Many people have fear of bees and other stinging insects like wasps and yellow jackets. However, understanding the behavior and lifestyle of each type of insect can help you, especially if you have allergies to stings. Many times, people with sting allergies are only allergic to one type of insect venom, meaning that most stings are safe. You can lower your chances of suffering from an allergic reaction if you can recognize the insect you are allergic to and learn their habits so you can be on your guard.
There are several types of stinging "bees": honey bees, bumblebees, hornets, and yellow jackets and wasps. Each one is unique.
Honey bee stings are notoriously painful, but they are not as common as other types of stings simply because the honey bee is not a naturally aggressive predator, although some types of honey bees (like Africanized bees) are more aggressive. The mantra if you don't bother them, they won't bother you" is especially true of honey bees. Stings usually occur when the bee feels the need to defend the hive. Because the honey bee can only sting once (the stinging bee dies), stings are usually only for the greater good.
However, once the bee stings, the pheromones released from the sting signal to other bees that the hive is in danger, causing the bees to swarm and also sting in defense of home base. Since honey bees are capable of constructing large hives with hundreds or thousands of bees, these swarms are more dangerous, especially to those with severe allergies.
Honey bees are smaller than bumblebees, and have a fuzzy abdomen and diluted coloring-- much like the honey they create. The striped pattern that is characteristic of bees is still present but the bees are often more brown than yellow. Bees create hives above ground in enclosed spaces that allow for plenty of honey storage.
Bumblebees are large, hairy, and fat. They do not create large hives like honey bees, and they usually die within one season-- honeybees can hibernate. While bumblebees are not aggressive, they do have the ability to sting more than once-- stinging is not fatal for these insects. Bumblebee nests are found in the ground. Bumblebee swarms are rare, because nests are so small, so a sting from a bumblebee will usually be an act of self-defense if the bee feels like it is in danger.
There are two types of hornets in the United States-- the European hornet and the baldfaced hornet. The European hornet is yellow and brown, hairless, and is larger than other stinging insects, measuring about an inch long. The baldfaced hornet is similar in size, but it colored black and white, easily distinguishable from other stinging insects.
Hornet stings are especially painful, but nests are easy to spot and to hear. The size of the nest and the insect allow for passersby the hear the characteristic buzzing. Nests are aerial, usually hanging from trees or rafters, and are made from paper-like materials that the hornets produce themselves. That can also build nests within hollow trees or branches if they prefer. Usually, hornets will keep to themselves, but if you are allergic, you should never attempt to move or approach a nest, as they are aggressive and capable of stinging multiple times.
Yellow Jackets and Wasps
Yellow jackets and wasps are easy to recognize from their hairless bodies that are brightly patterned in bold yellow and black stripes. While yellow jackets do pollinate flowers by partaking of nectar, they are also scavengers who enjoy meat, fish, sugar, and spoiled fruits.
Wasps can build both aerial and ground nests, often creating papery nests when they build a colony. Common sites include beneath porches, next the tree roots, or between walls. They are the most aggressive of all stinging bee-like creatures when it comes to defending the nest, and they are able to sting multiple times. They can also sting in a swarm or as individuals in self-defense. Furthermore, their venom commonly causes allergic reactions (more often than other stings), so it is important, if you are allergic, to have nest removed from your property as soon as you notice them. Cover meats and soda cans during outdoor mealtimes and be cautious when operating a lawnmower or weed whip. For more ideas on protecting yourself, check out sites like http://www.oakbrookallergists.com.