Bee, Wasp, and Hornet Awareness

Date: September 22, 2020

Carrie Kolodji, Risk Control Analyst

Protect Yourself From Stings

Many have experienced a bee, wasp, or hornet (which is actually a type of wasp) sting. For most, this may cause discomfort, but for those that have a severe allergic reaction, stings can be deadly. According to NIOSH, thousands are stung by insects each year, and as many as 100 may die as a result. Any employee working outdoors should be especially cautious of the hazard of these insects.

Where to Find Nests and Hives

Bees, wasps, and hornets can be found across the United States. Keep an eye out for nests and hives in trees or bushes, hidden on equipment, or under roof eaves. Some even have nests underground, such as those of miner bees.

First Aid

It's important to educate employees about what to do if they get stung on a job site. If a worker is stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet:

  • Monitor the worker to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction. Call 911 and seek medical attention immediately if any of the following symptoms occur: tightness of the throat or upper airway, breathing difficulty, weakness, numbness and tingling, hives, anxiety, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting, signs of shock, or blue discoloration of the lips.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • For bee stings, remove the stinger by using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area. Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers as this could result in more venom being injected into the skin.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • If stung on the arm or leg, elevate it to reduce swelling.
  • Remove any tight-fitting jewelry from the area of the sting.
  • Do not scratch the sting. This may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.
  • Signs of infection include swelling, redness, pain, and a feeling of warmth in the area. If these symptoms occur, promptly consult a physician.

Worker Recommendations 

Identifying ways to protect yourself against bees, wasps and hornets can help workers avoid being strung. Workers should:

  • Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.
  • Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants. Banana scented items can agitate these insects.
  • Sweat scent can also anger bees. Make sure to wear clean clothes and bathe daily.
  • Keep work areas clean. Social wasps thrive in places where humans discard food.

Insect Attack

If a single stinging insect is flying around, remain calm. Swatting may cause it to sting. If several stinging insects are attacking you at once, run! Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees.

To get away from these insects, look for a shaded area rather than an open one. If you are unable to leave the area, avoid jumping into any water. Some insects, like Africanized Honey Bees, are known to hover above the water, and continue to sting when you surface for air.

If a bee, wasp, or hornet comes inside your vehicle, open all the windows, and slowly stop when it is safe to do so.

Remember that wasps and hornets do not lose their stingers, and can sting repeatedly.

Allergic Reactions 

Workers that have a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and wear a medical identification bracelet listing their allergy.

If you want to learn more about keeping your employees safe on the job, consult with a BITCO agent, and find out more information.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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