Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

Once Bitten Twice Shy: Taking the Sting Out of Yellow Jackets

Todd Walker
Survival Sherpa
July 26th, 2013
23,971 views

wasp feeding

I’m typing this post with a very swollen left hand.

I’ve always reacted badly to insect bites. While putting up a wooden fence for a friend yesterday, I disturbed a yellow jacket nest in a bed of ivy. One power-packing bugger hit my in the knee. I killed it and ran about 10 feet away. Then one hit my left hand. I hightailed it away from the area. Fortunately, I only ended up with two stings.

One yellow jacket sting to my left hand and one on my right knee - pictured below.

One yellow jacket sting to my left hand and one on my right knee – pictured below.

wasp sting knee

Knowing my reaction to wasp stings, I started walking the yard to find my favorite remedy, plantain leaves. I quickly chewed a few to activate the goodness and applied the greenery on my bites. The plantain immediately worked to relieve the stinging. The painful sting was not my biggest concern. The swelling and reaction worried me.

The Band Aid I used to hold the plantain on my knee lasted all of 3 minutes before coming off. Sweat and Band Aids don’t mix well. I used medical tape from my first aid kit to secure the natural remedy to my hand. I put my gloves on and went back to work.

Now for the unprepared part.

I didn’t have Benadryl in my work/construction kit. Bad move, Todd! I keep antihistamine meds in all my other kits (hunting, backpacking, get home bag, etc.), but failed to pack any in my construction kit.

Had I been stung multiple times, a hospital/doctor visit would have been necessary. Dirt Road Girl gave me Benedryl when I got home that afternoon with an added dose of lecturing about my not being prepared. My wasp encounter left me uncomfortable, but could have been worse.

Tips to avoid and treat stings

1.) Avoidance –  This is the obvious choice. But sometimes you encounter them anyway. What to look for when outdoors:

Photo credit

  • Eastern Yellow Jacket – Yellowish with black bands around its body. Only 3/8 to 5/8 of an inch in length, their smooth stingers, unlike honeybee’s barbed stingers, allow them to inject painful venom in victims multiple times.
  • They build underground nests in cool, shaded areas.
  • When disturbed, their attack zone is about 15 feet from their nest. They will get in your clothes and continue their stinging assault. Steer clear if at all possible!
  • These wasps are actually valuable to have around when they’re not mad at you. Their beneficial in that they kill and eat spiders, caterpillars, and other garden pests. They forage up to one mile from their nest.
  • They’re fond of sweet stuff. You’ll see them hovering over sweets, meats, and sugary drinks at picnics. Stay away from an area if you notice yellow jackets flying in and out of the ground.
  • Avoid wearing brightly colored clothing, scented perfumes, and ‘girly’ smelling body soap. These strong odors and flashy colors attract wasps and bees.

If you are allergic to stinging insects, take precautions before you have a run in with these dangerous pests protecting their turf! An allergic reaction happens when your body over-defends against the venom.

2.) Treating stings

The key to reducing damage from wasp stings is to treat them as soon as possible.

Immediately after being stung, I started looking for plantain. I applied it as quickly as I could chew it. Even getting it on that soon, my hand and knee are still swollen and itchy.

For folks that are extremely allergic to the venom, I recommend seeking immediate medical attention. Serious allergic reaction symptoms include:

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Slowed speech
  • Tightness in the throat or chest area
  • Fainting
  • Losing consciousness
  • Anaphylaxis

People have died from mass envenomation from stinging insects. If you are aware of serious allergic reactions from venom, have your doctor prescribe epinephrine (adrenaline) injecting devices and carry them it in all your kits, home, and office.

Remedies and treatments for mild reactions from stings:

  • Topical and oral antihistamines work to help reduce inflammation and itching. Scratching the itchy sting site could introduce bacteria into the skin and cause infection.
  • If you have cold presses or ice available, apply 10 minutes on and ten minutes off (repeat as necessary) to help reduce the itching and swelling.
  • Plantain – Where there is no doctor or medical treatment available, I highly recommend plantain (weed – not banana) leaves. Release the juices by chewing or crushing and apply ASAP. Plantain is a common weed found in most places.
  • Apply a clay/mud pack to the affected area. Wrap it with clean cloth or bandage and allow the pack to dry.
  • Meat tenderizer mixed with water to form a paste can be applied to neutralize the venom.
  • Along the same lines, baking soda and water can help heal the sting.
  • Activated charcoal and water will help as well.

Yellow jackets, though small in size, pack a wallop. Take precautions to avoid them, be prepared to treat nasty stings, and don’t let stinging insects keep you from enjoying the great outdoors.

Delivered by The Daily Sheeple


Contributed by Todd Walker of Survival Sherpa.

Todd Walker is married to the lovely Dirt Road Girl, proud father and grandfather, a government school teacher, a lover of the primal lifestyle and liberty. You can check out his website at Survival Sherpa with a vision of helping each other on the climb to self-reliance and preparedness…the Survival Sherpa way…One step at a time. Follow him on Twitter. Send him mail: survivalsherpa@gmail.com

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  • SKIP

    DIRT ROAD GIRL!!!!! hahahahhaa suppose it has a different meaning for different life styles.

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/Preppers/403723612994573 Scot Wiseman

    Just a note on Yellow jacket behaviours from someone who worked in the woods surveying for decades, always look in obvious areas before walking into them, (along edges of grass, fences, walls). Once disturbed, they will usually start buzzing you low and work up. If you feel something hitting your legs, run first. By the time they get chest high they are dangerous.

  • S.Lynn

    Carburetor cleaner kills them. Advice from a mechanic.

  • BGrace

    My 2 year old was stung by 8 yellow jackets today! while my husband helped him I googled yellow jacket sting and your site came up! thank you for the helpful advice! the ice and baking soda paste worked wonders!

  • Tasha

    I did not know that Plantain leaves can help to cure the sting.

    S.Lynn said that Carburetor cleaner kills them. Surprised, but would not try it with these Rascals. My son too got bit and i was first curious to know if it was a bite or a sting. I read here
    http://www.pestcontrolplus.biz/510/do-yellow-jackets-bite
    that they bite as well as sting. The problem with Sting is that they hurt, where as bite can leave us exposed to harmful bacteria. Wondering why? I have seen them to feed on dead carcasses. So if bitten try to clean it up first and consult a doctor.

  • Anonymous

    u suck

  • Greg

    WD-40 kills these things instantly. If your aim is good enough, you can literally take them out of the air with it. I use it to kill entire nests in the evening when yellow jackets are grouped together on the comb and are settling down. No exaggeration, within 3-4 seconds of being sprayed they are on the ground dying.

  • http://www.whyisthesubsinking.com Tim Brown

    Amputation , stat. Then have a hemispherectomy to reduce swelling of the remaining brain tissue.

  • Fleendar the magnificent

    Jewelweed, AKA- spotted touch-me-not is also a very effective anti-sting, anti-poison ivy wild plant that I have used numerous times for stings, bites, ivy and nettles.

    • winemaster2

      Pour some good dose of gasoline down their hole. Find where they enter and leave. They usually build hives and nest under ground. Once you discover the hole pour gasoline. Forget about a trap etc.

  • Michael Black

    To get rid of a yellow jacket nest: I’ve tried two methods.
    First, if you own a shop-vac or similar device, and the nest is close by your home or shop, get as many extensions as you can and place the open end near the mouth of the yellow-jacket nest. Make sure the vac is empty except for about two inches of water in the bottom, with a clean filter. (In a pinch you can use a panty-hose or something similar over the filter holder.)
    Just turn it on and the yellow jackets will be attracted to the noise. You may have to leave it turned on for several hours, but in the end, you’ll have significantly reduced the population of the nest.
    The next method that I’ve used is the old gasoline method. Not great for the yard to be sure, but it gets the job done. If you know where the nest is, wait until the early morning before they become active. Pour a liberal amount of gasoline or kerosene down the hole. Viola, no more yellow jackets.
    Obviously, the second is the best way to get them all, but the first way avoids any chance of contact with the beasts.

    • winemaster2

      The best way is find the holes or holes where enter and come out. Flood with gasoline.

  • http://batman-news.com kat

    One thing you forgot to mention, and where you goofed in your own encounter possibly…DON’T hit or kill them…they release a danger pheremone when you do this that is like a “call to arms” for other yellow jackets to come and attack you!

  • winemaster2

    Today was the second time in two weeks got bitten by yellow jackets and this bunch are very aggressive and come after you up 30 to 40 feet away. I was mowing my lawn early before the heat exhausted me. Last week I had three bits ( both hands and left knee) . Of course itching and swelling was the main issue insect bite lotion helped a little and in three days swelling subsided as did the itching. I know they build hives and nests underground. Couple of years ago i found their entry holes and poured gasoline down . That usually kill the whole lot. This time around it was difficult to see their hole. They get disturbed and aggressive due to noise and the lawn mower shaking the ground . This time they bit right through cotton shirt selves and even sock in the back of heel about the left boot, right hand and left upper arm that was also covered. Plus even moved up the right leg under heavy cotton pant legs, I already suffer edema on both lower legs from having had open heart surgery . Hope fully the left heel and up will not swell bad.

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