Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bee and Wasp Stings

Does it bug you as much as it bugs me when people start screaming, flailing and scattering at the first sign of a stinging insect?  It sure annoys me.  So I did a bit of research..........

And here are some of my conclusions:

Prevention of stings lies in identifying your bug and knowing what to do about it.  A honey bee sting produces the worst response because it injects considerably more venom than wasps.  A wasp is much much more likely to sting than a hornet.....forget about the myths about hornets.

First of all, flailing arms about in the air is NOT a good idea. Most of these members of the hymenoptera family of insects don't sting unless threatened so if you accidentally hit the insect while throwing your arms around, you are more likely to be stung. The precautionary approach is to either ignore the insect or get up and leave, quietly informing others in your vicinity.

Identifying the insect?

The most common stingers around Wynyard are yellow jackets - a 1.3 cm long wasp with prominent yellow stripes on its body. It is fairly aggressive in protecting itself and its nest. If a yellow jacket perceives a threat it will sting and release anywhere between 2 and 15 micrograms of toxin into the skin. It also gets bored quickly so when people are eating outside, hiding any dishes that might attract wasps, sitting still while one is exploring and waiting for it to leave (unnerving as it might be) will leave everyone unbitten. (Swatting air at it is ok but be careful not to strike it.)

A honey bee is less aggressive, same size but fatter than a wasp with dull yellow stripes - if it stings, it cannot withdraw its weapon - leaving the stinger, parts of the muscles and its lower bowel behind. It dies shortly thereafter. Release of the stinger sends a pheromone into the air to attract other bees to the scene of its death, so move away quickly even if you are not the victim. The person who is stung should change any clothing that was in contact with the bee as the pheromone might be on them.

Bumblebees are a larger (about 2 cm long) and even more passive version of the honey bee; it is safe to watch them gather nectar from a flower garden.

A hornet is less common, larger, almost 2.5 cm long, thin-bodied and rather passive - they are big vicious-looking insects that occasionally find their way into warm parked cars. They need considerable provocation to use their stingers which contain about the same amount of toxin as a wasp.

The actual venom contain enzymes (hyaluronidases) that break down cellular membranes, melittin which stimulates an inflammatory response and some histamine releasing agents.

The first sign of being stung is intense pain. Within an hour, swelling around the sting site, usually about 2 - 4 cm in diameter, occurs followed by intense itchiness. Scratching the site increases the swelling. Both swelling and itch last about five days. The amount of swelling varies with the amount of toxin injected and the location on someone's body - stings on faces, especially on eyelids as well as fingers, inner wrists and ankles all have the potential to swell dramatically.

Ice, applied as soon as possible after the sting is most important to decrease the size of reaction. The first hour of pain provides the victim with time to remove rings, earrings and watches from the vicinity of the sting. Application of various forms of pastes of turmeric, tobacco, salt, meat tenderizer, aspirin, garlic,and baking soda, or liquids like vinegar, urine and diluted ammonia do not “neutralize” the toxins but decrease pain by distraction and probably prevent the victim from scratching. Some people place a copper coin over the site. The only thing that actually works to reduce the size of reaction is the application of ice.

Stingers of bees contain about 50 micrograms of toxin and contain barbs that pull it further into the skin. The stinger must be removed from the skin - quickly and without squeezing because it continues to release toxins. Usually simply scraping the surface with the edge of an ordinary table knife will work. If not, use tweezers close to the skin or simply pick it out trying not to squeeze it.

One person in ten will experience a very large local reaction - the entire arm might swell from a single sting! These people benefit from taking an antihistamine as soon after receiving the sting as possible.

About 1 person in 50 has a life-threatening reaction to bee stings called an anaphylactic reaction. Anaphylaxis signals itself with a sense of a rapid heart beat, feeling that airways are closing in on the breathing tubes and feeling faint. Unfortunately, these are the same signs as for a panic attack which is not life threatening. There is not really time to differentiate so someone experiencing these symptoms should be taken to the hospital. It is false reassurance to think you are safe if you have never reacted before because anaphylaxis can occur after the 2nd or 52nd sting. According to US research there is no relationship between having allergies in general and anaphylaxis from bee stings. Of the 8000 people who died in a ten year study of the mid-Western US, half had never reacted to stings before their final bee encounter.

If you have had an anaphylactic reaction, you should carry your epi-pen during the summer. If you live more than thirty minutes from an emergency room or ambulance, you might want to keep an “epi-pen” at your house and learn how to use it.

Final word: Learn to recognize your stinging insects. Apply ice as soon as possible after a sting. Take an antihistamine - first choices are benadryl and chlortripolon every four hours for the first twenty-four hours, especially if you have had previous large reactions. If the bite is on a sensitive area, expect swelling. But, most important, unless you are unfortunate enough to have stepped on the insect or nest, chill out and let the insect go about its business of stocking up on food. Unlike the insects like mosquitoes and horse flies, it really has no interest in you.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Canadian Quakers and First Nations' Peoples

Canadian Yearly Meeting this year occurs in Eastern Ontario and we are sad that we cannot attend.  So we decided to have friends visit us here on the farm in the Touchwood Hills.

Quaker meetings from across Canada were reminded that CFSC is encouraging discernment on two important topics, one of which is called “Repudiating the doctrine of Discovery”. (The other is on biological engineering.)  In light of the work that CFSC has done over the years, a statement on this is long over-due.

Quakers were at the stand-offs at Grassy Narrows over mercury poisoning, have been dedicated to the plight of the Lubicon in Alberta over oil exploration, concerned with the tar sands effect on people who live there, have tried on both sides of the 49th to get Leonard Peltier out of prison, annually attended the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples as the charter of rights was developed (were able to persistently tackle governments especially Canadian) and stood with the Anishnabe at their latest standoffs.  (Facetiously I wonder if the connection was all due to the awareness by Quaker women that women of the Five Nations Confederency had more rights and status and white women!)

If you are interested in some of what's coming down, here's a start:

Please find:

Draft statement and resource package on the Doctrine of Discovery:

Joint statements from United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Jennifer Preston, program associate for Quaker Aboriginal Affairs Committee attended the Forum in New York, 20-31 May 2013, which brought together more than 2,000
Indigenous participants from all over the world.

CFSC supported a number of partners in making the following joint statements:

Study on the extent of violence against
Indigenous women and girls http://bit.ly/18zftKL

Implementation of the UN Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples http://bit.ly/13Z3B3z

However, we will try to put into action the very proposals made by Quakers - we will have a day, August 21st, when we will talk about why the Doctrine of Discovery was so unjust.

(If you are on facebook, the Idle No More site has links to a multitude of First Nations' activist sites.)