How to avoid getting stung by hornets, yellow jackets and other wasps


wasp feasting on currants

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Once the weather gets warmer, as it finally seems to be, it's nice to get out there and be active. Whether you're hiking along a trail, taking a stroll in your neighborhood or trying to enjoy a picnic at the park, you may have already noticed them. Wasps. Huge, scary hornets and yellow jackets hovering, looking menacing.

According to Eartheasy, in spring and early summer, wasps are attracted to any food left outdoors, including pet food, and, unfortunately for you, picnic scraps and open garbage containers. Think they were pretty evil before? These evil geniuses imprint food sources, explains Eartheasy, which means they continue to search the same area for some time after the food has been removed.

In late summer and early fall, wasps' food preference switches to sweet, and to make matters worse, they get more aggressive. Open cans of soda, rotting fruit that's fallen from trees, strong perfumes — all of these attract wasps.

So what can you do?

  • Cover drinks and open food containers, and never walk barefoot near fruit trees. Remove any fallen fruit rotting on the ground, or don't set up your picnic near a fruit tree.
  • Don't antagonize them. When a wasp is squashed, it releases a pheromone that functions like a bat signal to other nearby wasps. When you see hovering wasps, walk away from them.
  • Don't wear bright colors or floral patterns. You don't want to look like a big flower full of nectar to feed them.
  • Especially in late summer and early fall, avoid wearing perfumes.

If you get stung, wash the wound with water to remove some of the venom, and treat it with an anti-sting product or antihistamine cream to reduce the pain and spread of the venom. Seek medical attention immediately if you get stung in the throat or mouth or have an allergic reaction.

Eartheasy also has some tips on natural wasp control if you discover a nest in or near your home.