Spring has sprung in San Angelo. In the gardens, butterflies and hummingbirds float while the stingers of wasps and bees are ready for action. Already, wasps are hunting for nesting locations and they can seem quite aggressive when you encounter them.

Photo by Enrique Vidal Flores on Unsplash
Photo by Enrique Vidal Flores on Unsplash
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There are six native species of stinging wasps in West Texas and another six native species of bees.  This doesn't even take into account large colonies of Africanized honey bees which now make their home in Texas. If disturbed they can all deliver a sting.

Craig Strahorn on Unsplash
Craig Strahorn on Unsplash
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Bees and Wasps sting differently.  Wasps can sting over and over until their dead.  Many people claim that they can even continue after they're dead.  Even then, the stinger can still prick the skin. Bees generally can only sting once. Killer bees however, attack as a group and will continue stinging in waves until they perceive that the threat is nuetralized.

A young woman examines her insect sting on her arm
Jens Rother
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What are the basic differences?  Wasps tend to have more prominent coloration and patterns than bees. Wasp bodies tend to be smoother, whereas bees tend to be more hairy. The six wasp species common to Texas include: Paper wasps, yellow jackets, hornets, cicada killers and mud daubers.  They can all sting but the most aggressive wasps in Texas are yellow jackets and hornets and paper wasps.

Thomas Millot on Unsplash
Thomas Millot on Unsplash
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Very close macro of the yellow face of a Japanese giant hornet.
Kagenmi
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The six native species of bees in Texas include carpenter bees, squash bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, mason bees and bumble bees. Almost all bees have a natural aggressive cycle.  While they have the ability to be aggressive at any time, they are most often aggressive in late summer and early Fall.  Wasps are also more aggressive in the Fall.  Disturbing them during nest building is also a good way to bring out their aggressiveness.

Women scratch the itch with hand
Tharakorn
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Stinging insects are just part of nature.  You can't keep them all away all the time. There are some steps you can take to make sure you're not attracting them to you.

1) Don't keep food around

2) Avoid smelling like a flower:  Flowery or fruity smelling products like lotions and perfume and hair care products can attract them.

3) Rethink your Fashion: Bright colors attract bees and wasps. Red is safe, since bees don't see red.  They do however, see the rest of the rainbow and are attracted to blue, purple and violet.

YakobchukOlena
YakobchukOlena
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If you are approached by a bee or wasp, don't wave your arms around and cause a big panic.  It won't help.  In fact, the commotion will increase your chances of getting stung. Try to hold still and wait for the insect to fly away. If you have a severe allergy to insect stings, keep a prescribed epinephrine autoinjector like EpiPen on you at all times, especially outdoors.

HbrH
HbrH
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If you are stung, take these steps

1) Remove the stinger:  This keeps additional venom from being injected

2) Apply ice

3) Elevate the area especially if it's an arm or leg so you don't get swelling

4) Take an antihistamine for extreme swelling or unbearable itching

5) Consider a pain reliever like ibuprofen to reduce discomfort.

Woman feeling pain after car accident in the city
tommaso79
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Sometimes, a sting can cause anaphylaxis which is a severe, life threatening situation that spreads throughout your body. Anyone can experience it, but it is most likely in people with allergies or asthma.  Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone begins to show the symptoms of anaphylaxis as a result of a sting.  Those symptoms include:

Hives or Rash

Chest Tightness

Difficulty Swallowing

Wheezing and shortness of breath

Stomach cramps, vomiting or diarrhea

Fainting

Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
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For most people, an insect sting is simply a treatable temporary discomfort. Bees and other pollinators are essential for the food chain.  It's best we just learn to live in  harmony with them and be prepared when things go wrong.

Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash
Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash
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