Friday, July 19, 2013

Facts about insect bites and bee stings

Winters can be drab and long. We long for warm sunshine and the moment nice weather comes about, it is time to go outside! As New Yorkers, one of our favorite outdoor local destinations is Central Park. Central Park is great for picnics, boating, biking, walking and exploring, but it is also full of insects!

Something that many of us forget is that a “bug bite” is usually an allergic reaction to being stung. So, in light of the time you are going to be spending outside this summer, we wanted to share a few fun facts about stinging insects. 
  1. It is estimated that 1 out of 30 adults could have a potentially life threatening reaction to the venom of a stinging insect such as a bee, wasp or hornet. 
  2. Yellow Jackets are aggressive, build nests in the ground and are usually a problem for gardeners digging up weeds.
  3. Hornets are even more aggressive, normally bigger, and have large nests in shrubs and trees.
  4. Wasps live in smaller, honeycomb shaped hives found under the eaves of roofs or in shrubs.
  5. Honey bees usually live in hives found in old logs, but in New York City can more frequently be found in rooftop apiaries on top of different buildings

You might not know it, but urban honey bee farming has become a sort of new phenomenon in NYC and it’s not just a hipster fad. And while we welcome sustainable locavore practices, this inevitably will increase the amount of bees in the urban areas, which can pose a threat for those of us who are allergic to bee stings.

Whether you find yourself living below an urban bee garden or hiking in the woods, here are some helpful tips to avoid getting stung: 

  1.  Honeybees are not aggressive, and generally do not attack unless provoked
  2. Honeybees love flowers. Flower have bright colors and beautiful scents, so that yellow summer dress + Marc Jacobs Dot perfume, increase the chances of tricking bees into thinking you’re a gigantic flower. Consider this when getting dressed.
  3.  While there is nothing more wholesome than a barefoot run through a field of clovers, clover flowers are among the bees’ favorite nectar spots, and getting stung on the bottom of your bare foot will ruin your whole day.
  4. Bees love nectar, which is essentially sugar and water, which is essentially 90% of soda, margaritas, sangria, etc. If you are outside with friends, double check that a bee hasn’t decided to go for a swim in your cocktail or soda before drinking it.
  5. Bees buzzing around your head with an onomatopoeic symphony might activate your instinct to swat at them. Suppress that instinct. Bees are not interested in you, unless, that is, you take a swing at them.
  6. If you are allergic to insect stings, make sure to carry injectable epinephrine whenever outdoors.

Bee Stings

Also for some, getting stung can be life threatening. Do you know about your bite history?
If you do have had a history of getting a severe reaction to any stinging insect we’d recommend that you see an allergist ASAP for skin testing and therapy. Another solution that an allergist can provide is immunotherapies, which have shown to significantly decrease the risk of systemic reaction from stinging insects. This might be an avenue you want to consider and you should contact us to get skin tested.

If you have any other questions about bee stings or other or insect bites, we’d like to be a resource. Our allergists can work with you to alleviate any allergies or provide you with tools and education on preventative measures. 

For more information call us at 212.729.1283 or email us at