Monday, 12 August 2019

SUMMER SCIENCE SNIPPETS 4 - in the garden

My family love being all together and in the garden - we treat our outdoor space as another room so you can imagine how annoying it is that we sit down to eat and every wasp in the neighbourhood crashes the party! August is certainly the month for wasps




Also we live near a marsh which is great for the waders but we have mosquitoes that think they are vampires - their bites leave a huge welt and are very itchy.
I do encourage bees and we have had lots this year and so far even with little ones racing about no stings.

So what should you do if you are unfortunate enough to be stung and do all those old wives tales work?
Vinegar for a wasp and blue bag ( as if we have those handy!) for a bee sting.
            


There are so many websites giving advice for "natural" cures for stings and repellents. It is worth a look but in the panic of a painful sting will you remember what to do??
A little bit of science can help you out.



Common knowledge says that bee venom is acidic so using a bicarbonate of soda paste will neutralise it and help with the pain. The calming effect of bicarbonate is true - it really does reduce itching and is useful for mosquito bites.

It is also true that some bees but not all,  have a sting that is barbed and will lodge in the skin of a mammal or bird pulling the sting from the abdomen of the bee and killing it. So most bees rarely sting unless on purpose and some bees don't have a sting at all. Their sting is used for inter bee battles when the hive is threatened.
Bee stings are amazingly complex with peptides to break down cells which releases histamines and this is where people with allergic reactions have trouble .  For most of us doctors usually recommend ice to reduce inflammation and give a mild anaesthetic effect with an antihistamine cream .



The alkaline nature of a wasp sting has led to old wives tales of vinegar or lemon juice to neutralise the sting. As with a bee sting it is unlikely that this will really work and will probably hurt because one of the things in wasp venom is acetylcholine which stimulates pain receptors - there is even more of this in a hornet sting.

The female mosquito causes the problem and she doesn't actually bite you - she uses her proboscis, which is razor sharp, to pierce your skin and drinks some blood which she can use in the production of eggs. As she finishes and flies away she leaves some of her saliva in the wound ( this is how  diseases  like malaria and zika virusare spread.)Your body reacts to the saliva producing histamine - so tissue swelling, itching and redness. People reacts differently some quite violently and an infected bite can need antibiotics but usually antihistamine will work.
If you are into natural remedies lavender oil works too - and scientists have researched that one.

The best remedy is not to get bitten at all so how do you repel them?
Insect repellents usually produce an odour that insects don't like and so they stay away.
There are plenty of insect repellents that you can buy over the counter which work in similar ways DEET being one well known brand. It does have a greasy feel and unpleasant odour so many people turn to "natural" products and at the moment the trend is for lemon eucalyptus oil. Citronella candles and spray can work too


I love the posters produced by Compound Interest and usually check to see if they have anything on whatever I am writing about. I found plenty of info on bites and stings


click here to go to their page with lots more information
https://www.compoundchem.com/2014/08/28/insectvenoms/

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