The European wasp is not just native to parts of Europe, it can also be found in North Africa, Asia and was introduced to Australia too. Because it is not a native species here it does not have natural predators and the warmer winters here mean that when in Europe only the Queen survives the winter, and that controls the nests, here, the whole nest survives. In Australia, you can get European wasp nests that have well over 100,000 wasps. They are a growing problem and like to stay close to humans and homes because of the great food and drink supply, especially all things sweet. When they are around it is a very good idea to have some knowledge of European wasp sting first aid.
What do they look like
While there are some similarities in its appearance to a bee in its shape and size there are some differences. Knowing what kind of sting you are dealing with is crucial if you or someone you know is having a bad reaction. The European wasp is about 15mm long though the Queen is another 5 mm on top of that. The body has triangular markings and is bright yellow and it has two longer antennae. When the wasp is at rest it folds its wings.
What symptoms might you see with a sting?
Remember that bees sting just once as a last resort and they leave that stinger behind in your skin. If you see the stinger then you have been stung by a bee. The European wasp stings multiple times and does not leave behind a stinger. This can help you choose the best wasp sting remedies. What is also especially unpleasant about the wasp is that it leaves a pheromone or scent when it stings so other European wasps sense it and attack as well. Symptoms of the sting include:
- Pain that feels like it is burning
- A raised lump at the site
- Local swelling
If there is a more severe reaction, for example, 1 in 10 are allergic, then there might be anaphylaxis symptoms that require immediate medical attention including;
- Swelling around the throat, tongue or mouth
- Finding it hard to swallow and even breathe
- Itching and burning skin beyond the site of the sting as well as there
- Wheezing and noisy breathing
- Heart rate speeds up, tightness in the chest and palpitations
- Vomiting, nausea or stomach cramps
- Feeling weak
- Collapsing, falling unconscious
- Metallic taste in the mouth
How to treat a European wasp sting
If a child is stung more than 5 times, an adult more than ten or there is swelling around the mouth, breathing issues or a severe allergic reaction as described above then see urgent care. For European wasp sting first aid for less severe concerns you should:
- Clean the area affected with soap warm water
- Reduce the pain and inflammation using a cold pack
- Use allergy medications for reducing swelling and pain-relieving creams
- Watch that there continues to be no serious reaction
- If you have an allergy you should carry medication just in case. When giving first aid to someone with an allergy once you administer their medication, call an ambulance, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage if you know, keep them still and avoid using a tourniquet.
Recognising their nest
Before you go looking it is important to state the best thing to do is have a licensed pest control service come out, explore your property and handle the nest destruction themselves. They have the best equipment, the training and the skill and knowledge to handle it as safely as possible. Especially if you have had an allergic reaction when it has come to treat European wasp sting reactions. It is possible that others may need to be involved including your local council depending on the location of the nest.
If you still wish to find the nest there are some things you can do. Since the European wasp can forage for food for a distance of 500 meters from its nest, you can place food in a visible outdoor location and then track the wasp as it flies back to the nest. Wasps usually fly in almost a straight line to return to it with the food they have found. You may need to move the food source around a bit until you have success. Keep in mind nests are in sheltered places, in walls, hollows of trees, underground even. It looks like it is made from papier-mache and is grey in colour.
Take appropriate precautions
As well as being prepared with first aid and remedies you can reduce the risk of the sting by getting rid of European wasps. One way is by making your area less of a good hunting ground for them. Avoid leaving food and drinks outside, even pet food. Fallen fruit should be collected off the ground and bins should have tight lids. Compost bins must also be covered and when you eat outside try to cover food as much as possible. If you see a European wasp leave it alone, if you swat at it, it will attack. Call in a licensed pest control expert to handle a nest if you have one.