Our Northwest

Fewer yellow jackets, wasps thanks to wet spring

Wednesday, July 26, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

yellow jacket on white background​Far fewer stinging pests are prowling around this summer following a cool, wet Washington spring that hampered queens' abilities to hunt and build nests.

A Washington State University entomologist told The Columbian that queens need fairly dry spring weather to nurture larvae until they're mature enough to hunt. With our cold, damp weather, the nests never developed into colonies of pests that can menace our summertime barbecues and picnics.

For me, that's just fine. I'm among those people who are allergic to stinging insects. Or at least, I was before doing a five-year regimen of allergy shots. It used to be that a yellow jacket sting anywhere on my body would trigger an allergic reaction, causing my face to swell badly.

Some allergic people suffer severe anaphylaxis, where breathing and swallowing become difficult, pulse quickens, and blood pressure drops. Untreated, it can be deadly. But an epinephrine shot can reverse the symptoms within minutes.

man injects Epipen in his legPerhaps you're familiar with the controversy over skyrocketing costs for "EpiPens." A twin-package prescription that cost $94 in 2007 had jumped to $608 by 2016. My doctor prescribed me EpiPens each year, to be kept on hand and self-administered in an emergency. Thankfully, my five-year regimen worked – I was stung shortly after it ended and suffered minimal swelling – so I no longer need EpiPens and their high out-of-pocket cost.

Besides meat from your grill, fruit, and soda pop, yellow jackets and wasps eat spiders, caterpillars, and small insects. Unfortunately, they don't feast on many mosquitos. So although a decline in wasps could mean serene outdoor meals, you'll still be swatting at little buzzing proboscises.

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