Huron County General Health District officials wants to remind residents that late summer (August through October) is prime time for the appearance of those pesky yellow jacket wasps that seem to be everywhere.
They are happy to join your picnic or visit your open containers in search of food since their own natural food resources are diminished this time of year.
Because of their aggressive nature, many people are stung each year, sometimes resulting in life-threatening outcomes. In fact, Yellow jackets alone are responsible for about one-half of all human insect stings.
Lack of knowledge about the behavior of these wasps encourages their stinging behavior.
The yellow jacket wasp ranges in size from a half inch to five-eighths inch in length. Its colors are yellow and black with a tiny bit of white on some. This wasp has six legs, a furry head and a stinger on the tip of its back end. Yellow jackets, unlike honey bees, do not die after the first sting and are able to sting multiple times.
Females stop laying eggs in late summer and autumn. It is at this time they become more aggressive in searching for food near humans. With fewer flowers, nectar becomes harder to find and wasps become weak. To build up their strength for winter, females forage around trash receptacles for carbohydrates.
Yellow jacket stings can cause reactions ranging from a mild, normal response to life-threatening conditions.
A normal response includes swelling in the immediate area of the sting within two to three minutes, redness, itching, pain and formation of a welt. Cold packs applied in 10-minute increments, antihistamines and pain relievers help reduce these symptoms.
Potential life-threatening allergic reactions begin rapidly with normal response symptoms progressing to hives, swelling of the lips, tightening of the throat and chest, rapid heartbeat, faintness and confusion. Death is possible within 15 to 30 minutes. Anyone experiencing one or more of these symptoms should immediately seek emergency medical care.
If you know you are allergic, carry an emergency sting kit. Consider carrying a medic alert tag or card on your person.
Here are some tips, provided by the local health district, to help residents avoid yellow jacket stings:
Do not swat, strike or swing at them. Yellow jackets attack and sting when aggravated.
Wear heavy clothing when walking in wooded areas. Yellow jackets can sting through light weight fabrics.
Avoid scented perfumes, hairspray, lotions and brightly colored clothes. Yellow jackets are attracted to them.
Keep garbage cans tightly covered.
Do not picnic near open trash containers or dumpsters.
Look before you drink. Yellow jackets are attracted to sodas, juices and alcohol and could be on the rim of the can or inside.
Be careful not to mow over a nest in the ground or disturb an above-ground nest.
Don't smash or crush a Yellow jacket. They give off an alarm pheromone that alerts others in the area to attack.
Never try to burn or flood a nest with water since this will only make Yellow jackets angry. Have a professional exterminator remove nests.