Midges and flies maybe annoy many of us but there is no other insect that creates as much fear as the black and yellow flying devils, the wasps.
Unlike bees and bumblebees which lose their sting and die when they sting, the wasp can, and will sting multiple times due to the fact that the sting has no barbs but is smooth.
If you approach a wasp nest and are unlucky enough to get stung, the wasp emits a pheromone that signals the rest of the colony to attack. In other words, scare a wasp and it just might call for backup.
In August of 2015, 83-year-old great-grandfather Clive Southall was killed after accidently disturbing a nest and being attacked by a swarm of wasps whilst on holiday and being stung hundreds of times.
It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with yellowjackets or hornets, wasps can be pretty dangerous.
What You Should Do
It is important that you always remain alert. Some nests are underground in rabbit burrows and those are hard to see. Whereas nests in hedges are slightly easier to avoid. The important thing is that if you know of a nest, you keep well clear of it. If you do step on a nest, get away from it as fast as possible.
In a lot of attacks we give the advice that you should make yourself big, or go aggressive but with wasps you want to be running like hell. Run away as quickly as possible and do not attempt to stop until you have reached some form of shelter. If possible, pull your shirt up and over your head as you run to protect your face, mouth, and eyes.
A common myth is that you should jump into a body of water but i assure you, this will not help you at all as the wasps will simply wait for you to come up for air, by which time, even more will have gathered.
Also, while you are running, do not be tempted to swat at the wasps as you will just anger them further. Movement attracts them and they release a pheromone which attracts other wasps to join in the attack.
If you get stung multiple times in the attack it is important that you get medical attention immediately. Stings can be painful and trigger a serious, and sometimes life-threatening, allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Symptoms such as wheezing, vomiting, dizziness or difficulty swallowing could signal a serious problem.
Related: How to Survive a Dog Attack
Why do Wasps Swarm?
There are several reasons as to why wasps may swarm but the four main reasons include:
- Their nest has been disturbed – Many swarms are down to the wasps trying to protect their nest. If their nest is disturbed, the wasps may swarm in order to fend off the attacker.
- Scouting – When wasps go in search for a new nest location, they may swarm when doing so. They are not swarming to attack, they are simply moving in a group to find a new place for their nest. If you disrupt a swarm of wasps looking for a nest, they may become aggressive.
- The queen – hornets have a hierarchy system with a single queen, numerous male suitors and sterile female workers. She is responsible for beginning the nest creation before the female workers step in to finish construction. During this process, the males and other female bees are extremely protective of their queen, and may become aggressive and swarm easily.
- As a warning – Some species such as paper wasps are naturally aggressive and can swarm and attack for no reason.