Beetles invade Utah
Japanese Beetles, long a pest of the Northeastern U.S., are being found further and further toward the West Coast. Agricultural officials are concerned, and for good reason.
Japanese Beetles are not a threat to human health -- they don't bite or sting. But they have a serious economic impact.
Says Clint Burfitt, Utah Dept. of Agriculture: "This is a serious economic pest and its a federally quarantined pest. It has over 300 species of plants as a host, and in large populations, it can destroy all of your lawn and most of your perennials."
So far, the numbers are relatively low.
For more on the Japanese Beetle sightings in Utah, read this report from ksl-tv, this report from kutv, this article from the Deseret News, this article from the front page of the Daily Herald in Central Utah, and this article from the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin.
Here's a graphic that was printed in the Deseret Morning News:
Nest scouting and shooting
Late August usually has our R&D department frantically busy scouting hornet, wasp and yellowjacket nests to extract live specimens for testing. This summer is no different. It's not unusual to see our friends in the lab sporting the appropriate attire for this pursuit:
They've been keeping an eye on a bald-faced hornet nest for several weeks now, letting it grow to maximum size before they suck the hornets out. The nest is in some bushes at the corner of a driveway, right behind some garbage cans. Amazingly, the homeowners, who are friends of our company president, have allowed this nest to grow so we can use it.
I wanted to get some video footage of this nest before it came down. Last Friday, two guys from local film production company North by Northwest used their brand-new high definition camera to shoot it. They got some amazing footage of the hornets entering and exiting the nest. I'll try to post a portion of it soon.
We also found some paper wasp nests we wanted to shoot, to illustrate the differences between the species. This proved more challenging -- not only because the nests were higher up and under a building's eaves, but because the wasps themselves were pretty lethargic.
We have our eye on an active yellowjacket nest, which we hope to film next week. It's under some concrete steps leading to a house. The homeowners thought they killed the nest weeks ago with a wasp & hornet spray, but it's come roaring back to life.
A nest goes bust!
One swarming hornets' nest + a baseball + a really good pitch = Kaboom!
See the video:
More yellowjacket news
Freelance yellowjacket/wasp/hornet collector George Waldenmaier of Roanoke has his hands full with stinging insects this year in Southwest Virginia. Waldenmaier collects these insects from their nests, puts them in a cooler of dry ice, and sells them to Vespa Labs in Spring Mills, Pennsylvania. The company uses the venom to treat people with severe allergies to stings.
Here's another article about the recent study at Johns Hopkins University on yellowjacket stings. It says that the study debunked several myths:
- A yellowjacket's venom gets stronger as summer turns to fall... not true.
- You can "outgrow" a yellowjacket allergy, and your reaction to the next sting will be milder... not true.
The scientists found that differences in an individual's reaction to a sting are related to the species doing the stinging.
I can say from personal experience that I have had varying reactions to yellowjacket stings. Two years ago I was stung on two separate occasions during summer. First, while riding my bike, I ran into a yellowjacket which stung me at the base of my neck. That's a dangerous place to be stung, but aside from redness and irritation at the site of the sting, I was fine. Fast forward two months later... I was stung by a yellowjacket on my thigh. This time, I had an allergic reaction. After about an hour, my entire right thigh was swollen and red.
Based on the study mentioned above, the reason for the different reactions could have been different species of yellowjackets that stung me. Interesting.
Not all yellowjacket stings created equal
Some yellowjacket species inflict a sting that is more painful than others, according to a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Their study focused on the two species found in the Eastern U.S.: Vespula Germanica (German Yellowjackets) and Vespula Maculifrons (Eastern Yellowjackets). The sting of the Eastern Yellowjacket was found to be more severe than that of the German Yellowjacket.
The original goal of the study was to find out why some people have allergic reactions to stings, while others do not.
Record numbers = Record stings
It's a record summer for yellowjackets in many parts of the country, so it's likely that it will be a record year for yellowjacket stings as well.
The CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, WCCO-TV, picked up on that story here.
With this in mind, it's time for a rundown of steps to take if you're stung by a yellowjacket:
- Wash the wound carefully with soap and water. This will help remove the venom.
- Apply cold water or ice in a wet cloth, or a paste of meat tenderizer with water.
- Take a pain reliever or an oral antihistamine to reduce swelling.
- Apply a calamine product to reduce itching.
- Lie down.
- Lower the stung arm or leg below the heart.
- Do not drink alcohol or take sedatives.
If the sting is to the throat or mouth, seek medical attention immediately. Swelling in these areas can cause suffocation.
Signs that you may be allergic…
- Severe swelling in parts of the body distant from the sting site
- Widespread skin irritation
- Constriction in throat and chest/difficulty breathing
- Dizziness or fainting
If you experience any of the above symptoms after a sting, contact a physician immediately!
The reporter in the WCCO story I linked to above says that if you're stung by a yellowjacket, you should use a credit card to scrape the stinger off your skin so you don't release more of the venom. However, this is not accurate information. Why? Because yellowjackets don't leave behind a stinger. They can sting (and bite) numerous times, which is part of the reason they're so dangerous.
Yellowjacket stings are a real pain
Aside from the news reports about super-sized yellowjacket nests, this is the time of year we hear about people stumbling upon nests unexpectedly, and enduring painful stings from the nest inhabitants.
Since yellowjackets most often nest underground, many people have found lawn care to be extra painful after running the lawn mower over a nest entrance. Several such incidents are described in this article out of Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Here are some other tips we can share to help you avoid getting stung:
- Look before you sip your drink. Yellowjackets are attracted to sweet foods and drinks like soda and juices.
- Cover trash containers and keep them away from eating areas. Yellowjackets forage in garbage for food scraps and drink containers.
- Wear heavy clothing when walking in wooded areas. Yellowjackets can sting through lightweight fabrics.
- Try to remain calm in the presence of yellowjackets. Move slowly and deliberately and gently brush the yellowjacket away if it lands on you.
- Call a professional pest control operator to remove a yellowjacket nest. This is a dangerous task for an amateur.
- Swat at yellowjackets. They are more likely to attack and sting when aggravated.
- Smash a yellowjacket. When crushed, they give off an alarm pheromone that can cause others in the area to attack.
- Wear perfume, scented hairspray or lotion, or brightly colored clothes if you are going outdoors. Yellowjackets are attracted to these things.
- Let children play in overgrown or wooded areas. These are prime nesting sites for yellowjackets.
- Use gasoline to eliminate yellowjackets. Gasoline should never be poured into underground nest holes.