Bees, Wasps and Hornets

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Bee Stings

Although known for their role in pollination and producing honey, bees can become a threat to homeowners when they build their hives near or inside homes. Bees are considered less dangerous than other stinging insects like wasps. In Hong Kong, bees like honey bees and carpenter bees seldom sting unless they are provoked. However there are aggressive species such as the Africanized honey bees that will sting humans in large numbers, fortunately we’ve yet to spot any of them here.

Bee stings have the potential for an allergic reaction, resulting in anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical assistance and can even cause death.

Protecting You and Your Family from Insect Stings

Insect stings are uncomfortable and can often be distressing particularly if suffering from several stings. However, the risks of being stung can be managed by destroying wasp nests in or near the home and taking some basic precautions when outdoors. 

Like the bee, a wasp sting is a form of defence. If wasps feel threatened or if their nest is disturbed it makes them very aggressive and provokes them to sting.

  • A sting by a social or common wasp (also known as a yellow jacket) is a painful experience. It can be very upsetting and frightening for young children.

  • Wasp stings may even be life threatening to people allergic to the poison in stings. This allergic reaction is known as anaphylaxis.

  • People who have been stung several times previously and have become sensitised are more likely to suffer this systemic reaction.

  • The good news is that this type of allergic reaction is rare and it is even rarer for it to be fatal.

Allergies to Insect Stings

Some people are much more sensitive to insect stings than others, although young children tend to be particularly sensitive. 

However, the key group at risk are the three percent of the population who are allergic to the poison in stings. An allergy to insect stings can develop at any time, even if they have not reacted to a previous sting. 

Call an ambulance immediately if someone has a severe reaction to an insect sting. 

Symptoms may include fainting, dizziness, nausea or difficulty in breathing or swallowing.

Insect Stings and Insect Bites

Insect stings should not be confused with insect bites. 

An insect uses its sting as a form of defence when it perceives a threat either to itself or its colony. It stings by injecting poison into or under the skin. The effect is immediate and results in a sharp, burning sensation. 

While a sting is used as a form of defence, insects bite to draw blood. To give the insect time to feed, insect bites have evolved so that the pain is not as sharp as a sting (although the bite of a horse fly is very painful).

Insect Stings

The most common insects that sting are wasps (including hornets) or bees. Wasps are the most aggressive and may sting with little provocation. 

Bees are much less likely to sting, most commonly stinging when they are stood or sat on. The key sign of a bee sting is that it leaves its stinger lodged inside the skin and a venomous sac will continue to pump poison for more than a minute.

In contrast, the only sign of a wasp or hornet sting is likely to be a small puncture hole. 

Once stung by a wasp or bee, the area around the sting will quickly redden and a raised weal (fluid under the skin) will form. The weal will reduce after a few hours, but it may remain itchy for more than a day.

Tips to Avoid Stings

People who are sensitive to insect stings should take care to minimise the risk of being stung, but there are practical steps that we can all take. 

To avoid being stung when outdoors:

  • Do not panic - If you find there are wasps nearby keep calm and move slowly away.

  • Do not scream, flap your arms or swat them - This will just agitate them and make them more aggressive.

  • Avoid strong, sweet smells - Do not use highly perfumed fragrances, shampoos, hair sprays.

  • Avoid bright colours - Do not wear bright, bold floral patterns on clothes and bags, which could attract wasps.

  • Wear long sleeves, trousers, footwear or hats - To reduce exposed skin.

  • Avoid orchards - Or any soft fruit plants and even uncovered bins, where wasps gather seeking food.

  • Avoid open drinks - If drink cans or bottles are left unattended, it may encourage wasps to crawl inside.

  • Use insect repellent sprays - Apply on exposed skin. Use insect repelling products or candles.

  • Cover food and drink - Always keep food and drink covered when eating outdoors to deter wasps.

  • Stay clean - Ensure children’s hands/faces are cleaned after eating sweet foods/drinks.

  • Look out for bees - Before sitting, lying or resting.

  • Wear gloves - When picking fallen fruit from the ground.

  • Do not try to swat wasps or bees - This will increase the likelihood of being stung and may excite a swarm.

  • Do not wave your arms - This will also excite the insect. If you enter an area with many stinging insects, walk calmly and slowly away.

Stinging Insects in the Home or Garden

A wasp trapped indoors can be dealt with using a Wasp & Fly Killer spray. 

However, bees are beneficial to the environment and should not be killed whenever it is safe and practical. 

If there are high numbers of wasps or bees in your home or garden, it is likely there is a nest nearby. 

It is important to deal with nests as early as possible – wasps become more aggressive in late summer and it is much safer to deal with them earlier in the year. 

Find out more in our wasps and bees section or Call Rentokil on (852) 2954 6888 for your business or your home to arrange a visit or book online today.

Treatments for Wasp Stings

Contrary to popular myth, the wasp sting is not alkaline and the bee sting is only weakly acidic. The chemistry of a sting is much more complex and so the traditional cures of bathing a wasp sting in vinegar or a bee sting in baking soda will provide only limited relief. However, there are practical steps that can be taken. 

If stung by a bee, the pain will be reduced significantly if the stinger is removed promptly. This should be done carefully using sharp fingernails, tweezers or a knife – however, take great care not to squeeze the sting sac as this will inject more poison into the wound. 

Wash the wound with soap and water and then reduce swelling by bathing in cold water or by covering it with a cold compress such as ice in a cloth (but never hold ice directly on the skin). 

To relieve itching, apply an anti-histamine cream for bites and stings or take an oral anti-histamine tablet (a “hayfever tablet”). 

Calamine lotion can also be applied to cool the wound and ease the itch. If the itching is severe, consult your pharmacist about steroid creams.

It is difficult to know how you might react to a wasp sting, if you have never been stung before. There are some practical things you can do to help with any pain you might feel

  • Use a cold compress such as an ice-pack or cold flannel.
  • Take painkillers to soothe any pain.
  • Take antihistamine tablets to reduce any swelling around the sting.
  • If you are in any doubt about a wasp sting please consult a doctor or medical professional.

If someone has the following symptoms after being stung, immediately call for an ambulance:

  • difficulty breathing
  • wheezing
  • vomiting
  • nausea or diarrhoea
  • feeling faint or dizzy
  • swollen face or mouth
  • problems swallowing

Call Rentokil on (852) 2954 6888 for your business or your home to arrange a visit or book online today.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction

For those with a moderate allergy to stings, there may be more general swelling around the wound. Consult your doctor if the swelling is severe or persistent. 

Call an ambulance immediately if any of the following symptoms are seen within 30 minutes of a sting: 

  • Swelling around the throat, mouth or tongue that could constrict breathing 
  • Wheezing, choking or an inability to catch breath 
  • Fainting, dizziness or headaches 
  • Any chest pains 
  • Nausea or stomach cramps 

Remember, allergies to stings can develop at any time. 

Those stung on two or more occasions in previous years are at higher risk from developing an allergy. 

Another group at high risk are those who suffer from other allergies (such as to pollen or pets).

Call Rentokil on (852) 2954 6888 your home or business to arrange a visit as required depending on situation or book online today.