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  • Danielle Fornal

Why are Stinging Insects So Angry?


Stinging Insect Photo by Wix

It gets to be late summer, and just when you begin to feel like you’ve grown accustomed to what the season brings, along comes some angry stinging insects to cause a commotion!

Late summer and early autumn are a typical times to find stinging insects around your home and yard.


While many stinging insects are important pollinators, they are also a serious health threat to humans. Millions of Americans are at risk for stings that will lead to an allergic reaction, especially from insects such as wasps and yellow jackets, which can sting multiple times.


So why do stinging insects attack?

Many of the hornet and yellow jacket species that sting us are social insects. Social insects live in colonies and social insects treat those colonies as humans do their families. In the spring a single solitary queen will emerge from winter dormancy and begin the task of starting the family. The workers mature over the summer and become very busy killing insects to feed the larvae in the nest.


Until midsummer the most common reason for an attack is if an insect feels its nest is under attack (to protect the nest).


Many species of stinging insects will build nests in the vicinity of humans, so even walking near a nest by your home could potentially pose a threat to a stinging insect. In fact, not only will an individual insect have an issue with your presence, but they will also release a pheromone and communicate to the rest of the nest inhabitants to take notice of you.


Things change when the queen starts to lay her final brood, which the kings and queens will soon fly away to begin their own colonies. Once the kings and queens exit the nest in late summer, the workers are left behind have nothing left to guard. Their only tasks are to protect themselves and to eat whatever they want. This tends to be sugary foods, which humans have plenty of, which is why August and September are months that bring the most yellow jacket stings.


Some helpful tips:

  • Instead of swatting at a stinging insect, try gently blowing it away from a distance.

  • If you are being attacked, stay calm and try not to flail your arms, but do run! It’s best to try and find some kind of barrier to distance yourself from the stinging insects, such as inside a car or building. Jumping into water is not advisable.

  • Wear shoes when walking in a grassy area.

  • Carefully inspect areas in your yard for nest activity before you do work in those areas.

  • Remove crumbs and spills from an outdoor eating area immediately.

  • If you notice a hive, it is always best to call a licensed professional to remove it safely!

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