Issue 14, Wasp season is upon us!
In the last issue, I summarized some of the links from my Facebook page for those of you that don’t have access to Facebook. In this issue, I decided to touch on a common fear for many kids at this time of year….wasps!
Brainwaves is a monthly newsletter designed to create some “brainwaves” within my community of colleagues, friends and clients.
Some wasp facts… wasps fall into two categories
1) social or 2) solitary. Solitary wasps do not build nests but social wasps do. Nearly all wasps are terrestrial and are very important for the environment because they are predators within the insect world. The female wasps use an ovipositor to deposit the eggs which is also a stinger. The “how stuff works” website describes a wasp’s venomous sting as its best defense to keep away large prey by convincing them that their bite is big! Usually this works to keep animals away but, it is important to realize that wasps can sting over and over again…not like bees that lose their stinger after the first bite.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the end of the season makes many wasps extra feisty. The queens are usually the only wasps that hibernate through the winter, which means that all the worker wasps get kicked out as the hive disbands at the end of the summer. These upset, displaced insects know their time is short and always seem most aggressive just before the first frost!
Let’s think sensory processing…so why do some kids, especially kids on the spectrum get so stressed out about wasps and other flying insects? Well put on your perspective taking hat and pay attention to the sensory parts of a wasp near you.
Could it be visual? These flying bugs can fly fast and in unpredictable ways at times. If you had depth perception problems, it would be hard to know exactly where they were in reference to your body. If your vision system was hyper-sensitive, you would be distracted by the plants nearby and would have a hard time keeping your focus on the wasp.
Could it be the sound? Absolutely! The sound of a wasp buzzing can be very loud to a child with sound sensitivity, especially if there are other buzzing insects nearby. On one blog I read, the mother said her son could hear the sound of a dragonfly 10 feet away!
Could it be touch? Yes! If your child is touch sensitive, the feeling of insects landing on or near their skin can be alarming…not to mention if they have been bitten before. Often skin pain is elevated beyond reason and seems way out of proportion to what we think.
What can we do about it?
Well, realistically it might not be easy to help your child out of this fear and it could take a very long time. Blogs specific to autism generally state to make sure the child is calm before doing any teaching and to consider engaging their intelligence to teach them all about wasps. In developing your child’s episodic memory, be sure that YOU remain calm when around wasps and “practice what you preach”. Part of the process of learning to be around wasps can be the idea of creating an “I can do hard things” scrapbook where small but progressive steps are recorded toward the goal of tolerating wasps nearby. This type of scrapbook needs to be occasionally reviewed in order to build and celebrate the memory of competence and in preparation for an outdoor adventure.
Here are some general ideas for dealing with wasps…
- …they certainly have a very sweet tooth. In the early summer they tend to go for protein-based foods such as meat, which they need to build muscle, but by this time of year, they’ve moved on to sweets. They particularly like fruit — the riper and more rotten the better — wasps will be attracted to anything sugary. Fizzy drinks, ice cream, sweet sauces and chocolate are all great temptations. And they like wine, too!
- ·Wasps are attracted by certain colours, especially white and yellow. Like most insects, they cannot see the colour red, so it’s worth investing in a red shirt, and — if you can withstand the mockery of your friends — some red pants.
- If you’re eating outside, try to keep as much food as possible in sealed containers until you are ready to eat it or just don’t eat outside!
- Don’t, whatever you do, splash on aftershave or perfume. Even the scents in hairspray and hair gel are attractive. Try to avoid scented deodorants, too, and if you are wearing sunscreen, avoid any that contain a fragrance.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants and don’t walk barefeet.
- Never, ever get in a FLAP! If a wasp does start getting too near, the worst thing you can do is start flapping and flailing your arms in a panic. Such movements only excite and enrage wasps, and make it much more likely that you will be stung. Instead, stay calm and still or slowly walk away.
- Wasps are also attracted to light, so as it starts to get dark, try to avoid switching on outdoor lamps or using candles until you really have to
- To keep wasps at bay replicate a rival wasp nest by hanging a brown paper bag in a tree, or buy an imitation one.
Natural remedy or chemical weapon?
- There are some smells that wasps do not like, including eucalyptus and mint. So try dabbing some eucalyptus oil nearby or sit near a mint plant.
- There are numerous insect repellents you can spray on your skin that promise to keep wasps away.
- Killing a wasp can attract more wasps and if you really feel you must kill a wasp, perhaps the most tried-and-tested way to dispatch wasps is to build a trap.
If you do get bit, an antihistamine will reduce any itchiness or swelling.
- For a more natural remedy, apply a cotton-wool ball soaked in kitchen vinegar to the sting, or dissolve a tablespoon of baking powder in a large bowl of water and submerge the affected area in it.
- A cube of ice also works wonders to soothe the swelling.
- Try a penny. A very effective way to neutralize the effects of a bee or wasp sting is to tape a copper penny directly on top of the sting. For some unknown reason, the chemical reaction of your skin to copper nullifies the poison.