The Champion

Stinging Insects and Other Venomous Animals

Contributed by SafetySmart

For outside workers, stinging insects are a summertime job hazard. Stings are usually just an unpleasant annoyance, but occasionally they can cause serious illness and death.

Wasps, hornets, bees and certain kinds of ants can all deliver stings. Usually the result is no worse than a painful local swelling that clears up in a few days. However, receiving too many stings or a having a severe allergic reaction to a sting can be fatal. People startled by insect stings (or even the threat of them) have been injured in killed in falls, vehicle crashes and contact with moving machinery and powered tools, and workers on horseback have been thrown by alarmed horses.

Awareness is the best defense against stinging insects—awareness of their habits and habitats, and awareness of one’s own allergies.

Stinging insects have a stinger at the butt end of the abdomen. Most, except the honey bee, can sting more than once. The stinger punctures the skin and injects venom, causing pain and itching.

You should learn to identify the stinging insects likely to be found in your area. Stinging insects common through most of the United States and Canada include:bee_and_wasp

1. Wasps
2. Hornets
3. Yellowjackets
4. Honey bees
5. Bumblebees

In addition, two aggressive types of stinging insects can be found in the southern United States: fire ants and Africanized honey bees.

So how can you avoid stings? Start by avoiding the insects. Check out your surroundings before starting work. Watch for insects entering or exiting a hole in a building or the ground that could lead to a nest. Common locations for nests are under eaves, decks and stairwells, inside buildings near doors and windows, in trees and fallen logs, holes in the ground, lumber and piles of debris.

Dress to protect yourself. You can wear gloves, long sleeves and long pants. Tuck pants into boots and run tape around clothing at your ankles and wrists. Two layers of fabric is better protection than one. Tie back long hair to keep insects from becoming entangled. If you must work near bees or wasps, use a hat with netting to cover your head, neck and shoulders.

Bright colored, patterned and dark clothing tends to attract insects more than plain light colors. Fragrances such as perfumes and soap scents also attract these insects.

One thing that won’t do much to protect you is insect repellent.

Be aware that a power tool such as a chainsaw or a lawnmower may agitate bees and wasps. Even the pounding of a hammer can rile them.

Swatting at bees and wasps also upsets them. You are better off walking away slowly. However, if you have disturbed a nest or are attacked by a swarm, cover your face and run.

Food attracts some stinging insects including yellowjackets, so keep it cleaned up and covered. Trash cans should be emptied and washed frequently. Keep drinks covered so you don’t take a sip that includes a wasp.

Check to see if the stinger is still there. If so, quickly scrape it off. To relieve the burning sensation, itching and swelling, apply ice wrapped in a towel and an anti-itch medication. An antihistamine pill might also help reduce itching and a mild case of hives. To prevention infection, wash the area and don’t scratch it.
If you are stung around throat, get medical help fast because swelling could make it hard for you to breathe.

Watch for signs of severe allergic reaction in yourself and your companions. These include:

• Hives, itching and swelling in areas other than the site of the sting
• Swollen eyes and eyelids
• Difficulty breathing
• Hoarse voice
• Swelling of the tongue
• Dizziness
• Shock, which can lead to unconsciousness and cardiac arrest

Call for medical help immediately if you observe any of these symptoms. A person who has experienced a severe allergic reaction to a sting in the past needs to carry a bee sting kit which is an auto-injectable syringe containing epinephrine at all times. He or she should wear a medical alert bracelet, carry a cell phone and make sure the employer, co-workers and companions know how to use give an injection to stop the reaction.



Few spiders have enough venom to harm a human being. Unlike venomous insects and scorpions, they don’t sting. Instead, they bite and inject venom. In the United States and Canada poisonous spiders include the:

1. Black widow spider
2. Brown recluse (violin) spider
3. Hobo spider


1. Learn how to identify these three spiders. Then you don’t have to worry about all the other harmless spiders.
2. Use gloves and watch where you put your hands. Black widows like undisturbed places such as woodpiles and fences. Brown recluse spiders like these quite places too, but may hide in closets, shoes and fabrics if they find their way indoors. Hobo spiders like fences, firewood, windowsills and closets also.
3. Check or shake out clothing, towels and equipment before using.


Spider bites can vary from minor to severe and, rarely, fatal. If you are bitten, stay calm and try to identify the type of spider that got you.

Wash the bite area. Use an ice-filled cloth to reduce swelling. Tell your supervisor and seek medical attention.

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