps and hornets nest above ground and their homes. Wasps like overhanging eaves, but also have apreference for boat docks, piers, limbs overhanging streams, and permanent deer stands. Hornets love to nest above water and I’ve had far too many painful encounters with them while wading mountain trout streams.

Domestic honeybees are less of a problem unless you step on one barefooted or disturb their hives.

For most of us, bee stings are simply painful. Prompt treatmentafter being stung will ease the agony. Use of any type of base – wet baking soda, a cloth soaked in ammonia, a poultice of damp tobacco or sap from the jewel weed, will help. So too will any number of commercial anti-itch applications. Ice mayreduce the swelling and an antihistamine will ease the itching.

Anyone with a history of allergic reactions to bee stings probably ought to have prescription for an EpiPen.

Ticks

A better understanding of Lyme Disease has improved diagnosis and treatment of this potentially crippling ailment from deer ticks. Still, it is often overlooked or misdiagnosed until quite advanced. There are other tick-borne diseases but this is far and away the one of greatest concern. The best approach is to wear clothing likely to keep ticks off and to spray with tick repellants. A careful body check after being anywhere you you might pick up ticks is advisable.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease include skin rash, a target-like redness around the area of the bite, and over time, arthritis, flu-like symptoms, heart abnormalities, and a lack of energy.

Fire Ants

The painful pests are incredibly abundant. Fire ants can, and will, bite in large numbers. They are a major enemy of the newly hatched chicks of ground nesting birds, can also attack young rabbits, and have even been known to kill whitetail fawns.

Fire ant mounds are usually easy to spot, since they pile up dirt of the surface as the build chambers underground. Small children can be especially vulnerable, but anyone who works in gardens, sits in a dove field, picks berries, or does a lot of walking in fields and woods, will likely be bitten sooner or later. When you feel the first bite (and somehow they seem to communicate chemically and there are multiple bites simultaneously), get away from the source and try to wipe off the ants. They can bite again and again.

Treatment is similar to that for bee stings. Fire ant bites usually leave a tiny crater where flesh has died a few days after the bite, and it is wise to keep such areas clean to avoid infection. As with bee stings, any sign of an allergic reaction calls for immediate action.

Spiders

Two poisonous spiders, the brown recluse and black widow, are found in our area. A bite from either can present major problems. I had an aunt who was permanently crippled by a brown recluse bite.

Take particular care when working around woodpiles; in dark places such as basements, garages, or crawl spaces; or anywhere spiders are commonly seen. Several months down the road, as the weather starts to turn cold, you will find that spiders have a real tendency to move indoors.

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