gardening with a bee/wasp allergy

Last summer I had an allergic reaction to 4 wasp stings. I'm carrying epi-pens and I'm doing the de-sensitization. I've always loved gardening, so I'm trying to figure out strategies that will allow me to garden and yet minimize bee and wasp activity so I don't get stung again.
My yard was sort of, uh, wild with all sorts of invasive stuff planted by the previous owner. So my first step is cutting down anything that is dense and out of control. It's not the bees I can see that worry me so much as those I can't see. I'm going to have the house and deck sprayed in April with something that is supposed to deter bees and wasps. I'll hire someone to mow this summer as I did the end of last summer. I can avoid the middle of the day when bee and wasp activity is high and wear suitable clothing. Late summer and early fall seem to be worse for bees and wasps than spring and early summer.
I don't have the kind of yellow jackets that are attracted to food, but do have ones that look like them and try to build tiny nests all over the place. What stung me, however, were white-faced hornets and I'd not even noticed their nest but must have backed into it or near it while I was mowing the lawn. I've not had any ground bees in my yard, but they do live in west-central MA. My soil is clay, which I gather they don't find as hospitable as sand.
Are there any other things I can do or should avoid? I refuse to simply have no flowers.
Thanks for any suggestions.
Janet
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I know that a sting could put you in the hospital or kill you, so what I'm about to say next may seem silly, but make sure that whatever's being sprayed isn't just as bad for you somewhere off in the future. Since most pesticides can't be tested properly on humans, you may need tarot cards, a ouja board or a crystal ball to know what's safe.

Bees like some flowers, but there are some they seem to be absolutely nuts about. In my garden, it was big zinnias. I had bees the size of baseballs around those flowers, and they didn't give a damn about me. Maybe it would be a good idea to plant just one thing that's guaranteed to keep them fat & happy. This way, it's like a nice swing set for kids - you know where they are.
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wrote:

Hi Janet,
I havn't had any bee stings in over 30 years. But, I have had my first three wasp stings in the past three years. All of these times I got stung for no apparent reason. One wasp was a red wasp and the swelling was intense. The other two were black wasps and were annoying for a day. Wasps like to hang out under shelters, big and small. You should ask your doctor what you need to do. Above all, be aware of your surroundings and look before you step or put your hands anywhere. A year ago I know a woman that was standing on the curb and a honey bee decided to fly up her pant leg!
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That requires a joke.
A woman gets stung while playing golf. It hurts, so she runs into the pro shop and asks "Do you have anything for bee stings? Some Benedryl cream or something?" The says he doesn't sell it, but he might have something in the first aid kit. While he's checking, he asks "So, where did you get stung?" She says "Between the first & second holes". He says "Sounds like your stance is too wide!"
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did your allergist test you for bee venom allergies? bee venom & wasp venom are not that similar & you can be allergic to one and not the other. if you weren't tested, i'd get that done first.

i have the same problem. some people must love invasives because they're so "easy to grow" :p

bees that hang around your house & deck tend to be carpenter bees. they look like big bumblebees, but, like bumblebees, aren't too inclined to sting. in fact the ones that buzz you when you're sitting on the deck are the males and they don't even *have* stingers :) OTOH, you may get wasps building paper nests under your deck or behind shutters. those would most likely be the type that sting.

there are yellowjackets in Mass. & not all yellowjackets build in the ground. the arboreal ones tend to be even meaner than the ground dwellers, and yes, they attack without provocation after mid-August or so... you don't really have to get very near the nest to set them off. bald-face (white face) hornets are actually a type of yellowjacket.

honeybees are or orchard bees are highly unlikely to sting, except under extreme provocation. bees die when they sting. so, your main issue should be control of the wasps/hornets. lee
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Janet Price wrote:

I remember from when I was a kid, how much bee stings hurt, so I try to avoid them whenever possible. When you know you're going to be in the garden avoid bath products, hairspray and perfumes with a flowery/sweet scent. Don't wear brightly colored clothing. Wear well fitting clothing with long sleeves and long pants whenever possible. Avoid drinking soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages just before and while gardening. If I drink these, I find especially honeybees are attracted to my face, guess they can smell it on my breath. If you have plants that are bee magnets in your yard, for me it's wisteria, consider replacing it with something else or be content to stay well away from it while it's blooming. You may have to learn to purchase new plants based on color and beauty alone, avoiding the strongly sweet scented ones. Hope this helps! Alana
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That's very true. Bees are attracted to hair spray.

When I was just a kid, and my brother was a younger kid, a bee flew into his bottle of soda pop. He took a swig and didn't know the bee was there and he ended up in the emergency room with a bee sting in the throat. He, to this day, claims, "Yummy!"
Jim Carlock Post replies to the group.
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wrote:

....and mosquitoes and black flies and almost every other nasty but you might run into.
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Don't go spraying everything that moves. Wear smooth finished light colored clothing and don't wear scent or go barefoot. Keep your epi-pens current, and perhaps lay in a bottle or two of bennedryl syrup because syrup goes down a swelling windpipe easier than a pill.
Stop and observe before you enter the garden, bees forage at different times and if they are on your flowers at 10 am they may be elsewhere at 2pm because many plants only produce nectar at certain hours.
Most physicians over-diagnose venemous insect allergy because they don't get in trouble for over-reacting. 4 white faced hornet stings around the face make me look like I got clubbed with an ugly stick but it goes away.
If you had a tight throat, swelling tongue, rash away from the immediate sting site then don't fool around.
I seriously doubt spraying the house and deck will make any difference.
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Try the bug out net clothing at http://www.wisementrading.com/insectprotection/bug_out.htm Also check local sports stores for similar items. Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and leather gloves under this protective net clothing for best protection.
Last summer I had an allergic reaction to 4 wasp stings. I'm carrying epi-pens and I'm doing the de-sensitization. I've always loved gardening, so I'm trying to figure out strategies that will allow me to garden and yet minimize bee and wasp activity so I don't get stung again.
My yard was sort of, uh, wild with all sorts of invasive stuff planted by the previous owner. So my first step is cutting down anything that is dense and out of control. It's not the bees I can see that worry me so much as those I can't see. I'm going to have the house and deck sprayed in April with something that is supposed to deter bees and wasps. I'll hire someone to mow this summer as I did the end of last summer. I can avoid the middle of the day when bee and wasp activity is high and wear suitable clothing. Late summer and early fall seem to be worse for bees and wasps than spring and early summer.
I don't have the kind of yellow jackets that are attracted to food, but do have ones that look like them and try to build tiny nests all over the place. What stung me, however, were white-faced hornets and I'd not even noticed their nest but must have backed into it or near it while I was mowing the lawn. I've not had any ground bees in my yard, but they do live in west-central MA. My soil is clay, which I gather they don't find as hospitable as sand.
Are there any other things I can do or should avoid? I refuse to simply have no flowers.
Thanks for any suggestions.
Janet
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White faced hornets are actually a type of yellow jacket.
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not true. white-faced hornets are wasps, just like hornets are--just depends upon which side of the world you're from; i.e., new york city, they're called wasps; over the hills and through the dales to oregon, they're called hornets.
but i have it from a prime-time (certificates from various degrees on her wall) entomologist, that white-faced hornets ARE wasps. yellow-jackets are a much lower-case type of wasp/hornet, but definitely quite a distance from the white-faced and require a different type of anti-venom if you're undergoing the venom shot programme.
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. To answer a couple questions, yes I was tested for all venoms and I'm allergic to all of them. I'm up to about the one sting level with respect to the de-sensitization now, and hope to get to the two sting level by the end of May.
Wasps and hornets are indeed my primary worry because they can sting multiple times and that's where the danger is.
When I was stung last summer, I noticed a few hives on my wrists about 15 minutes after getting stung on the feet. I drove quickly to the medical center, about 10 minutes away, and shortly after I got there was one giant hive. While my throat did not swell, my blood pressure dropped and my eyes and ears were itchy. They gave me benedryl and cortisone and that did the trick. Four hours later my son's girlfriend drove me home. Only good thing was that the cortisone reduced my appetite and I lost a few pounds over the next week or so.
After the incident, I wore jeans and tennies with socks rolled over the pantsleg, something long sleeved and long gardening gloves whenever I went outside. I move slowly and am careful about touching anything.
Before, I wore nothing but shorts and a T and sandals. I totally ignored bees. I spaded my garden in birkies. I still don't own any shoes but tennies and my mother of the groom wedding shoes.
Thanks again for the various suggestions.
Janet
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One last thing: A number of clothing companies advertise garments which are impregnated with bug repellent. LL Bean's "Buzz Off" clothes, for instance. The stuff they're treated with is classified as a carcinogen by the EPA & FDA, but it's use in clothing is permitted, for obvious reasons (cash in the right pockets). I mention this in case you run across it in the future. Forget it.
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The primary repellant for bees is the same as for mosquitos, DEET. You can also spray your clothing with permethrin. One sparying will last through several washings. These products are effective for mosquitos and ticks as well as bees and are perfectly safe. The reason it is sprayed on clothing, is that it is neutralized by oils in our skin.
You can use mosquito netting like beekeepers do.
Beekeeper protective clothing is available many places. One I found on line is:
http://www.mannlakeltd.com/catalog/page61.html
where there are 8 pages of beekeeper clothing.
or
http://www.gardenscapetools.com/pages/0310Protect.htm
where they have bug jackets, pants, head nets and arm savers.
You can get mason bees. Mason Bees are completely non-aggressive and perfectly safe to raise in any area. The male Mason Bee cannot sting and the female has a mild sting (similar to a mosquito) and will only sting if squeezed between the fingers. Secondly, Mason Bees do not swarm because they are solitary. About 85% of the 3,500 species of bees in North America are solitary. This means that instead of having a queen bee and many workers, each solitary female mates, finds her own wood nest cell, collects nectar and pollen, and lays her eggs.
To attract mason bees put out mason bee houses that look like drinking straws in a tube or wooden blocks with holes drilled in them. To make your own mason bee house, drill 5/16" diameter holes 1" apart in the edge of a 2x4 (actually 1.5'x3.5").*
You can put the mason bee houses far from you house to keep them from nesting near you home. The mason bee houses are easy to make or you can buy them ready made.
Here are some sites:
* http://snohomish.wsu.edu/mg/ombblock/ombblock.htm
or
http://www.floriantools.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code =florian&Product_Code=OB-RBG1&Category_Code=gift_50
or
http://www.tarencotta.com/largehouse.asp
I would also install yellow jacket traps. Up with the good (mason bees) down with the bad (yellow jackets). Yellow jackets are more aggressive and a nuisance. Place the traps far from areas you frequent.
If nests are found, you will need someone who is not allergic to spray them. The worst ones are the yellow jackets nests in the ground. Most wasps aren't aggressive. I have wasps in my newspaper box all summer and they never attack me. I wouldn't suggest you take such a risk.
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