What’s the latest buzz from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? The number of deaths nationwide from hornet, wasp and bee stings are at record levels, and climbing. And global warming may be to blame.
According to the CDC, between 2001 and 2017, more than 1,000 people died from stings. In 2001, 43 people died. By 2017, the number had more than doubled to 89. People who die from stings usually are allergic to the poison released by the insect and go into anaphylaxis.
Interestingly, more than 80 percent of the victims were men. The agency didn’t address this disparity, but it may be that they spend more time outdoors.
Gender also plays a role in what some scientists believe is the cause of the increase.
Yellowjackets are responsible for most of the stinging deaths because they can sting repeatedly. Plus, they attack in swarms.
Yellowjackets usually freeze to death over the winter. But the queens survive because, unlike males, they have a compound in their blood that acts like an antifreeze. This allows the queen to start a new colony in the spring.
Here’s where climate change comes in: With warmer winters becoming the norm, there are more males and multiple queens in so-called super nests. With each queen capable of producing around 20,000 eggs, the numbers quickly add up.
You can avoid attracting stingers by not using perfume or cologne if you plan to be outdoors, especially near flowering plants. If you are attacked, run and get inside fast. Don’t jump into water as some species will hover and wait you out.
Finally, let’s hope that we humans get a handle on climate change before we have to worry about a lot more than killer bees.