Bees and Wasps, and Hornets, Oh My!


Bees and Wasps and Hornets, Oh My!

While we know the importance of pollinating bees, we also know that they tend to make people a bit nervous. If you've never been stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet consider yourself lucky! For most people stings from these insects does not pose a major issue. However, for others, there can be a severe allergic reaction that is life-threatening. Even if you have not experienced a severe allergic reaction to stings before, it is possible to have a severe reaction at any point in your life. It is important to avoid bees and wasps as well as being able to recognize when someone is suffering from a severe allergic reaction from an insect sting.

Bee and Insect Sting Facts

According to NIOSH, thousands of people are stung by insects each year, and as many as 90–100 people in the United States die as a result of allergic reactions. This number may be underreported as deaths may be mistakenly diagnosed as heart attacks or sunstrokes or may be attributed to other causes. Most individuals only experience minor swelling and pain after being stung, but many individuals can experience other symptoms after a sting. Insect stings can result in any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling (in area of sting and sometimes beyond)
  • Flushing
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Anaphylaxis

Bee & Wasp Prevention

  1. Discourage bees and wasps by eliminating favorable nest sites. Use an appropriate sealant to fill cracks and holes in walls and trees. Remove any trash or debris that might serve as a shelter, such as overturned clay pots. Ground-nesting insect scan be discouraged by allowing the soil to dry out completely, and by mulching or planting a ground cover over large patches of bare ground.
  2. Apply paint or varnish to outdoor wooden structures.
  3. Consider the water sources in your yard and eliminate the unnecessary ones. Put screens over rainspouts and water meter boxes. A few ounces of pine-scented cleaner can be placed into evaporative coolers to discourage insects, and for pet water and birdbaths two tablespoons of vinegar per gallon are somewhat effective.
  4. Avoid home entrance by placing insulation around doorframes and sealing window frames.
  5. Cover food when eating outdoors.
  6. Gather up rotting fruit dropped from trees.
  7. Seal garbage cans.
  8. Do not aggravate bees or wasps by swatting at them. They can react defensively.
  9. Attic vents should be screened.


Take the hazards that bees and wasps create seriously when working outdoors. Even if you are not allergic to them someone close by may be. Do a site check before entering an area to perform work. Avoiding areas where these insects are is your best option to prevent stings. When avoiding them completely is not an option and there is a nest in the area try to not disturb them. If contact cannot be avoided, have them removed to another location by a professional or have them killed (if that is the only option) to protect yourself and others from stings. Always have an EPI pen nearby if you or a coworker is severely allergic to insect stings.

--National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

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