View Full Version : Yellow Jackets
On The Great Smokies National Park's Official website, I read warnings about the ground burrows of Yellow Jackets. It is said the bees find the newly turned earth beside the trail (from trail maintenance) great places to build their burrows. They said bears dig them up to eat them, which in turn, angers the bees for a few days, causing them to swarm and attack passing hikers. Cautions about the bees include warnings of several deaths due to bee stings. Can anyone tell me if they've encountered many of these bees or heard form other hikers who have? This report worries me as much, if not more, than the possibilities of bear encounters. At least bears can be discouraged/frightened off with the right techniques. Bees just get mad. I HATE BEES!
I did not get bitten by a single bee during my thru-hike in 2000. That doesn't mean that you'll have the same experience, but you very well may. If you learn not to swat at bees that fly near you during your hike, IMO, your chances of being stung will be decreased. In other words, if you ignore bees, they tend to ignore you. Also, if you do a traditional northbound thru-hike, things will still be fairly cold in GSMNP (depending on your start date) up on the ridges where the AT wanders.
I've hiked a fair amount in the Smokys, both on the AT and off and have not had any problems with bees or yellow jackets. They are present, but mostly they just buzz over, investigate, and then take off. I tend not to swat at them. If I do decide that they must die, I give them a verbal warning first and that tends to make them leave. Bears, however, at least in the western part of the park, are not so easy to drive off.
Mom Lamb: Since you are a newcomer to AT circles, I don't want you to think that bears are something to be worried about on the AT (based on Chris' posting). They are something you need to be aware of, and have respect for, but you will not (in all likelyhood) have to "drive them off". I think Chris had his tounge in cheek during that posting. If you reach the GSMNP in March or April, the ridgelines are almost devoid of life because it is still winter up there. In May you will start to see more bee, bear & other wildlife activity along the AT above 4000'. Hope that helps.
Bears are not to be worried about for the most part on the AT. In the western Smokys, the density of visitors to Cades Cove has humanized bears and this spills over a bit to some of the shelters on the AT (Mollies, Russell, Spence).
I've run into bears in other parts of the park with no problems. I'm a bit more worried about running into a boar, but haven't yet.
My post about bears was not to be taken too seriously. However, I did have a 30 minute conversation (a triffle one sided) with a bear on the AT in the Smokys this last May. The bear was just looking for some food and cared not at all that I was around: My food was up in the cables. But, he did enjoy munching on one of my salt encrusted socks.
well i dont have much experaince in the smokies but ive had experiance with bees before. over the summer while i was hiking a ridge line i stoped for a little water and was stung by some type of bee, then again a few minutes later by another and then again right after that. it wasnt too painful, im not really sure what kind of bees they were but it was quite anoying. im not sure if i disrupted a nest of theirs or what. they were little and kinda redish brown. they might have bitten me im not sure. but then later that day, like two miles down the trail, we decided to take a nap for a while, kinda a lazy sorta day and i watched a bee, this one mighta been a yellow jacket i dont really recall, but it walked around on my arm and i figured hey if i dont bother it it wont bother me. my philosophy for most creatures, so as i watched it it proceded to turn around in a circle and then sting me. well i wasnt happy, but i just swated it away from my arm. i did get to see the venom seep into my tisues though which was actualy pretty cool and then watch my body react to it and puff up kinda like a really big mosquito bite. but i think my experiance was rather rare. i must attract them or somthing. if your alergic, id say be very carful, but for the most part i dont think your hike will be like some B horror movie. just be carful not to set up your tent over a ground hive or near one in a tree or anything like that. they should really leave you alone if you dont bother them.
I have seen yellow jacket nests beside the trail. In a few cases, someone else had seen them first and posted a warning, either a paper sign or the word "bees" spelled with sticks (it's easier to spell "bees" with sticks than "yellow jackets"). We bushwacked around the bees, but some other hikers missed the sign and got stung. I don't think it's a big problem. If you see a warning sign, walk around. If you notice a bee or two on the trail, look for a nest and avoid it. My experience has been in New England.
Thanks for the reassurances about the bears and the bees (and you thought it was the birds and the bees--heh). Anyway, I definitely won't swat at any (bees, that is), I know THAT angers them.
I am really very encouraged and impressed about how helpful the hiking community is towards one another--putting up warning signs about bees and all. WOW! That's a relief.
I'll definitely bushwack around a nest if I see one--and put up a sign for other hikers.
Black bears, I'll watch the way I store food and make sure not to turn my back on one and not to run (I've read that's a no-no). I don't expect to see too many of those, except maybe a few in the Smokies, although I know they are also in New England. Saw one this summer in Vermont on a highway in broad daylight (it ran right out in front of our car, stood on it's hindlegs and then took off).
Wow again about the bee signs! Hikers are the best! :)
I was doing a day hike on the AT an eon ago (1975) with a group of about 40 fellow hikers just off Wayah Bald in July. Someone disturbed a nest in a hollow tree next to the trail and a bunch of the kids got stung.
Last summer, 8 of us were bushwacking to a seldom visited lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and two were stung by hornets within about 30 seconds. We never saw the nest, rather putting ourselves into high gear away from the two unfortunates... they were already leaving the area at high speed.
If a yellow jacket nest (or hornet nest) near the trail, one can usually walk right past, but if there are a bunch of people walking with you, it might set them off into protection mode.
I've never had an encounter with Yellow Jackets or bees on the AT. Though I don't doubt they are out there.
I have had numerous encounters with both at other times however. Yellow Jackets are ground dwelling and bite instead of sting, so you can get multiple "hits" from the same bug. I disturbed a nest in a flower bed when I was young and got quite sick after having numerous bites on my legs.
My recommendation: Don't intentionally disturb small anthill looking things on the ground and carry a couple of Benedryl tablets (and maybe cream) in case you do get stung.