Insect and Pest Safety

News Article -

No matter where you live or work in the United States stinging and biting insects and pests are near. Some are native to their current surroundings while others were imported, either intentionally or accidentally. Some insects which were imported have no local predators and their populations skyrocket.

The types of insects and pests you encounter will change depending on exactly where you live and work in the USA. The key is to understand what is common to your location, how to prevent being bitten and what to do if you are bitten. If you are unsure of what insects and pests are near to you talk to your supervisor and check out the NASS Safety Library or other resources such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), www.cdc.gov/niosh or the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), www.osha.gov for helpful information.

Bees, Wasps, and Hornets

Bees, wasps, and hornets are most abundant in the warmer months. Nests and hives may be found in trees, under roof eaves, or on equipment such as ladders.

U.S. Geographic Region
Bees, wasps, and hornets are found throughout the United States.

Preventing Insect Stings
Take the following steps to prevent insect stings:

  •  Wear light-colored, smooth-finished clothing.
  •  Avoid perfumed soaps, shampoos, and deodorants.
    • Don't wear cologne or perfume.
    • Avoid bananas and banana-scented toiletries.
  • Wear clean clothing and bathe daily. (Sweat may anger bees.)
  • Wear clothing to cover as much of the body as possible.
  • Avoid flowering plants when possible.
  • Keep work areas clean. Social wasps thrive in places where humans discard food.
  • Remain calm and still if a single stinging insect is flying around. (Swatting at an insect may cause it to sting.)
  • If you are attacked by several stinging insects at once, run to get away from them. (Bees release a chemical when they sting, which may attract other bees.)
    • Go indoors.
    • A shaded area is better than an open area to get away from the insects.
    • If you are able to physically move out of the area, do not to attempt to jump into water. Some insects (particularly Africanized Honey Bees) are known to hover above the water, continuing to sting once you surface for air.
  • If a bee comes inside your vehicle, stop the car slowly, and open all the windows.
  • Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.

First Aid

If stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet:

  • Have someone stay with the worker to be sure that they do not have an allergic reaction.
  • Wash the site with soap and water.
  • Remove the stinger using gauze wiped over the area or by scraping a fingernail over the area.
    • Never squeeze the stinger or use tweezers.
  • Apply ice to reduce swelling.
  • Do not scratch the sting as this may increase swelling, itching, and risk of infection.

Fire Ants

Imported fire ants first came to the United States around 1930. Now there are five times more ants per acre in the United States than in their native South America. The fire ants that came to the United States escaped their natural enemies and thrived in the southern landscape.
Fire ants bite and sting. They are aggressive when stinging and inject venom, which causes a burning sensation. Red bumps form at the sting, and within a day or two they become white fluid-filled pustules.

Preventing Fire Ant Stings and Bites
Workers should take the following steps to prevent fire ant stings and bites:
• Do not disturb or stand on or near ant mounds.
• Be careful when lifting items (including animal carcasses) off the ground, as they may be covered in ants.
• Fire ants may also be found on trees or in water, so always look over the area before starting to work.

First Aid
Those with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.
Take the following steps if they are stung or bitten by fire ants:

  • Rub off ants briskly, as they will attach to the skin with their jaws.
  • Antihistamines may help.Follow directions on packaging.
    • Drowsiness may occur.
  • Take the worker to an emergency medical facility immediately if a sting causes severe chest pain, nausea, severe sweating, loss of breath, serious swelling, or slurred speech.

Scorpions

Scorpions usually hide during the day and are active at night. They may be hiding under rocks, wood, or anything else lying on the ground. Some species may also burrow into the ground. Most scorpions live in dry, desert areas. However, some species can be found in grasslands, forests, and inside caves.

U.S. Geographic Region
Southern and Southwestern United States.

Symptoms

Symptoms of a scorpion sting may include:
• A stinging or burning sensation at the injection site (very little swelling or inflammation)
• Positive "tap test" (i.e., extreme pain when the sting site is tapped with a finger)
• Restlessness
• Convulsions
• Roving eyes
• Staggering gait
• Thick tongue sensation
• Slurred speech
• Drooling
• Muscle twitches
• Abdominal pain and cramps
• Respiratory depression

These symptoms usually subside within 48 hours, although stings from a bark scorpion can be life-threatening.

Preventing Scorpion Stings
Workers should take the following steps to prevent scorpion stings:
• Wear long sleeves and pants.
• Wear leather gloves.
• Shake out clothing or shoes before putting them on.
• Workers with a history of severe allergic reactions to insect bites or stings should consider carrying an epinephrine auto injector (EpiPen) and should wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace stating their allergy.

First Aid
Take the following steps if they are stung by a scorpion:
• Contact a qualified health care provider or poison control center for advice and medical instructions.
• Ice may be applied directly to the sting site (never submerge the affected limb in ice water).
• Remain relaxed and calm.
• Do not take any sedatives.
• Capture the scorpion for identification if it is possible to do so safely.

Source: US Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, Workplace Health & Safety Topics