I had actually intended to save this blog topic for a later date, but getting stung by a bald-faced hornet this morning advanced my timeline!
It’s that time of year when we all need to carefully “observe” our work areas before commencing work. Especially jobs like trimming shrubs.
By the time July and August arrive in the northern US, wasps and hornets have had ample time to build nests -- which they will aggressively defend. And these aren’t usually the "bees" that only sting once, they can swarm you and deliver multiple, painful stings very quickly!
These sorts of stings can be deadly to someone with a bee allergy, so those individuals usually keep “Epi-Pens” close by just in case of emergency. An allergic person could have his or her airway swell shut, so quick medical care is extremely important.
I always take Benadryl as soon as I get stung, but please do not consider that an endorsement or as a substitute for professional medical advice, since I am not a doctor. We always carried it in the First Aid kits in our work trucks.
So then, back to the point at hand. During daylight hours it is usually easy to spot an active nest if someone takes time to observe. Spend some time scouting the area you plan to be working in for all sorts of nests, they often resemble airports with steady air traffic in and out.
And check at ground level too, since some of the downright meanest bees are those ground dwelling yellow jackets! They love to have an entrance to hives near a wall or sidewalk edge, but if you mow over a nest they will quickly find you!
Even after observing no activity in your work area, shaking the shrubs you intend to trim may save you from a sudden stinging surprise later!
Over the years I’ve heard people speak of dumping a couple ounces of gasoline down the holes of ground bees and lighting it on fire which is a bad idea since one man actually caught his house on fire. While it’s the gasoline fumes that kill the bees, gasoline is not a legal or very safe alternative, so be sure to use products labelled for wasps if you go the chemical route. Read label instructions -- many products will kill vegetation, leaves and maybe your entire plant.
Finally, the best time to go after a nest is a couple hours after sunset when all "airport activity" has subsided. Aerosol sprays with a 25-foot range (or more) are also highly recommended. Read and follow label instructions!
Most web sites covering this topic also recommend completely covering yourself up, with long pants taped around your ankles, long sleeves and head (and eye) protection. Bees are beneficial, so only destroy a nest if you must.