It’s that time of year. The wasps, which seem more active in the fall in the Midwest, have joined our outdoor fun in full force, especially when food is involved.
Vespid wasps include paper wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. They can be differentiated from bees by their lack of body hair and thin, elongated bodies.
Paper wasps live in colonies of less than 100 and build open umbrella-shaped nests often suspended under eaves. Yellow jackets and hornets have colonies larger than 100. Hornets build massive, enclosed nets found hanging from tree branches. Yellow jackets, the most annoying wasps to humans, also make enclosed nests but build them below ground.
All three produce new colonies each year. Only the mated queens survive the cold winter months. In late summer or fall, the old queen dies, and a new one mates before its siblings die off.
The severity of reaction to a wasp sting depends on our sensitivity and whether we’ve been stung before. Most often, there is a little swelling or itching. If the stinger is visible, it should be gently removed, and the area washed with soap and water. A cold compress and a pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, will ease the pain.
An allergic reaction may include mild nausea, intestinal cramps, diarrhea, or swelling larger than 4 inches in diameter at the site. We should seek medical assistance immediately if there is difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or throat, faintness, dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, or hives.
©2014, Mary K. Doyle