By Kyrene ReselAugust 6, 2015
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 6, 2015) -- Along with fun in the sun this summer, stinging insects that are hazardous to our health come out to play.
According to 2nd Lt. Jacob Pinion, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital Environmental Health chief, stinging insects can be of concern on Fort Leonard Wood.
Pinion said there are 53 reported deaths each year in the U.S. due to stinging insects. He said 3 percent of the world's population are allergic to bees, which is about 450 people out of 15,000 on Fort Leonard Wood. About 0.8 percent of the world's population who are allergic to stings, experience severe asphyxia due to wasp and hornet stings.
On Fort Leonard Wood, some of the most common stinging insects to watch for are yellow jackets, bald-faced hornets, paper wasps and bees. According to Pinion, these stinging insects have distinct differences in appearance, nest building and what attracts them.
"Yellow jackets have striped yellow-and-black body markings, the southern yellow jackets usually build their nests in underground holes, whereas the German yellow jackets always build their nest above ground," he said.
Pinion also added that large nests can be the size of a basketball and contain up to 5,000 workers.
"Managing yellow jacket populations can be as simple as ensuring that food, garbage and empty beverage cans are placed into containers with tight fitting lids, since yellow jackets are seasonal scavengers," Pinion said.
Another stinging insect of concern is the bald-faced hornet. Bald-faced hornets are black with white markings and build pear-shaped nests roughly the size of basketballs.
According to Pinion, bald-faced hornets are actually beneficial due to their ability to capture other insects to feed their young.
While stinging insects can be very aggressive, some are more scared of people than people are scared of them. Some of these less aggressive stinging insects are paper wasps and bees.
Paper wasps build nests on porches and other sheltered locations, and according to Pinion, paper wasps' nests should be eliminated only if they are located near human activity and are a risk for stings.
Bees can also pose a threat; however, unlike wasps, they are considered to not be aggressive and only sting once.
Pinion said the best way to avoid getting stung is to avoid the insects' nests whenever possible. If stinging insects are flying around, it is important to stay calm and not swat at them, he said.
Pinion also added it is important to teach children not to panic when they see stinging insects. Instead, they should walk in the opposite direction and try to get inside until an adult can take care of the problem.
If stings do occur, Randall Moore, GLWACH head nurse, said ice and over-the-counter pain reliever can help with symptoms.
"If you do get stung but aren't experiencing an allergic reaction, then apply ice to the affected area and take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol or Motrin, and taking Benadryl will help with the swelling," Moore said. "If the stinger is still attached, remove it with a pair of tweezers to minimize the amount of venom injected."
Moore said there are several key signs to knowing if someone is allergic to stings.
"Signs will be severe swelling and trouble breathing, and as soon as a person is having trouble breathing, 911 should be called," Moore said. "Don't attempt to bring the individual to the ER (emergency room) because the paramedics can treat them during the ride."
For more information about stinging insects or to report concerns in the area, call GLWACH's Environmental Health Department at 573.596.0131 ext. 64913.