How To Deter Wasps

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The real truth about wasp stings

Nearly everyone has been stung by a wasp in their lifetime. This experience confirms just how painful a sting can be. You would be wrong in thinking that they sting because they are pure evil and super aggressive and it is the only purpose of wasps.

If you have been seeing a large number of wasps around your home or you have spotted a nest, the first thing you should do is call in the professionals. Ehrlich Pest Control has wasp removal services and prevention services to get rid of and prevent wasps from returning. Contact your local Ehrlich Pest Control office today.

Why do wasps sting?

The main reason wasps sting humans is that they feel threatened. A wasp sting is merely a defense mechanism in terms of people, although it is used in the wild to catch their prey.

There are two main reasons you might get stung by a wasp.

  • Protection –  Like most animals, if a wasp female feels her home is under attack or threatened she will protect the wasp nest with the only defense mechanism she has – her stinger!
  • Agitation – Wasps are a lot like humans in some ways, they do get annoyed. However, this is normally linked to them feeling threatened as well. The constant waving of arms and newspapers while trying to get rid of a wasp can make it very annoyed and feel threatened.

Wasp stings

A sting by a social or common wasp (also known as a yellow jacket) or a hornet is an unpleasant experience. It can be very upsetting and frightening for young children, but it can also be stressful for anyone and can be very painful even for those who are not allergic to insect stings.

Wasp stings may even be life-threatening to people allergic to the poison in stings. This allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis. If you are allergic to wasp stings, make sure you carry your medication and seek medical attention if you are stung right away. Wasp stings can happen multiple times due to the nature of wasp stingers and how wasps attack.

People who have been stung several times previously and have become sensitized are more likely to suffer this systemic reaction.

The good news is that this type of allergic reaction is rare and rarely fatal.

Do wasps die after they sting?

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee… Don’t you mean Float like a butterfly, sting like a wasp?

Although Muhammad Ali’s famous saying is correct, as bees can pack a nasty sting, wouldn’t it make more sense for it to be “sting like a wasp?

Wonder why? Well unlike bees, wasps do not die after they sting someone. In fact, they can sting multiple people, multiple times during their lifetime. This is one reason why wasps can be so deadly, especially if you are allergic.

The wasp stinger

A wasp's stinger is not like that of a bee. In fact, the stinger of wasp is designed nothing like a bee's stinger. A wasp's stinger is designed to be used again and again, striking the possible threat over and over again and stabbing the intended prey or potential threat like a small needle.

Wasps will attack in a large number. When a threat is detected, wasps release a pheromone that summons the rest of the soldier wasps. They will pursue a potential threat over long distances and swarm the threat, the entire time stinging repeatedly.

A bee's stinger is barbed at the end, which is why a bee will sting and then die. When the bee takes off, the stinger stays in the flesh of the prey and disembowels the bee. For a wasp, this is not the case. A wasp's stinger is smooth and does not stick in a person's flesh. It retracts into the body and extends over and over again.

What does a wasp sting look like?

A wasp's sting will be painful when it first happens, but you may not see much on the skin at first. There could be a small puncture wound and maybe a tiny dot of blood, but that's about it. However, soon after it happens, the area can turn red and the actual sting area will likely swell.

Once you see the raised welt, you may see a small white mark near the center. That's the spot where the stinger entered your skin.

The areas around the wound will be very painful to the touch and the entire area can become quite swollen based upon a person's threshold for pain and insect stings. Allergic reactions can cause severe swelling and other symptoms which can become very dangerous.

If you have been stung and find yourself having trouble breathing, or the pain is very intense, seek medical attention. Extreme swelling is also a potential sign of trouble and medical attention should be sought then, too.

Male wasps don't sting!

You may have noticed that whenever we talk about wasps stings we use female pronouns. That’s because it is only the female that stings. And that’s not because the men don’t like to, they physically can’t. Male wasps do not possess a stinger as part of their anatomy.
Much like other males within the insect world, the sole purpose of male wasps is to pretty much breed, although they do pollinate in some cases.

The Schmidt pain index

When discussing wasp stings we have to mention the Schmidt Pain Index. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Schmidt Pain Index is a pain scale reflecting the stings caused by different insects, including wasps.

The Schmidt pain index was created by Justin O. Schmidt after subjecting himself to a range of different stings from different insects. It consists of his experience when suffering these painful stings giving them a rating of pain, as well as a description and the duration. To sum up Schmidt’s pain index, “Level four you don’t want to know”.

yellow jacket wasp

Yellow jacket

  • Schmidt Index: 2.0
  • Pain Duration: 10 minutes
  • Description: Hot and smoky, almost irreverent. Imagine Mike Ditka extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.

Paper wasp

  • Schmidt Index: 3.0
  • Pain Duration: 5-10 minutes
  • Description: Caustic and burning. Distinctly bitter aftertaste. Like spilling a beaker of hydrochloric acid on a paper cut.

Tarantula hawk wasp

  • Schmidt Index: 4.0
  • Pain Duration: 5 minutes
  • Description: Blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream).

Why do wasp stings hurt?

Wasp stings are packed full of venom, which is why they are so painful. Different people have different reactions to wasp stings. Having one type of reaction doesn’t mean you’ll always have the same reaction every time you’re stung.

A wasp’s venom serves two purposes:

  • An Offensive Weapon: Wasp venom is powerful enough to paralyze their prey making for easier transport back to the nest.
  • A Defensive Weapon:  Wasp venom delivers enough pain to convince large animals, and humans, to leave them alone.

Preventing wasp & hornet stings

A wasp sting is a form of defense. If wasps feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed it makes them very aggressive and provokes them to sting. It’s best not to approach a wasp’s nest during the day when they are the most active. Maintain a safe distance from a wasp’s nest, as they will defend their territory at a larger distance than most bees. Do not try to knock down or remove a wasp’s nest without full body protection.

If wasps begin to swarm and attack, it is best not to wave your arms around. Backing away quickly, but without flailing, can reduce the number of stings.

In spring wasps hunt aphids, greenfly and other insects to feed grubs in the nest. At this time wasps will only become aggressive if they think their nest or their young are under threat.

Avoiding wasp stings

In late summer and early autumn wasps have no young to feed so get no sugary secretions from their young. This is when they seek fermenting fruit and sweet things and become more of a pest at picnics, barbecues and outdoor meals in general.

Luckily there are some easy, practical things you can do yourself to try and avoid being stung.

  1. Do not panic - If you find there are wasps nearby keep calm and move slowly away.
  2. Do not scream, flap your arms or swat them - This will just agitate them and make them more aggressive.
  3. Avoid strong, sweet smells - Do not use highly perfumed fragrances, shampoos, hair sprays.
  4. Avoid bright colors - Do not wear bright, bold floral patterns on clothes and bags, which could attract wasps.
  5. Avoid orchards - Soft fruit plants and even uncovered bins of fruit attract hungry wasps.
  6. Avoid open drinks - If drink cans or bottles are left unattended, it may encourage wasps to crawl inside.
  7. Cover food and drink - Always keep food and drink covered when eating outdoors to deter wasps.
  8. Stay clean - Ensure children’s hands/faces are cleaned after eating sweet foods/drinks.

How long do wasp stings last?

How long a wasp’s sting lasts depends on a person’s reaction to the sting. People who are sensitive to insect stings, may have the sting last and remain swollen or painful for several days. For some others, the wasp’s sting may disappear in as little as three days.

If there is intense pain or swelling for days, it is possible you could be experiencing an allergic reaction or perhaps some kind of wasp’s sting infection. You should seek medical attention if the pain is intense for longer than a couple of days.

Allergic reactions

When people say they are allergic to bees, wasps and/or hornets it is not the insect they are allergic to, but rather the venom in their sting.

Contrary to popular belief, deaths from wasp stings due to an allergic reaction are extremely rare (around 2-5 cases a year) and mainly affect older people. The majority of the time, people survive allergic reaction to wasp stings, and often this is the case without any effective medical treatment.

Wasp sting treatment

Mild and moderate reactions to wasp stings can be treated at home with a few simple remedies. We recommend consulting a medical professional for advice along with these tips and always follow the instructions on the label of any medication. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Clean the area: Wash the area with soap and water to remove as much as the venom as possible. Applying a medical disinfectant can also help.
  • Ice the area: To help reduce the swelling place an ice pack on the area. Depending on the reaction to the sting, place an ice pack on the sting every hour for 10 minutes.
  • Call an ambulance: If having a severe allergic reaction to the wasp sting call an ambulance and visit your local emergency room.

If you are having a problem with wasps around your home or business then don’t try dealing with it on your own. Instead, call your local Ehrlich specialist for reliable wasp removal and prevention service.


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