Escape the Swarm: How to Get Away from a Swarm of Stingers
Avoiding a Confrontation
First and foremost, it is extremely important to try to avoid a confrontation with stinging pests, especially if you have an allergy.
- Try to be aware of where wasp nests, hornet nests, and beehives are and avoid getting too close. Wasps, hornets, and some species of bees are notoriously territorial and can become aggressive if you simply get close to their hive. Even docile bees can become aggressive if they think their hive is in danger.
- Do not swat or fail your arms. This is a sign of aggression and can cause bees/wasps to attack (if they aren’t already) and can make them more combative if already attacking.
- Try holding your breath. Bee’s use smell for navigation and can detect when you exhale, making you easier to find.
- Wear light colored clothing. A lot of the natural threats for bees are dark colored creatures such as bears, honey badgers, etc. This can make people in dark clothing more susceptible to an attack.
“Run Forrest Run!”
If you accidentally disturb a nest/hive and find yourself the victim of a swarm, follow these tips to help yourself escape:
- RUN! At the first signs of aggression, run! If a bee bumps into you or you notice a few beginning to fly around you, this is a warning and the faster you get away, the less likely you are to get stung.
- Run in a straight line, not serpentine. When running away from things, we are often told to run in a serpentine pattern. However, when it comes to flying, stinging pests, this is highly counterproductive as the swarm can stretch out horizontally and overtake you as you waste steps moving side to side while they are already spread out further than you can run. Running in a straight line is the fastest and most efficient way to escape.
- DO NOT jump into water. Bees will wait for you to resurface to attack. In one case a swarm of bees continued to wait for several hours for a man, stinging every time he resurfaced for air.
- Seek shelter. Get inside as fast as possible wherever you can shut a door – a house, a car, even a public restroom at a nature park. Even if a few swarming pests make it in after you, it’s far easier to fight off one or two as opposed to a swarm. One inside, it’s also helpful to turn off any artificial light, as it will make bees search for natural light, making them move towards windows and begin to ignore you.
It Got Me!
If you’ve unfortunately been stung make sure to follow these steps to stay safe:
- Inform others around you and seek medical attention.
- Be sure to inform others and medical staff if you have a known allergy to stings.
- Pull any remaining stingers out! The longer a stinger is in, the more venom is able to seep into your skin. A great way to cleanly remove a stinger is by using a straight edged object and swiping it across the area – you can even use your fingernail for this. Recent research has shown that it’s just important the remove the stinger as quickly as possible.
- Wash the area with soap and water.
- Apply a cold compress to reduce swelling.
Biswas, J. (2018) What to do in a Bee Attack: 5 Things You Need to Know, ABC News. Available at: https://abcnews.go.com/US/bee-attack-things/story?id=56663013 (Accessed: July 2020).
Davidson, O. (2016) Summer Safety: How to Avoid Bee-Swarm Attacks, Scientific American. Springer Nature America. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/summer-safety-how-to-avoid-bee-swarm-attacks/ (Accessed: July 2020).