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  1. #1
    John B's Avatar
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    Default Yellow jackets sting like hellfire itself

    Today I was stung three times by yellow jackets. In my yard. While mowing. It happened about 3 hours ago and it still feels like an injection of Draino with a crooked, rusty knitting needle heated over charcoal. I can't even dimly imagine getting stung dozens of times by a hive that takes umbrage if you're unlucky enough to stumble on one. You could very well die.

    What does that have to do with hiking? Well, yellow jackets tend to swarm more in the fall (I looked it up on the internet so it must be true), and I've seen them with my very own eyes while hiking in Oct. swarming around ground nests.

    Yellow jackets are like my ex-wife -- chronically in a bad mood, exceedingly paranoid, dangerously hostile, and will react aggressively to the slightest little thing. Avoid at all costs and pay attention so that you're not caught off guard.


    https://www.hobbyfarms.com/yellow-jackets/

  2. #2

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    They are the reason I carry antihistamines in my personal first aid kit. I also carry sting-eze, basically a topical benzocaine that helps ease the pain for the first couple hours when it is worst (for me).
    Last edited by perrymk; 10-03-2019 at 07:26.

  3. #3
    illabelle's Avatar
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    My husband mowed over a yellow jacket nest in late summer or early fall with a full size tractor and bush hog. Despite the season, he was pretty well covered, wearing coveralls with long sleeves, boots, and a ball cap. And a pair of glasses with a very strong prescription.

    It was somewhere near the pond where they found him. The little boogers found exposed skin around his neck and face and hands. In his desperate haste to rid himself of them, he flung the glasses. Nearly blind, he somehow turned the tractor around, missed the pond, and parked near the kitchen, then hurried inside shedding clothes and begging for help. A paste made with baking soda helps quite a lot!

    Went out later and found his mangled glasses. Still have them somewhere.

    I sympathize.

  4. #4
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    I'll consider myself lucky when I got stung my three of them on my head and ear this summer (July 4 week).
    Hiking in GSMNP with my son... he was in the lead an apparently disturbed a nest.
    Fortunately, they seemed to be somewhat juvenile... the pain was gone by the end of the day... and we saw one on my son's sock trying to sting him. Yellow Jacket looked a little small and fortunately couldn't get the stinger thru the thick wool socks we were wearing.

    Otherwise, I too have been hit from the classic run the nest over with the lawnmower. Was nailed twice on the leg before I knew what was going on.

  5. #5

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    I've been stung so many times it's getting ridiculous. I have a Yearly Countdown but so far for 2019 I've been lucky with only about 5 total stings. These are "backpacking" stings and not backyard/mowing/yard work stings.

    I've gotten pretty good at avoiding stings by eyeballing the trails ahead and noticing their nest holes. The secret is going slow and looking ahead. And Sept/Oct is peak hornet season when they are most aggressive.

    I've had plenty of stings around the face, ears and eyes---which always suck. I like it when they grip tightly onto a finger and jab deeply. Zowie.

    My worst sting was on a backpacking trip when I brought out a can of ginger ale for a mid-trip treat. Opened and sitting next to me on the ground, a yellow jacket flew inside and when I took a sip it stung me inside my mouth on my inner bottom lip. 30 seconds of extreme pain.

  6. #6

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    I always find it best to quickly get involved in something else to occupy myself when stung. It sure beats dwelling on the pain. I also don't get stung all that often. I used to annoy my kids and make a little perch with my finger and quietly invite stinging insects over. I figure it beats the alternative of running around randomly and screaming. I'm sure it has more to do with a yellow jacket randomly exploring for food rather than intruding on their nest.

    /Not to downplay anyone's pain. There are probably regional variants that hurt more, and of course the location on the body would certainly factor in.

  7. #7

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    It's a good idea to carry something like Benadryl, that will help a lot if you get stung. I haven't been stung in many years, don't know how I'd react. One of our volunteer trail crew guys got nailed 3 different times this summer doing brushing.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Puddlefish View Post
    /Not to downplay anyone's pain. There are probably regional variants that hurt more, and of course the location on the body would certainly factor in.
    Regional variants is true as Pisgah NF (Wilson Creek area) yellow jackets are bigger and meaner than Cherokee NF Southern District hornets. On my last Pisgah romp I was bushwhacking from Upper Creek to Mountains to Sea trail and got nailed by 5 of the beasts about the head and shoulders. For two weeks after I had noticeable black "streamers" or floaters in my eyes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    It's a good idea to carry something like Benadryl, that will help a lot if you get stung. I haven't been stung in many years, don't know how I'd react. One of our volunteer trail crew guys got nailed 3 different times this summer doing brushing.
    Reminds of a woman getting rescued after stirring up a yellow jacket nest coming up the Nutbuster (Upper Slickrock 42) trail---and had to be carted off the high ground by Graham Cty NC rescue squad. I was camped nearby. Here's the girl in the ATV getting carted off the mountain (with her backpacking dog)---

    I talked to her later and she knew she was allergic and always brings an epi-pen but didn't on this trip.


  9. #9
    John B's Avatar
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    Tipi, that pic even looks like a prime yellow jacket hellfire zone, and that girl is truly lucky to be alive. Totally agree in re regional variants to the pain able to be delivered. It also seems to vary in regard to the heat and drought (the worse they are, the worse you will feel it) of a region.

    I used to carry an Epi Pen while hiking. That was when they were about $40. Now they are +$300, so I don't carry. I guess my life isn't worth the $260 (or maybe time to rethink the math).

    There is actually a insect sting pain index:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schmidt_sting_pain_index

    The bullet ant is yet another reason for me to avoid the lowland rain forests of Nicaragua.

  10. #10

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    I always keep benadryl handy;especially this time of the year.I was in the woods once and observed a beach ball sized swarm of yellow jackets swarm rise up out of the ground.Fortunately I avoided contact but have always assumed that the encounter could have turned out deadly otherwise.

    On the other hand,I have camped at times and had a few stray yellow jackets around that were interested in food etc but were not aggressive.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    My worst sting was on a backpacking trip when I brought out a can of ginger ale for a mid-trip treat. Opened and sitting next to me on the ground, a yellow jacket flew inside and when I took a sip it stung me inside my mouth on my inner bottom lip. 30 seconds of extreme pain.
    Had the exact same thing happen. Was a sad looking site with a huge swollen lip, but after a couple hours and a benadryl, all was well!

  12. #12
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    About three weeks ago was hiking alone down the Bote Mtn Trail in the Smokies. Felt a sharp "bite" on my hand and flicked my hand thinking it had been a biting fly. Then on my other arm and I thought some horse fly was after me. Then two or three more stings here and there, quickly, which is when I saw a yellow jacket and took off running about 20 yards. That was that, no real problem, though I could feel a couple of the stings that evening.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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  13. #13
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Wasps protecting a nest seem to be much more aggressive than foraging insects. And as others have noted they seem to even more aggressive at this time of the year. It does pay to be alert for bees flying from small holes near the trail. I try to especially watchful when doing trail work.

    Fortunately I am not allergic as I manage to get stung almost every season. Already I've been sting on the hand and twice on the calf this year. For this reason I carry sting ease and Benadryl.

    There is really only one thing to do if you encounter a nest on the trail--RUN!

    But at home I have managed to get revenge. Locate the nest and wait until dark. That way all the insects will be at home. If you try during daylight some of the wasps will be out foraging and you will miss some.

    Some people pour gasoline in the hole but I prefer to use a foaming termite spray. I insert the tube in the hole and fill the hole with the foam. Not as dramatic as flaming gasoline, but much safer.

    If I can find it the brand that has worked well for me is Terro. It is also good to use for carpenter bees.

  14. #14

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    During my worst hornet years I considered humping a can of wasp spray---which is what the local Rangers do in our wilderness areas---but 1) I didn't want to hump the weight (the can is heavy) and 2) I didn't feel like playing God with wilderness creatures where I was just a visitor.

    Now when I get stung on my trips I consider it Miss Nature's vaccination program. Plus, yellow jackets keep the "wild" in wilderness.

  15. #15
    Registered User rmitchell's Avatar
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    Yeah, in wilderness areas I leave them alone.


    But, if they build on my property they are fair game.

  16. #16
    Garlic
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    I get a sting every year or so while riding my bicycle, often on the head under the helmet. I just got a particularly nasty one a couple of weeks ago and it's finally just another memory. I also feel your pain.

    Hey, if we didn't get outside and do stuff, this wouldn't happen to us. I guess you can always just sit on the couch.

  17. #17
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John B View Post
    Today I was stung three times by yellow jackets. In my yard. While mowing...
    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    My husband mowed over a yellow jacket nest in late summer or early fall with a full size tractor and bush hog. Despite the season, he was pretty well covered, wearing coveralls with long sleeves, boots, and a ball cap. And a pair of glasses with a very strong prescription.

    It was somewhere near the pond where they found him. The little boogers found exposed skin around his neck and face and hands. In his desperate haste to rid himself of them, he flung the glasses. Nearly blind, he somehow turned the tractor around, missed the pond, and parked near the kitchen, then hurried inside shedding clothes and begging for help. A paste made with baking soda helps quite a lot!

    Went out later and found his mangled glasses. Still have them somewhere.

    I sympathize.
    Quote Originally Posted by rmitchell View Post
    ...Some people pour gasoline in the hole but I prefer to use a foaming termite spray. I insert the tube in the hole and fill the hole with the foam. Not as dramatic as flaming gasoline, but much safer.

    If I can find it the brand that has worked well for me is Terro. It is also good to use for carpenter bees.
    In 1995 we bought a house in Lyman NH on a 10 acre parcel, heavily wooded with about an acre of lawn/grass (or what passes for that in the mountains). I was out mowing one day with a self-propelled hand mower. Of course, for convenience and to ward off hand cramps, I had tie-wrapped the safety stop and motion bars on the handle (smart, huh? ). While mowing, all of a sudden I felt the stinging, looked down, and there were about five of the little buggers stinging my hands. So, swatting and yelling, I ran for the house distancing myself from the swarm - and then watched as the mower went rambling and bouncing off into the woods, coming to rest on its side against a large tree. In, hindsight, probably would have made a pretty funny youtube video if such had existed at the time.

    Forgetting that it's poor environmental practice, be careful with the scorched earth gasoline revenge down the hole trick. The buggers often have multiple holes. So if you light the one hole, flames can shoot out of connected passageways, even ones right behind you - and blowtorch your butt. Don't even ask. That's the video I'd really like to have - it would have gone viral...
    Last edited by 4eyedbuzzard; 10-03-2019 at 08:33.

  18. #18

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    A few years ago, in the Cohutta Wilderness in North Ga, a buddy and I were strolling down trail on a backpacking trip when something on the side of the trail caught my eye.

    The ground was churned up in a circular motion with a strange white structure in the middle of it. I stopped and looked at it for a minute and couldn't figure out what it was. The whole situation was strange and interesting. I got a little bit closer. It appeared to be a bleached turtle shell half buried in the churned up earth. My buddy was a way behind me and could not verify the strange object.

    What was this strange bleached turtle shell doing half buried on the side of the trail? Why was the earth around it churned up in a circular motion like a big mixing pot? I leaned in closer. My curious self proceeded to take my trekking pole and poke the bleached turtle shell to confirm the object...

    BOOM!!! An explosion of bald faced hornets erupted from the "bleached turtle shell" and proceed to defend their nest by stinging me over and over again. I ran out of instinct, hat falling off and adrenaline coursing through my body. I got about 40 yards away when I remembered my friend who was still a ways behind me. I stopped to yell out but before I could turn around I heard the screams.

    The poor guy merrily and unknowingly strolled into a pissed off bald faced hornets nets. He comes tearing around the corner, the both of us doing a hot coal dance trying to rid the lava like melting skin venom that had been injected into us. Out of breath and shaking we limped towards a stream for relief.

    Not even a mile down the trail, while crossing another stream, poor buddy got stung by another flying lava skin melter. A yellow jacket let him know he was not welcome at his stream bank. Ole buddy is not having a good time at this point. With venom coursing through his body we moved slowly towards camp. After settling in I began to explore around camp, observing the river and trees around me. All of a sudden, I heard and felt a thud on my back. Lighting jolted through my shoulder and into the rest of my body. What is going on!?! I turned to see a massive hornet fly towards a hole in a tree where the rest of the colony lie waiting for the offensive. I ran back to camp.

    Paranoid at any moving object at this point, we decided to turn to ole Jack Daniel for a little help. No longer enjoying our "peaceful" getaway in the mountains, we called it a night and retired to our hammocks. 2am rolls around accompanied by a rain storm. Ole buddy's tarp fell out while running away from the first attack by the bald faced hornets. Fantastic! We both get out of our hammocks and rig up a stacked system in which his hammock was under mine so he wouldnt get soaked. His face was swollen and he was feeling sick from all the stings he received. With all of the stream crossings and I didnt think it was safe to attempt a walk out in the middle of the night during a storm so we lay there till the morning brought us the opportunity to go home.

    Not sure why all the stinging creatures were so mad at us but Mother Nature kicked our asses. We made it back to the car without any more stings. Sure made for a decent story...

  19. #19
    Registered User cneill13's Avatar
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    I am more worried about yellow jackets then snakes when I am searching for firewood back in the bush of the N. Georgia mountains.

    I sat on three yellow jackets in my Helinox chair last April when I was hiking in the Smokys. Only 1 tagged me but that was enough. I could see them struggling to fly after my fat a$% sat on them but I think they probably made it.

    I use an old trick that really works. Take some wet mud or clay and put it on the sting. If you leave it there a while, it will take the pain out. I have no idea why it works but it does.

  20. #20

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    Blue indian--Your post reminds me of several bald face hornet encounters---

    One time I was camped above Hot Springs on the AT (Lover's Leap?) and woke up at 3am with something in my goatee. It was a bald face (or white face) hornet which proceeded to sting my chin. Wake up boys!

    Another time I was backpacking up North Fork Creek in Citico and just minding my own business when a bald face hornet jabbed me on the left cheek by the ear. Dangit all to heck.

    Another time I was backpacking up Sycamore Creek trail on the BMT and set up camp and went back and forth on the trail just for kicks. Dangit if a big hornet nest wasn't right next to the trail. Here it is---and there's the trail---



    Back in the 1980's I used to backpack all thru Pisgah NF along Upper Creek and commonly did backpacking bushwhacks down and up the creek---and I always used to wear my old Air Force bush hat (pictured below). One time I crossed Upper Creek and ducked under some leaves on a big tree limb and felt something land on my head---an entire bald face hornet paper nest detached and sat on top of my bush hat---THANKFULLY TO ZEUS it wasn't an active nest.

    019_19_00-XL.jpg
    Bush hat along Upper Creek.

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