According to the Wilson Times, a North Carolina sheriff’s deputy died after being attacked by a swarm of wasps. Wilson County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ray “Bull” Tomlinson died from cardiac arrest after being taken to Wilson Medical Center. The attack began when the officer was helping a citizen load a piece of machinery. As the men raised part of the equipment they evidently disturbed a nest.
Tomlinson was stung once in the head. Then the wasps swarmed his legs. The men sprayed his legs with brake cleaner to kill the wasps, which seemed to work. Eventually, Tomlinson collapsed. He was then taken to the hospital and later died.
Wasps make up an enormously diverse array of insects, with some 30,000 identified species. We are most familiar with wasps with bright warning colors. They buzz around in groups and wield painful stings. Wasps are different than bees. Their lower abdomens are pointed and their narrow “waist,” called a petiole, separates the abdomen from the thorax. While bees secrete a waxy substance to construct their nests, wasps create papery abodes from wood fibers scraped with their hard mandibles and chewed into a pulp.
According to National Geographic, most wasps are solitary, non-stinging insects. They all do far more good for humans by controlling pest populations than they do harm. Creatures or individuals who haplessly stumble upon a wasp colony or disturb a nest will find themselves quickly swarmed. A social wasp in distress emits a pheromone that sends nearby colony members into a defensive, stinging frenzy. Unlike bees, wasps sting repeatedly. Only females have stingers, which are actually modified egg-laying organs.
Wasp infestations are best handled by pest control professionals with experience, equipment and products to safely, effectively and efficiently resolve the issue. So if you have a wasp problem, contact your pest control professional and request an inspection.
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