About two months ago, my mother began harassing me about a nest of stinging insects in my front yard.
At first, I didn't believe her that it was there. Once I saw it for myself (from the safety of my car), I researched the bugs and found out that they were yellow jackets.
I'm allergic to yellow jackets. Yellow jackets are highly territorial and very aggressive. I have a 2-year-old and four cats. They had to go.
Being the crunchy nut that I am, I intended to get rid of the pesky creatures without chemicals. I found chemical-free suggestions for eliminating the insects, including the use of a ShopVac.
I will not go into the details of the ShopVac plan, but Joe and I thought it was a good idea. My dad, however, is the owner of the ShopVac that we would have had to use, and he vetoed our idea. He said we needed to get a gallon or two of gasoline and pour it in the hole at night.
Seriously? Pour gasoline into the ground?
Joe and I were not for that plan, even though my dad was quick to specify that we should not light a fire but rather just pour the fluid into the next. Still, we declined.
Everything I read said that the bugs would most certainly die over the winter, so if we could avoid them until then, we wouldn't have to do anything.
So the yellow jackets stayed, undisturbed.
Until this evening, when I harangued Joe to mow our grass. It was hideously tall and more than a little embarrassing, and I was sick of looking at it.
Joe forgot about the nest of yellow jackets.
Do you see what's coming?
He mowed over the yellow jackets. They swarmed him. He tried to run away from them, cartoon-style. They followed, biting and stinging him halfway down the block.
When the poor man got into the house, all he said was, “I did something stupid.”
Thinking he ran over something expensive (which is usually the case when he says that), I started to get mad. Then I noticed he was bleeding.
“I ran over the bees.” He tried to explain, but I already knew. Glancing over his arms and legs, I saw no less than twenty already bleeding bumps.
“You're not allergic to bees, are you?” I asked, angry with myself for not knowing.
“Um. I'm not sure, but I don't think so,” he replied, uneasy.
He was sweaty and covered with dirt and grass clippings. I didn't know what bacteria the bugs might be carrying. I told him to take a quick shower, and to try to clean all of the wounds with soap.
Knowing that my dad had been attacked by a swarm of yellow jackets several times in his life, I called him and asked him what to do (and also posted a request for info to Twitter). My Twitter friends, for the most part, said Get him to the ER! but my dad said to check all of the wounds over, remove any stingers that were still stuck in the skin, and smear on a 3:1 paste of baking soda and water.
Checking often to make sure Joe wasn't experiencing any hives, headache, nausea, or head/neck swelling, I began to smear the baking soda paste on the bites and stings.
We ascertained that all but three of the wounds were bites, not stings. The bites were open, bleeding wounds, but they lacked venom to make the skin painful and swollen. The stings (on the back of his ear, his calf, and his forearm) had no discernible wound, but were large, swollen, and hot.
After applying most of a box of baking soda to Joe's skin, we called my dad again. He said that Joe needed some Benadryl and probably some topical bee sting cream, and he repeated the importance of going straight to the hospital if Joe developed other symptoms.
We didn't have any Benadryl.
I didn't want to leave Joe alone, so I made Grace and Joe come along to the drug store.
As I was strapping her into the carseat, Grace said Mah butt hurts, Mommy. Lifting up her dress, I saw that she didn't have a diaper on.
Oh, that's right! I was letting her skin air out, and I forgot to put a diaper on her in the fracas. After sliding a diaper under her, I drove toward the drug store.
Part way there, Grace gasped, Mommy, mah shoes! and I noticed I'd forgotten to put those on her, too.
We must have been some motley crew entering the CVS: Joe looking like Charlie Brown's friend, Pig Pen, leaving a trail of baking soda dust in his wake; Grace, the shoeless 2-year-old; and me, wearing the top two articles of clothing from my dirty laundry.
The pharmacist directed us to Benadryl and a bee sting relief cream. Joe is using those along with ibuprofin and ice packs for the swelling.
Joe is still in pain, but he is getting some relief. He's going to be okay.
But those yellow jackets' days are numbered.
With single digits.
Note (added 9/11/09) – Carol just brought it to my attention that the comments are closed on this post. I'm not sure how they became closed, but I fixed it.
In addition to talking to my dad, I also consulted an article from the Mayo Clinic for advice. I have no medical expertise, so please don't use this article as medical advice.
Photo courtesy of Bob Macinnes, on Flickr
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