WASP– Aromatherapy Treatments

by Jeanne Rose
(Late June 2000, 2007)

I live in a Victorian home that has a 100-year history of housing paper wasp nests. During the course of the year, when I teach Aromatherapy Classes and Distillation classes and instruct people via the Aromatherapy and Herbal Studies Courses, I have to deal with these pests and instruct my students how now to get bitten, irritated or stung. I have also developed a Travel & First Aid Kit to handle such emergencies.

Yellow jackets are voracious predators of insect pests such as caterpillars and flies. They are a type of wasp but are often mistaken for bees. Sometimes they are confused with other less aggressive predatory wasps, especially paper wasps. Yellow jackets are relatively short and stout compared to the longer slender paper wasps. Paper wasps also have more dangling legs.

Yellow jackets nests are spherical and are enclosed in a papery envelope with a small entrance hole at the bottom. They may also bed in the ground, in old logs or other places where they can burrow and make their nests. They have been found in the logs that I use to line my pathways.

Yellow jackets build nests in abandoned rodent burrows and other holes in the ground, in attics (Christmas didn’t happen one year in my house because we could not get into the attic for a month, thus we could not get the Christmas ornaments out), in wall voids, in shrubs, in rotting logs lying in the garden and hanging from trees (tree climbers always check our trees for nests as. They release a sort of fragrant glue that will attract them repeatedly to the same property. I have had yellow jacket nests in the rear wall of my home (1970), on the fence (1980), in the Avocado tree (1985), under the porch beams (1990), under the overhang of the greenhouse ledge (1995, killed with Nutmeg oil) and in the attic (1997, in the kitchen wall above the cooler (2001)). And it wasn't until they were removed from the attic that I was told about the fragrant attractant that they release. [That was the year that we had no Christmas tree, as we were afraid to go into the attic to get the ornaments].

Paper wasp nests are usually suspended from eaves or porch ceilings and look like tiny umbrellas filled with hexagonal cells.

• Don’t swat at yellow jackets as you will only aggravate them, instead flick them off your skin with the edge of a credit card, key, laminated card that comes in the first aid kit, or other flat surface.
• Wait until it lands on a flat surface and then trap and remove the creature then either release it or freeze it to get rid of it.

REMAIN CALM • Do not strike at a yellow jacket. Slow, gentle motions like a breeze are better.
• Brush a yellow jacket off with a piece of paper and move slowly and deliberately
• Do not squash a yellow jacket. They emit a chemical when dying that can attract and cause other nearby yellow jackets to attack.

• Wear protective clothing near underground nests
• Avoid outdoor cooking if you are sensitive to stings
• Carry an epinephrine kit if you are hypersensitive to insect stings
• Outdoors, do not carry sweet drinks or snacks with meat, if you must put them in closed containers with lids. Better to carry plain water and have a nice vegetarian salad.
• Do not wear perfume. Use unscented body products.
• Wear socks and shoes.
• Wear light colored clothing.
• Move slowly and deliberately near a nest.
• When distilling, move slowly and don't distill near a nest.
• Remain calm and do not get nervous and sweat – they smell fear.

TOXIC CONTROLSS • Spray directly into the nest with one of the nerve poisons available at the hardware store.
• Death sprays include Raid or the direct application of Nutmeg oil (available from any aromatherapy store.)
• Set traps for yellow jackets in their quiet time - in the dark and well before you want to go outside to eat • Traps include Rescue! Yellow jacket; Rescue! Trap; Surefire Deluxe Trap; Victor Yellow jacket Trap.

DESTROY THE NEST OR HAVE IT REMOVEDD There is a danger of multiple stings when you mess with a yellow jacket nest so it is best to have a professional remove the nest. In my area, we have a company called Beebusters. Also, there are university students doing research on the creatures and sometimes they will remove for free a particularly large nest for homeowners.

• Seal holes and cracks in foundations, walls, roofs, and eaves. They come back year-after-year to the same locations because of the familiar odor.
• Cover attic and crawl space vents with fine screen.
• Clean recyclables before storing them and keep garbage cans clean and tightly covered because Yellow jackets scavenge for meat and sweet foods.

PROBLEM: On June 30, 2000, Christine Wenrich and I distilled the Lemon Verbena; I trimmed half of the tree and cut only those branches that had flowers as well as good-looking fragrant leaves. In the past, it has been my experience that Lemon Verbena should be cut in the spring or before flowering so that it will regrow. We harvested and distilled. While sitting awaiting the completion of the distillation, I looked towards the division fence (divides my yard from the dog/still yard) and noticed the new Lemon Verbena from two years ago, had a very dead looking branch. I went to it and reached down the stem of the Lemon Verbena with my left arm towards the place where the plant entered the ground and was swarmed by 6 or so yellow jackets. I did everything wrong. One was caught in my hair, which I managed to brush out. However, one particularly nasty creature had already stung me on the lower left arm about 6 times and another had me on the upper left arm above my elbow. My arm became immediately painful and began to swell — I began walking quickly towards the house and warned Christine to get out of the area.

CURE: I had available the Tea Tree oil in my Travel & First Aid Kit that had been distilled from the flowering Tea Tree in Golden Gate Park and applied this oil liberally to my arm and neck. It eased the pain. I think I should have used meat tenderizer to dissolve the protein of the sting or as someone else suggested, cut half of a Tomato and apply directly to the stings to neutralize the poison.

Over the course of the next three weeks, the stings swelled and became two hard knots, one on the forearm and one above the elbow. There was quite a bit of pain involved and for the pain and inflammation I took Advilฎ several times a day. I also continued to apply Tea Tree oil regularly and occasionally tried Lavender (anesthetic use but no healing). Occasionally, I also applied Helichrysum but I think that was just a waste of very valuable oil.

After one week, the stings, now one hard knotty mass began to itch unbearably. I would spray them with Lavender hydrosol, which reduced the itching considerably but would often forget and scratch unconsciously. After two weeks, the skin over the hardened knots flaked and finally the swelling subsided. I continued to spray with hydrosols. Now 32 weeks later all that is left is pinprick-sized scabs that are very slowly healing.

FUTURE CURE: One should definitely include meat tenderizer (Accent) in your first aid kit if you are near the seashore for jellyfish stings or on land for yellow jacket or hornet stings. Apply cut Tomato to dissolve acid. Bromelain, which is also a meat tenderizer, may work (Pineapple).

ADVICE: When around yellow jackets, do not run or sweat. Walk away with purpose and if one lands on you, brush it away, do not swat. They have the ability to bite or sting multiple times. Before sticking your hand into or around a plant, look for a nest. Where yellow jackets have nested in the past, they will nest again as they leave behind an odor that is persistent and will attract new colonies repeatedly.

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Bibliography: Rose, Jeanne • Modern Herbal • is available at the website. www.jeannerose.net

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