Several wasp and bee species can be a medically threatening nuisance around, and even within homes during the spring, summer, and fall seasons in Houston. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2000 and 2017, an average of 62 people were killed annually by wasp or bee envenomations in the US. During this time, 2001 saw the fewest envenomation fatalities at only 43, and 2017 saw the highest number of envenomation fatalities at a whopping 89. Unfortunately, the rate of human fatalities resulting from wasp and bee envenomations has been growing steadily in the US for the past 15 years. Between 2003 and 2010, Texas led the nation with the highest number of on-the-job fatalities resulting from insect-related incidents, the vast majority of which were anaphylactic reactions to wasp or bee stings.
Most wasp and bee attacks that result in hospitalizations and fatalities occur on residential properties after humans inadvertently disturb nests that are located in high-traffic areas. Wasp and bee nests are often established as ground burrows on residential lawns, but the locations where wasps and bees prefer to establish nests differs from species-to-species. Above-ground wasp and bee nests are commonly found on the underside of eaves or attached to gutters, in shrubs along walkways, on door frames, on window frames, in attics, on patios, in garages, and in wall voids. Because most deadly wasp and bee envenomation cases occur on residential properties, the wasp and bee species that pest control professionals deal with most frequently are also responsible for the highest number of attacks on humans.
According to a recently published nationwide survey of pest control professionals, the most commonly managed stinging insect species within and around homes during the year of 2016 were common paper wasps, yellow jacket wasp species, honey bees, mud dauber wasps, bumblebees, cicada killer wasps, and Africanized honey bees. Africanized honey bees are non-native pests that are commonly known as “killer bees,” and they were first discovered in Houston in 1993. Since their arrival in Houston, Africanized honey bees have killed many residents, as well as a tremendous number of residential pets. During 2018, nearly 100,000 Africanized honey bees aggressively swarmed through the River Oaks area of Houston, hospitalizing at least one resident. This same year, more than one million Africanized honey bees were removed from a nest within a southwest Houston home. Africanized honey bees frequently establish nests within homes, and they are unique for being one of the few insect pests that aggressively attacks humans with little provocation.
Have you ever encountered a swarm of Africanized honey bees?