Originally created 07/08/06

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Summertime is crittertime, but those that sting and bite can leave painful reminders that can be life-threatening for those with allergies. To avoid stinging insects, it is important to learn about them. Most sting reactions are caused by five types of insects: yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants.

YELLOW JACKETS: These winged insects are black with yellow markings, and their nests, which are made of a papier-mach material, are usually located underground. Sometimes they are found in the walls of frame buildings, cracks in masonry or woodpiles.

HONEYBEES: These are the "fuzzy"-bodied bees with dark brown coloring and yellow markings. The honeybee usually leaves its barbed stinger in its victim; the bee dies as a result. Honeybees are nonaggressive and will sting only when provoked. Africanized honeybees, or so-called "killer bees" found in the southwestern U.S. and South and Central America, are more aggressive and may sting in swarms. Domesticated honeybees live in man-made hives, while wild honeybees live in colonies or "honeycombs" in hollow trees or cavities of buildings. Africanized honeybees may nest in holes in house frames, between fenceposts, in old tires or in holes in the ground.

PAPER WASPS: These are slender with elongated bodies and are black, brown, or red with yellow markings. Their nests are made of a paperlike material that forms a circular comb of cells. The nests are often located under eaves, behind shutters or in shrubs or woodpiles.

HORNETS: Sometimes confused with yellow jackets, hornets are black or brown with white, orange or yellow markings and are usually larger than yellow jackets. Their nests are gray or brown, football-shaped and made of a paper material similar to that of yellow jackets' nests. Hornets' nests are usually found high above ground on branches of trees, in shrubbery, on gables or in tree hollows.

FIRE ANTS: These are reddish-brown to black stinging insects related to bees and wasps. They build nests of dirt in the ground that may be quite tall (18 inches) in the right kinds of soil. Fire ants may attack with little warning: after grasping the victim's skin with its jaws, the fire ant arches its back as it inserts its rear stinger into the skin. It then pivots at the head and may inflict multiple stings. Fire ant venom often causes an immediate burning sensation.

PREVENTING STINGS

The best way is to stay away from the insects' nest.

If you do encounter a flying stinging insect, try to remain calm and quiet, and move slowly away from them. Many stinging insects are foraging for food, so don't look or smell like a flower - avoid brightly colored clothing and perfume when outdoors. Because the smell of food attracts insects, be careful when cooking, eating, or drinking sweet drinks outdoors. Keep food covered until eaten.

TREATING STINGS

If you are stung by a honeybee that has left its stinger (and attached venom sac) in your skin, try to remove the stinger within 30 seconds. A quick scrape of a fingernail does the trick. Avoid squeezing the sac - this forces more venom through the stinger into the skin. Hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets do not usually leave their stingers. Try to remain calm, and brush these insects from the skin with deliberate movements. Leave the area.

If you are stung by fire ants, carefully brush them off.

If you are severely allergic to insect stings, carry an auto-injectable epinephrine (adrenalin) device, a short-term treatment for severe allergic reactions. Remember that injectable epinephrine is rescue medication only, and you must still get to an emergency room immediately if you are stung. Additional medical treatment may be necessary.

Source: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

TODAY

Studio South exhibit: A free exhibit, The Artists of Studio South Show Their Colors, will be on display through July 21 at the Aiken Center for the Arts, 122 Laurens St. S.W. The center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Call (803) 641-9094 for more information.

MUSEUM EXHIBIT: A free exhibit by the Aiken Artist Guild will be on display through July 30 at Aiken County Historical Museum, 433 Newberry St. S.W. The museum is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call (803) 642-2015.

BLOWN AWAY: THE WILD WORLD OF WEATHER: The show will begin at 7 and 8 p.m. at Dupont Planetarium, 471 University Parkway. Tickets cost $4.50 for adults, $3.50 for seniors and $2.50 for students. Call (803) 641-3769.

Classic movies: Wings will be shown at 4 and 7 p.m. at the Imperial Theatre, 745 Broad St., as part of the Classics on the Silver Screen series. Tickets cost $4 for regular admission and $3 for students, seniors and military personnel. Call (706) 722-8341.

FREE OIL CHANGE: The Single Adult Ministry of First Baptist Church of North Augusta will sponsor a free oil change for single women from 8 a.m. to noon in the parking lot of Dr. Mike Havird's office, 1810 Knox Ave., North Augusta. Call (803) 279-6370 for more information.

TOMATO FESTIVAL: A tomato festival will be held from 8 a.m. to noon, or until vendors are sold out, at the Aiken County Farmers Market, 897 Richland Ave. E. A variety of tomatoes, other fruits and baked goods will be sold. Call (803) 642-7761.