Did you know that there are more than 20,000 different insects that you could encounter outdoors during a Wisconsin summer? Most of these insects are harmless, but some of the stinging and biting insects will attack people to defend themselves or obtain food.
Those bothersome horseflies, mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers are just a few of the insects that need to feed on blood in order to survive. There are more than 50 mosquito species living in Wisconsin alone! It is best to avoid shaded, brushy sites with poor air circulation and low light, as this is a mosquito’s favorite environment.
Horseflies and deerflies are particularly bothersome as they omit a deep, painful bite with their sharp mouthparts. They are active during warm, sunny days, usually in moist, wooded areas from late spring until early fall. To avoid getting bit, try to cover your skin as much as possible when outdoors.
So, how about ticks? One common misconception about ticks is that they drop from trees. Actually, they live in brushy areas with long grass, and grab on to socks or pants and crawl up the body to feed. Only 2 of nearly 15 tick species in Wisconsin normally bite humans, but when they do attach, they can remain there for days if not tended to. Avoid bites by covering exposed skin and tucking socks into boots when hiking. If you do find a tick on you, simply remove it close to the head with a tweezers.
On to the stinging insects: bees. No doubt they are a normal part of every Wisconsin summer. They are uninvited guests to outdoor barbeques, parties, and other outdoor recreational activities. They are normally not aggressive, but will sting to defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Ironically enough, the defense mechanism of the honeybee actually ends up killing the bee, because it leaves its stinger and poison sac behind. The honeybee stinger is much like a fishhook, and will continue to inject venom if the stinger is not scraped off immediately.
Other bees like yellow jackets and wasps have un-barbed stingers, and can sting repeatedly. Yellow jackets in particular pose an increased problem with stinging people from the end of summer through early fall. They seek out sugar or protein, so it is best to keep drinks and food covered when outdoors, and to put trash in garbage bins with tight-fitting lids.
Bees love sweet and fragrant things, so avoid wearing cosmetics, hair sprays, or lotions that will attract them. Wear shoes at all times when outdoors. Although barbequing is a popular summer activity for humans, it is also popular for bees, so keep that in mind and take caution. If a bee does land on you, move slowly and calmly brush it away.
So what do you do if you are stung? You will likely experience an intense burning or stinging sensation, with swelling and/or itching at the sting site after some time. Apply ice to decrease swelling and the chance of the venom spreading. Stinging insects send over 500,000 people to the emergency room every year due to allergic reactions to stings. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, tightness in the throat, nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, or even unconsciousness. If you see someone displaying these symptoms, dial 911.