Dr. Paul Guillebeau is a writer, father and professional entomologist. Here are his thoughts on how to avoid stinging insects.
“One of my most common calls during the late summer concerns stinging insects. The nest of most social wasps and bees (yellow jackets, hornets, bumblebees, etc.) grows from one or a few queens that survived the winter. During the spring and early summer, the nest only contains a few individuals, and the insects are usually not very aggressive. The nest becomes larger and more aggressive as the warm season progresses. By the end of the summer, a nest may have thousands of individuals, and they are usually very aggressive.
Just imagine how you would feel if you had to share a nest with a thousand sisters all summer. My wife and daughter can just barely share a bathroom.
A few pointers may help you avoid a painful experience.
Stay away from the nest.(You can only get that kind of good advice from a professional.) Teach your children to recognize wasp and hornet nests. Be alert when you are trimming hedges or moving furniture that has remained undisturbed in a barn or shed all summer.
Be careful around fallen fruit. Several different kinds of wasps and bees are attracted to damaged apples or other fruit, and they may be aggressive around food. If there are many wasps around the old apple tree, it may be a good idea to wait until sundown to pick your share.
Unless bees and wasps are around their nest or food, they are not usually aggressive. You can make them behave aggressively if you slap at them (that makes me more aggressive as well). Ignore them and they will probably ignore you.
It is a good idea to cover your drink when you are outdoors. Nothing spoils a good time like a sting in the mouth.
Giving children a popsicle or other sweet treat outdoors in the summer is almost like writing “sting me” on their back. Unless you are punishing the kids, let them enjoy their treat indoors.
Wash their hands and face before you send them back out to weed the garden and cut the grass.
Make your children wear shoes outdoors if you can. Honeybees and other stinging insects are attracted to clover and other low-growing flowers.
If you find yourself on the wrong end of stinging insects, run like mad. (More sound advice from a professional.) Most people can outrun bees and wasps, and the insects provide excellent incentive. It was once common in the ancient Olympics to strike a hornet nest whenever the emperor wanted a new world’s record in a foot race.
Nearly everyone has a painful reaction to insect stings, and it pays to be prepared. Some over-the-counter medications like StingEze (click for sources) can provide quick relief if they are applied immediately after the sting. I counted Sting-Eze as a miracle when my children were younger. No doubt there are other products that are also effective. Over the counter antihistamines can also help reduce the allergic reaction.