The Buzz This Fall? Look Out For Wasps and Ground Bees

Late summer/early fall is a beautiful time of year, but it’s also when wasps and bees are most aggressive—they’ll chase you and even your pets, so here are some tips to avoid or deal with unpleasant encounters.

A yellow-jacket is a common wasp that can attack in large numbers, sting multiple times, and even bite! These guys are responsible for almost all of the “bee-sting” related deaths in the United States. Of these serious incidents, many happen in fall because it’s when the baby bees have left the nest and the colony is no longer busy caring for its next generation. Yellow-jackets are communal, defense-minded wasps, and once the queen has laid her last eggs of the season, all the caretakers—up to 1,000—shift their focus to defending the hive and feeding. This is also at the time when fruit begins to fall and ferment, which they love, and also when we and our pets love to be outside enjoying cooler temperatures. When all these factors come together, it’s can be like bee dodgeball for you and your dog!

As if the threat from above isn’t enough, there are also about 20,000 species of bees that nest underground. Ground bees live in cone-shaped piles of dirt with a large hold in the middle—a bee freeway in and out of their underground city. These are often covered by leaves, so you may never see ground bees coming until you stumble over their hive and make them angry.

This time of year, we usually see an uptick in pets who see our veterinarians after becoming the unwitting victims of bee stings. Dogs often have multiple bee stings and swelling over their whole bodies. They can also be stung inside their mouths or throats, which can be especially dangerous when swelling of the airway happens—this can quickly turn into a life -threatening situation that requires immediate medical intervention.

Don’t mess around with bee stings—get your dog (or curious cat) to a veterinarian immediately if you see these signs:

  • General weakness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A large amount of swelling extending away from the sting site
  • Hives on any part of the body
  • Excessive drooling
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or disorientation
  • Seizures

In most cases, if your pet was stung just once and you see no signs of a reaction, it’s safe to forego a trip to the vet. If you notice that the stinger is still in your pet, try to remove it by scraping with your fingernail. Avoid using a tweezers to remove it, since this tends to force more bee venom out of the stinger and into your pet’s skin. Once the stinger is removed, you can use an ice pack to help reduce swelling at the site. You can also give your pet an anti-histamine (like diphenhydramine or Benedryl), but always check with your vet about the correct dose.

The best ways to deal with bees is to avoid or remove known nests, and give them a wide berth when you do come across them. You can still enjoy outdoor fun with your pets by keeping them on a leash or in your sight, and being aware of extra sniffing or curiosity about a single area on the ground or in the air.