10 OCtober 2006 byF.K. KOK
WITH over 150,000 species of
insects found in the country, it
is not unusual to encounter some
that sting. Nearly everyone has
been stung byan insect at one
time or another. It is an
unpleasant experience though
oftentimes, the injury is only
temporary pain or an itch.
An encounter with insects like
the bee, wasp or hornet, can be
terrifying. Automatically, our
reflex action is to dart, swat
or shoo it away.
Everyone knows that bees sting
but in reality, only a very
small percentage of the human
population (one or two people
out of 1,000) is allergic to or
hypersensitive to bee or wasp
So why do bees, wasps and
hornets sting? They sting to
defend themselves or their
colony. The best way to avoid
bee stings is to not antagonise
them. Don’t disturb their nests.
Don’t swat at them when they are
flying around you or the flowers
in the garden. Insects hardly
ever look for a fight, but if
they are threatened, they would
most likely retaliate and
Here are some sensible
precautions you can take while
enjoying the outdoors:
- Bees and wasps may be
attracted to or react to
odours in the environment.
So don’t use perfume or
fragrance if you are going
into an area with bee or
- Apply insect repellent
on exposed skin or clothing
to deter them.
- Avoid going barefoot in
blooming ground covers.
- Avoid wearing
that look like a patch of
- Wear long pants and
- Put on a hat with a
collapsible veil as stinging
insects often fly around the
tops of their targets.
What should you do if a bee or wasp
lands on your skin? This happens
when it wants to inspect a smell or
to get water from your sweat. It
will eventually leave, so stay calm
and hold still – pretend to be a
statue. Abrupt and rapid movement
may startle the insect and cause it
to sting. If you can’t wait for it
to leave, blow softly at it or
gently and slowly brush it away with
a piece of paper or stick.
If, despite such precautions, you
still get stung, then follow these
steps. When the sting is caused bya
honey bee (Apis genus), the stinger
usually remains in the skin. Remove
it as quickly as possible because
the venom continues to enter the
skin for up to 60 seconds. If
removed within 15 seconds, the
severity of the sting is reduced.
Unlike honey bees that have barbed
stingers, wasps and hornets lack
barbs on their stingers and can
infect venom many times.
Wash the wound and apply
antihistamine cream with skin
coolant to alleviate the itch and
pain. Put ice on wound to reduce
pain and swelling. Besides allergic
reactions like fainting, abnormal
breathing, vomiting and tightness of
throat, there may be swelling on the
neck or mouth. Seek medical
attention immediately as swelling in
these areas can cause suffocation.