July 21, 2014 6:35 pm

Top 5 things you should know about wasps

Watch above: Death of Mayor Lucie Roussel sheds light on importance of testing, treatment of allergies. Mark Carcasole reports. 

MONTREAL –  The death of Mayor Lucie Roussel caused by 15 wasp stings has people asking many questions about the insects. Here are 5 things Global News has compiled about wasps.

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1. Can a wasp sting really be fatal?

The sting of a wasp usually wears off within 24 hours but for a small minority of people the venom in their sting causes anaphylactic shock which can be fatal.

In Lucie Roussel’s case, it is still unclear whether or not she was allergic to wasps. Allergy expert Joseph Schuster from the MUHC explained that she may have developed an allergy without knowing it. However, he said it is very unusual to die from a sting.

“There is a greater chance of dying when you’re struck by lightning than dying from an anaphylactic reaction.”

WATCH: Full interview with Dr. Joseph Schuster

2. What do you do if you step on a wasp nest?

Entomologist at the Montreal Insecterium, Marjolaine Giroux told Global News it is important not to disturb a nest because their instinct is to defend themselves if they are under attack. “They have a chemical signal between each other and if they are under attack they will send out an alarm to alert other wasps to come and help,” she explained.

Giroux advises that if a nest is stepped on, one must try to go indoors immediately.

“Find a place to protect yourself, go inside a car or house or even jumping in water is also an option,” she suggested.

Swatting is not advisable, the insects will become more aggressive and will not leave you alone, so it is important to take action and not stay in one position.

3. How to treat a sting if you’re not allergic 

Regular wasp stings can easily be treated at home.

  • Wash the sting area with water and soap to remove as much of the venom as possible.
  • Apply a cold pack to the wound site to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry to prevent infection.
  • Cover with a bandage
  • Use hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to soothe the discomfort.
  • Ibuprofen can also manage the pain

4. Where are wasps most commonly found? 

Wasp nests are sometimes highly visible, like in a tree, and other times hidden underground or inside a wall.  The wasps themselves are commonly found around garbage and rotting fruit. They are also attracted to sweet smells because sugar can increase their lifespan and reproductive function. That’s why you’ll especially catch them hovering around sugary drinks and picnic areas.

5. What role do wasps play in the insect world? 

Believe it or not, wasps do more good than harm. They play a vital role in protecting gardens and farm crops by controlling pest populations. They capture and consume insects such as flies, caterpillars and beetle larvae.

WATCH: Rick from Dutch Growers has tips on how to deal with wasps around yards and gardens.

 

 

© Shaw Media, 2014

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