Wasp stings responsible for three deaths in Manitoba

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The city's former entomologist is urging Winnipeggers to take precautions after three Manitobans died this summer after being stung by wasps.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/09/2017 (1852 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The city’s former entomologist is urging Winnipeggers to take precautions after three Manitobans died this summer after being stung by wasps.

The three deaths, including at least one in Winnipeg, were rare, said Taz Stuart, now the entomologist and director of technical operations at Poulin’s Pest Control.

“You’d need to look at the data from the Chief Medical Examiner, but it is unusual, for sure,” Stuart said.

Alvaro Barrientos / The Associated Press Files Wasps are drawn to trash and sweet foods, including fruit trees.

Numbers released Thursday by Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner’s Office showed three deaths from complications related to wasp stings, all of them in July.

Stuart said had heard of one death before the official numbers were released.

“I knew of one in July, I did not know about the other two.” Stuart said.

The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office released data Thursday detailing deaths from any kind of bee, hornet or wasp. There have only been a handful of similar reports in the last 15 years.

A death in 2014 was related to bees, as was one in 2012. The last time a wasp sting was responsible for a death was in 2008, and another two deaths in 2002 released to insect stings, according to the data.

Stuart said he couldn’t speak to the medical factors related to the deaths, but there are a few factors that could have played a role.

“It may be they were hyperallergic to the sting, they go into anaphylactic shock and die if you don’t have an EpiPen. That’s one way. Or they have trouble breathing. That’s why I think it’s stings and other factors in this— it’s not just the stings,” Stuart said.

Just two per cent of the population is allergic to venom from bee, wasp and hornet stings, according to the Health Canada website; however, fatal allergies are thought to be less than one per cent of the average population, according to information on additional websites.

Wasps are drawn to sweet foods and trash, and because of the way they winter in harsh climates, they are almost always linked to human habitats. They build nests under eaves around homes, sheds, garages and barns, where temperatures are more likely to hover around zero.

Last winter’s mild temperatures likely meant wasps survived in greater numbers; it takes several days of -30 C temperatures to kill them.

“The queen will look for a spot where she literally won’t freeze. They had a banner overwinter. The queen overwinters and creates a new nest the following spring,” Stuart said.

Victoria Pest Control Aerial yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets create the large round nests homeowners often find around their property. If spraying them with a pesticide, do it at night when the insects are inside and settled down.

This summer is giving next year’s bee and wasp populations a good head start, he said.

“What we’re going to see is a lot of new queens pushed out of nests and creating new nests as we get into fall. If it’s a nice, mild winter like it was last year, their wintering success is always higher, so you may have a good start to next year,” Stuart said.

“Depending on how wet it is, how many flowers are out earlier in the spring, how hot and dry it is in the summer, that will determine next year’s numbers,” Stuart said.

The best way to get rid of wasps is to hire a professional pesticide company or to purchase a registered pesticide and use it on the nests after dark, when the insects are inside and settled down for the night, Stuart said.

Use a flashlight to see where you’re spraying, he said.

Calls to Poulin’s this summer to get rid of wasps were 35 per cent higher than last year.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

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