Kindra6b7aFebruary 21, 2013

If I put baby powder in my hair on on my skin and clothes when I am gardening, will that repell the stinging guys (bees, wasps)...I want to garden this year, but somehow over the years of not getting out much I have become paralyzingly afraid of them!

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I also have, what I call, "an irrational fear " of the stinging guys.

Its been 3 yrs since I started gardening. I usually put my long hair in a braid and a ballcap. Ive learned a few other tricks too, but most of them are just ways to live with them.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 1:15AM
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Well, I used to have that same paralyzing fear of them. It's not totally gone, but it's better. The more I've gardened the more I've come to realize that they really don't give a hoot about me. Just remember these things:

a. They are after nectar or protein (bugs, caterpillars), and that is their highest priority;

b. They don't arbitrarily attack without provocation because stinging is a "defense" mechanism.

That said, I just don't bother them, and they seem to reiterate....so far. I just have a very healthy respect for them.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:56AM
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To avoid problems with stinging insects it is generally best to avoid scented products. So baby powder is probably not a good idea. Tying one's hair back and wearing a ball cap are good ideas. Wearing long sleeved garments might also help. Finally, as a bee keeper, I'd say that one of the greatest mistakes often made by those afraid of getting stung, is to swat at the wasp or bee. This generally provokes them. It's hard, but much better to resist that initial instinct and avoid any sudden movement. One can walk away, if necessary. But don't make fast motions.

It's not always possible to avoid getting stung. Last summer I was weeding and stumbled upon a nest of red wasps. One of them "got me." However, the path to the least stings is to stay calm and keep an eye open on what is flying around while you work.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Good advice, George! Live and live --- but watch for and avoid nests

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 2:14PM
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Thank you :-) I've never been stung before and have any irrational fear that I could be allergic ha ha More than that I am afraid to StumbleUpon a nest and get stung by a bunch of them and then die like in the movie My Girl... Yea it could be silly but it is what I deal with and I want to finally learn how to garden this year with my hubby-we are very new to this and have only ever had success with okra and squash before... Just wish my fear wouldn't keep me from doing what I want and enjoy!!!

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:21PM
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Kindra, keep in mind that if you get stung, and you have not been stung before, it is entirely normal to swell and itch. That is not an allergic reaction. It's a normal, healthy reaction. If you start into hives, then you would need to get medical attention. But the great majority of people have immune systems which handle a sting quite well.

Also, wasps, yellow jackets, hornets and honey bees have different venoms. So a bad reaction to one does not guarantee a bad reaction to another.

Still, with normal care, you may go several years without any stings at all. So, enjoy your garden!


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:42PM
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I like George's advice. I however I cant wear a cap or much of anything else and the way I sweat I would look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy if I put any kind of powder on.

I just try to watch for the insects in the garden. I use wasp and hornet spray if they start building a nest in an area that may cause the grand kids to get stung. I actually have snakes on my mind more than wasp, but I have only found 2 Copperheads in my garden.


    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:03PM
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An old folk remedy which does work if you should happen to get stung is to immediately make a thick paste of baking soda and water and cover the sting area with it. Most venom is acidic; baking powder is alkaline and helps neuralize it.

It's not true (in the case of red wasps especially) that if you leave them alone they will not sting. I have several times seen them drop from the eve of a building to sting someone who had no idea they were there, So if you do develop a strong reaction you may want to destroy any wasp nests you find. For years, we ignored them, knowing they were preying on the cabbage worms in the garden. Then after the third time she was stung in as many summers our granddaughter developed a serious, serious reaction--to the point of carrying an epi pen. So now we invest in wasp spray, the kind that shoots a 20 ft stream, and destroy them vigilantly.

You may also want to try the fake hornet nests that are said to repel wasps from building around your house.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:10PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

If the thought of being stung really bothers you, just buy an over-the-counter antihistamine and keep it handy in the house or even in your bucket of garden tools and supplies. As soon as you've been stung, take the antihistamine following label directions. Even if you start having a serious reaction, the antihistamine buys you time while you call 9-1-1 and wait for emergency medical help to arrive.

I don't know that you ever will need to use the antihistamine, but it might give you peace of mind to know you have it there if you need it.

Please read the linked article and note that Dr. Golden says it is incredibly rare for a person to die the first time they're stung. It is more common that the first sting sets off a reaction in your body that means you might react more strongly the next time. Hopefully that gives you some comfort. After that first sting, if it ever occurs at all, then you could talk to your doctor about the way your body reacted to the sting. It your doctor thought the situation warranted it, he or she could prescribe an EpiPen for you to carry.

Here is a link that might be useful: Allergies to Bee or Wasp Stings

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 9:39PM
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I spray any nests as soon as I spot them, when its cool out.

I had my 3 yo granddaughter for the summer and I realized that I had to remain calm, so I didn't instill my fears in her.

I also keep cans of the long distance spray everywhere. Front porch, back porch and in the garden. At a point last year I was especially nervous I was harvesting my tomatoes with one hand and ready with the spray in the other. Silly I know, but I love my garden.

The days I am nervous I just tell myself "I might get stung, it will hurt, but it will stop hurting and heal. "

Ive come to appreciate bees, but the wasps still make me anxious.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 1:32AM
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Yes, those red wasps are "special." I destroy their nests when I find them near the house or garden. Other wasps are positively jolly compared to the "evil red wasp." They always try to build a nest in my pump house and, there's a little hole in the door, from which they can peek out and attack unsuspecting passersby. Every spring I place a can of wasp spray on the other side of the pump house. Then when I go past there, I peek around to see if there is a sentinel in that little hole. If there is, I pick her off and spray into that hole. After doing this a couple of times I finally open the door, some night, wearing a red night vision light, and finish off the nest.

Dawn's point is well taken. Here's my story about sensitivity to bee (honey bee) stings. I grew up orcharding in NJ. Yellow jackets were abundant and one of the jobs my parents gave us boys was to pick up drops. So we got stung frequently. It hurt, It burned. But I could hardly find the site of a sting, a couple hours after the fact.

Then at age 13 I started into keeping honey bees. Those honey bees were exceedingly docile. I might have gotten stung twice, the first couple of months that we had them, and I was in that hive, working it, a lot more than I should have been, perhaps once a week. When I was stung it would swell a lot. It hurt more than a yellow jacket sting. And, it took about three days to go away.

Then, one day I was stung twice. One sting was under the arm. Within an hour I was covered in a rash and itched badly. My mother took me to the emergency room, where they gave me a shot of adrenaline, which straightened everything out in minutes. At one point my mother stated to the doctor, "Well, I guess that's the end of bee keeping for my son...." I started to protest (typical teen). The doctor then replied, "Not necessarily. You'll probably know the next time he gets stung. The reaction will either get less or it will become more severe.

I went back to bee keeping and the reaction gradually decreased. I never had another rash. But I did swell, sometimes for three days, after a sting. Keep in mind, that for me, as a bee keeper with 3-5 hives, I was only getting stung, at most, about a half dozen times per year.
At age 18 I left for college and didn’t keep bees again until I was about 28. By that time I was in Mexico by that time. Again, the bees I purchased there were very docile. But within six months the Africanized bees arrived and took over. So suddenly I was dealing with aggressive bees. I started getting stung about, say, 20 times a year, maybe a little more. And, I still swelled, but not so much. It would go down in a day.
After about 7 years of this I had an encounter with a “bee war,” in which about 8 hives of Africanized bees got into a fight on the grounds of the Bible institute where I was teaching. They went berserk, stinging people all over campus. I was called upon to settle the war. So I donned my protective gear (which I had never used before dealing with Africanized bees) and went out to try to settle things down. During that encounter I was stung nearly 80 times. I couldn’t count, but I counted stings even if there was no stinger to be found at the site of the sting. I ran back into the school and chugged some antihistamine and then went out to finish the work. Interestingly… I didn’t swell. I also noticed that, from that day, stings didn’t hurt a fraction of what they used to!
I kind of liked this new arrangement. But I also recognized that my risk for a serious reaction had just gone up. Not to swell or react to a sting is actually an indication that one’s immune system has actually developed more of an immune response, which could eventually become dangerous. Anyway, I enjoyed this new state of affairs for a year or two, and then the school asked me to get rid of the bees, as they were simply too aggressive.

I then went without bees for about 5 or 6 years, purchasing some more when we were living in NJ. By that time, my reaction to bee stings had returned to normal. I swell, but not terribly. Stings hurt, but not as badly as when I first started beekeeping. And, with the kind of bees we have in the USA, I’m back to getting stung rather infrequently, even though I work my hives every so many weeks during warm weather.
So, that’s my story. I believe it illustrates a fairly normal immune response to stings. Just keep in mind that the venom between wasps, hornets, yellow jackets and honey bees is different. Having a given reaction (or lack of reaction) to one kind of sting doesn’t mean that one will have the same with another kind of sting.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 6:55AM
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I garden in the city. I have not been stung since I was a kid running barefoot in our yard (thank goodness!) I do keep an eye out for anything flying around and I do use wasp spray if I see them hanging around.


    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:23AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

You should have your husband patrol your yard for wasp nests and he should be the one to spray and take care of them. You will have other bees, wasps, bee like insects hovering around if you have a garden. If your fear is keeping you from going outside, next time you see a doctor for anything discuss this fear and be clear how it is affecting you. Maybe the doctor would give you an epipen.

When I am stung it is always the paper wasps. They have nest under my soffit and some get in the house. Bees don't bother me at all but they will sting if you walk in clover with bare feet.

If you don't have snakes, sometimes it is nice to go in the garden at dusk or in the evening when those insects are not out. If you have lights there will be other insects coming to the light but they don't sting.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 3:18PM
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pam_chesbay(VA 8a/7b)


I loved your story! Lots of wisdom embedded in it.


I'm a member of the "face your fear and do it anyway club." If we avoid everything we fear, even when we know the fear is "irrational," we deprive ourselves of many things that would give us great pleasure.

When I was 7 or 8, I was stung several times by yellow jackets, had a bad reaction and trouble breathing. We lived in the country, no hospital nearby, so my parents took me to the drugstore where the pharmacist gave me a shot and I was ok. From that point on, I realized that I was allergic to bee stings so I was watchful. I didn't stop gardening. Later, I got Epi-pens in case I got stung.

Fast forward a few decades to the present. DH has wanted to keep bees for years. We tried to think of a way he could do this without putting me in danger. Then I had an idea - am I REALLY allergic? I called an allergy clinic - they said they could test me for allergies to 7 stinging insects (all the common ones in the US). I had the allergy test - and learned that I'm not allergic to those stinging insects. Yaaay!!

Last year, we ordered bees and started beekeeping. I am not afraid so I check the hives as often as Pete does. Last summer, I was stung once, he was stung several times. The sting hurts - but not that much and not for long. One of our neighbors has an auto-immune condition. She believes bee stings help her condition so she puts her hand in the hive to get stung on purpose!
Since you are afraid that you may be allergic, getting tested may alleviate some of your fears.

It's probably a good idea to keep Benadryl in your pocket when you are working outside. I've had reactions when my skin turns red and swells. Benadryl has been effective with that problem.

Take care,

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 3:30PM
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I am certainly glad I am not the only one with an "irrational" fear of those things. I HATE them. Like others have said, using the baby powder might not be a good idea - they seem to be attracted to sweeter scents.

I have read that keeping mugwort around keeps them away, but I have also read that mugwort is invasive. The same source stated that a sprig of mugwort behind one's ear keeps can keep a person from getting stung - but this could merely be an old wive's tale. A poultice made from crushed mugwort helps with the inflammation and pain from stings.

Another solution I have read about is to make a wasp trap. I've included a link below. I haven't tried either of these solutions, but am really considering both for this summer!
Good luck!


Here is a link that might be useful: How to make a wasp trap

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 1:48AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

We tried to use a commercially purchased wasp trap to lure the wasps off the screened-in porch, which was one of their favorite places to build nests in our early years here.

Here's what I found:

1) It seemed to attract more wasps closer to the house than we'd had before and not that many went into the trap. They buzzed around it all day, but were too smart for the most part, to let themselves get trapped, and

2) It stinks. It wasn't that we were not warned---the wasp trap packaging plainly stated that there would be an awful odor and that it was necessary to attract the wasps. Well, the awful smell did one thing----it repelled humans. None of us could stand the smell, so after a few stinky days and with only a handful of wasps in the trap, we took it down and threw it away, having decided the smell was worse than the wasps.

Your mileage may vary....


    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:16AM
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