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Backpacker Magazine – May 2008

Survive This: Swarming Wasps

Forget all the rules about freezing or making yourself big. When faced with these angry beasts run for cover.

by: Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

Illustration by Andy Potts
Illustration by Andy Potts

Predicament You're climbing over a log when your boot crunches into a wasp nest. Instantly, you’re surrounded by buzzing, angry insects.

Lifeline For once, running like hell is the right plan. Pull up your hood—if you’re lucky enough to have one—and sprint for the nearest dense vegetation. Lay on your stomach with your hands over your face. If there’s no cover nearby, keep running until the swarm subsides.

When the wasps lose interest, check yourself: Even if you're not allergic, multiple stings can cause severe pain, swelling, and itching. Apply a cold pack or chilled water bladder to the worst areas and take an oral antihistamine like Benadryl to reduce swelling.

If you're allergic, a serious anaphylactic reaction can occur within 15 minutes. "Take an oral antihistamine–even before a reaction starts," says Tod Schimelpfenig, curriculum director at the Wilderness Medicine Institute. If your condition worsens–difficulty breathing, tightness of chest, dizziness, or swelling throat–inject epinephrine (prescription required) into the outside of your thigh. Lie down, treat for shock, and seek medical help. Keep another epi dose ready.

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Star Star Star Star Star
Jul 07, 2014

A co-worker once dug into a creek bank and the wasps attacked him. I was close by and ran like hell without stopping to render aide. I was not stung. If you ever get chased by a bear, throw honey on the guy your with and run the other direction.

Star Star Star Star Star
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May 21, 2013

This article was not helpful. If you're allergic then you should be carrying an epipen and know how to use it. I guess I was thinking I was going to learn something new not stuff that seems like common sense.

Apr 07, 2012

I stepped on a hornet nest while trying to hop a fence. I was hopping the fence cause there was a thorn nest blocking my way home. Let's just say the thorns didn't hurt as much when I ran through.

Jun 27, 2011

When I was 11 and on holiday in Pakistan, we were asked by the adults to pick oranges from our fields for the guests due to arriave later that evening. There were 7 of us, from England and one of my naitve cousins. We saw the biggest, juiciest oranges on one tree and thought, how come no-one has picked these? So off we went with our childlike naievity and began picking. After a few minutes a single large wasp landed on my younger sister and stung. She showed it to my older sister and she said not to worry... little did she know of the protent to come. Within minutes a black cloud arose from the tree and targeted us with a deadly intent. My native cousin asked us all to run home. Staying last to make sure we all got out. We ran along the slim paths with people pelting us with boxes of matches. We didnt stop we continued running down the precariously narrow and deep canal without thought, we wnt into an elderly relatives house only to be screamed at - she kept saying she was old and couldn't run. The swarm were still chasing us. We finally managed to get back to our house in a record 5 minutes for a 20 minute journey. We ran in crying and screaming only to be rebuked by the adults for our inappropriate manner. All the while we were pulling this large wasps off us. In the ned I counted atleast 20 stings in me and each of my family had similar numbers. My native cousin had the worst fate, her face became extremely swollen on one side and stayed that way for a month. My older sister was the hero of the day as she had carried the heavy bag of oranges back while she was running!
still makes for good story telling!

Jun 04, 2011

An old Spanish man once told me to use mud on a sting I thought he was crazy, till I try ed it.
you will be amazed.

May 22, 2011

Step on yellow jacket nest,stung many times as I ran away

May 20, 2011

I stepped on top of a wasps' nest and boy were they angry. They pursued me and I took off, but they nailed me about 6 times. I caught up to my hiking buddies ahead and stopped. One friend pulled off his shirt and held it up close to the swarm, and the wasps stung the shirt, not me. Very bizarre sight.

May 20, 2011

I've been known to have a swarm or two chase me down. The worst is when they form themselves into an arrow or giant bee shape and gun for me. I've found that a large object can deflect them from time to time. Ay BooBoo?

May 20, 2011

I've been known to have a swarm or two chase me down. The worst is when they form themselves into an arrow or giant bee shape and gun for me. I've found that a large object can deflect them from time to time. Ay BooBoo?

J. Hart
Apr 22, 2011

Sounds crazy, but I used WD40. It seemed to weight them down so they couldn't fly.

Mar 28, 2011

Don't forget to check your four legged friend if you have one with you. I crashed a nest on accident and ran away managing only recieving one bite. My pup on the other hand would have had many more had I not checked him. Although they weren't able to sting him yet, I found about 8 burried in his under coat!

Oct 16, 2010

I disturbed a yellow jacket nest and pulled off my sweater and dropped it as I ran. The bees stayed on the sweater! I am not sure if this is common behavior for bees, but it's worth a try if you have on extra layers.

Apr 20, 2010

This happened to me on a day hike when, soon after a rain, I must have interrupted the wasps near their nest and they came at me. Fortunately, I was wearing pants, a hat and a jacket, leaving only my face and hands as targets. I was nailed 5 or 6 times but was able to dissuade them from further attack by doing as you suggest: Running like hell!

Pete Kroner
Apr 13, 2010

I agree... but I jumped into my swimming pool in the back yard. They didn't follow me under water but did extract about 9 bites wounds on the way in which took weeks to heal. Water seems to turn them off...


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