Expert: Hornet’s nests still a threat in fall months

(Samantha Sugerman, WPRI)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The weather may be getting cooler as fall sets in, but hornet’s nests are still a concern in Southern New England.

Foxboro’s Eric Dahl was tending to his lawn Saturday afternoon, when his family says he came across a nest buried in the ground. Dahl was stung several times and died.

“Those yellowjackets in the ground, you don’t see it and before you know it, they’re up and all over you,” Dahl’s father-in-law Harry Romsey said of the incident.

Big Blue Bug Solutions Service and Technical Manager Tony De Jesus says hornets and yellowjackets, like the ones that stung Dahl, build nests both above and underground.

“If you’re going to be doing weed-whacking, cutting the lawn, doing the leaf-blowing like that poor man in Foxboro was doing, this is when you need to be aware of not only the nests up high, but the nests in the ground,” he explained.

De Jesus says ground nests are often the most dangerous, because the only part of the hive which is visible is one tiny hole, which is guarded by one or two bees.

“The ground nest, the one where there’s a hole, unless you’re observant and really looking for it, you won’t notice a constant flow of insects coming and going into that hole,” De Jesus explained.

If you’re stung, De Jesus says the first step is to monitor how you’re feeling and plan a course of action based on what your body is telling you.

“First thing to do is watch the area where you’ve been stung and monitor how you’re feeling,” he said. “If it starts to swell just a little bit, then usually some ice or something like that on the area will take care of the problem very easily. It will hurt for a little while but that’ll take down the swelling. If it starts to swell quite a bit, or if you start to feel ill, particularly if your throat starts to swell up or you’re having difficulty breathing, you need to get to a hospital right away. That’s a 911 emergency.”

De Jesus is warning the public not to believe the misconception that because the weather is getting cooler, bee nests are no longer a threat.

“Don’t think ‘the weather’s getting cooler so I should be alright,'” said De Jesus. “Be very cautious particularly when you start raking the leaves and doing that yard work, getting the fall cleanup started.”

De Jesus says nests can be active well into the month of November, especially if the weather stays mild. It’ll take three or four frosts before the bees nests fully die off.