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ANSWERS BACK - Q&A with Rentokil Entomologist, Matthew Green about biting and stinging insects - get ready to scratch...

(53 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 22-Jul-11 11:40:51

As we are entering the height of the wasp and ant season, we've called in Rentokil and we're running a Q&A with Rentokil's entomologist Matthew Green about biting and stinging insects.

To help parents manage the risk of wasps, Rentokil's interactive UKWaspWatch map tracks sightings of wasps to create a picture of wasp hotspots across the country. This year, Rentokil has teamed up with The Anaphylaxis Campaign (the UK charity focused on helping people living with severe allergies) and will donate 20p to the charity every time a person logs a wasp or wasps' nest sighting onto UKWaspWatch throughout the summer. The site also includes information on what parents should do if their child is stung. If you discover a wasp nest, Rentokil offer a next working day (Mon-Fri) service. Book on-line for a discount.

So if fleas have you hopping or you are worried about stinging insects or biting nasties such as bed bugs and mosquitoes turning a relaxing break into the holiday from hell please post your questions on this thread to Matthew before the end of day Thursday 28th July 2011 and we'll be linking to his answers from this thread in early August.

fruitshootsandheaves Fri 22-Jul-11 11:56:22

I hate wasps. We had a very persistent one who was determined to build her nest inside our rabbit hutch, after destroying it twice (it wasn't very big!) we had to kill her as she wasn't giving up and was getting cross!
There seem to be a lot more wasps about this year, and a lot earlier. Why is this? Or am i just paranoid unlucky?

Kveta Fri 22-Jul-11 12:10:25

I have 2 questions, if that's ok?
firstly, ants - is there a child-friendly way to get rid of them from the garden? I have been putting down permethrin powder every time a nest crops up, but they don't seem too fazed by it, and just sprout another nest a few yards away every time. I wouldn't ordinarily be fussed by them, but DS frequently comes into the house coated in them, which is not pleasant.

secondly, do you still love insects after years as an entomologist? I worked with tsetse flies very briefly before moving into more molecular parasitology, and at the time thought they were incredible (how can any insect which has live young NOT be incredible?!) - but now most insects give me the heebie-jeebies, and I can't even pick up a moth any more without being pathetic.

thanks smile

ViolaTricolor Fri 22-Jul-11 12:26:57

I'm going to ask something I posted here a while ago, without conclusion, if that's OK. I'm pretty sure we have a wasps' nest under our house in an airbrick, as there are a lot of them coming and going. They aren't in a place where they bother us, and I am pretty averse to killing things unnecessarily. I like the fact that they kill other insects and we're not allergric to stings. So, is there any reason why it's a bad idea to just leave it alone, as long as we're careful, given that they won't use it again? Also (stealth second question, but more entomologist-specfic), we saw what we're pretty sure was a queen outside the nest last week. She was big and had a bit more orange on her than the others. Why would she be outside now?

Thank you! smile

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Fri 22-Jul-11 12:32:57

Oh, it's only bitey stingy things. I was going to ask about the enormous, prehistoric-style, extraordinarily noisy dragonflies we usually get at home.

I think I will ask anyway. Feel free to ignore grin

They're very cool. First time one flew into the sitting room it scared the bejesus out of me (and the cat). It was like a slightly smaller than usual Messerschmitt.

I've not seen any this year though so I wondered if that was a national trend.

seedlessgrape Fri 22-Jul-11 12:37:39

What use do wasps have, either in the food chain or in nature? Just wondering.....

fluffyanimal Fri 22-Jul-11 13:08:34

I can answer that one, seedlessgrape: they predate upon aphids and other garden pests. So they are useful. I still hate them, however. grin

My question is: is there any effective insect repellent against horseflies, having been bitten through my shirt by one, not long ago?

PrettyCandles Fri 22-Jul-11 15:48:32

Why am I so beloved by stinging insects? For example, when we camp in summer, dh and I often shower with the dc in the evening, and then sit outside in the dusk while the dc fall asleep in the tent. We will both be clean, not sweaty, and have washed using the same toiletries. Yet I am bitten every night, and he is left untouched. To add insult to injury, my bites swell up into incredibly itchy hard white lumps (unless I take antihistamines), whereas his are just a bit red and vaguely itchy, and healed within a couple of days. And I can't feel the bites when they happen - though, boy, do I feel them the following days.

What insect repellent can I use? I am allergic to fragrances.


hellymelly Fri 22-Jul-11 15:51:50

viola if the big thing you saw was more orange it was probably a hornet,not a queen wasp.Queen wasps are just like their progeny,only larger, and they would be in the nest now anyway.Hornets predade wasps so it was probably after them.

ViolaTricolor Fri 22-Jul-11 16:09:41

THanks helly, I've seen many hornets and I'm pretty sure it wasn't one. I've proably overexaggerated the orangeness a bit. It did look very waspy, and not very hornety. Though hornets would be cool with me.

ViolaTricolor Fri 22-Jul-11 16:15:39

She looked like the top picture on this page.

ViolaTricolor Fri 22-Jul-11 16:18:23

Or is that a hornet, after all? Agh.

Kveta Fri 22-Jul-11 16:48:12

Pretty Candles - have you tried Avon Skin So Soft? it's AMAZING at insect repelling! think there's a rumour that the army uses it :D

hellymelly Fri 22-Jul-11 18:36:45

viola I don't think that is a European species. Here is a good pic of a hornet
and a queen wasp !!

Slubberdegullion Fri 22-Jul-11 19:03:13

Hello Matthew.

Q(s) about tick bite prevention.

We are off shortly for a 6 week camping trip to Germany and other forrin parts. We will be spending some time in the Black Forest where ticks are prevalent but carry tick bourne encephalitis. We have decided not to immunise but instead are hopeful that repellants, correct clothing and a pair of tick tweezers will keep the blighters at bay.

I do not want to use DEET products on the dc.

I have purchased some death socks (from the Craghopper nosi life range, impregnated with permethrin) and some anti mossie trousers, but nothing is available atm for children.

Can I treat some of the dc's leggings and socks with a permethrin spray? (i've bought it to treat a mossie net with). Is it safe to use on clothes or will socks tucked into trousers suffice for forest walks?

Any other anti-tick top tips you can recommend?

Many thanks

WhipMeIndiana Fri 22-Jul-11 19:52:48

we keep getting 2 or 3 odd ants in the conservatory and into the lounge
is this because they smell food?
what are they doing? exploring for the main bunch?
how can we really deter them from coming into the house in a toddler-safe way?

TheDeathlyMarshmallows Fri 22-Jul-11 21:13:45

I second Kveta's question - how to do get rid of ants in a child friendly way?

I'm fairly sure underneath our patio is one enormous nest - anything left on the slabs for more than 24 hours will be swarming with black ants - some with wings - and eggs (? creamy coloured pods like a very fat grain of rice) underneath when it's moved, even pots are invaded! All of our plants are swarming with the little buggers which puts me off eating the vegetables when they're ripe.

We have red ants in the lawn too.

I've been fighting them for years with ant powder and boiling water but nothing seems to help at all. I'd just like to be able to use our lawn and patio without being covered in ants within 5 minutes every time

mybrainsthinkingfuckyou Fri 22-Jul-11 21:22:09

Hello Matthew

I am breastfeeding and so use of deet is out - any insider tips for deterring mosquitoes - me and my 7 month old.
Also at what point does the body having been sensitised ever stop reacting so 9 year old's bites are 50p size and my dad - aged 65 - seems to get worse each year.
He recently had problems breathing when bitten by mosquitoes having used antihistamine and hydrocortisone whilst being on antibiotics for an ear infection - just too much medicine interaction or the start of an anaphylactic type reaction?

Thanks in advance x

scrappydappydoo Fri 22-Jul-11 21:45:11

This thread is making me itch.
I have two dds (aged 5 and 3) who are terrified of buzzy flying things - everything that flys is deemed a 'bee' accompanied with lots of screaming. It gets very tiresome. The situation has not been helped by dd2 being stung by a wasp last summer.
We are going camping in August and I'm dreading it - any tips for keeping them away - does a jam jar really work?

mybrainsthinkingfuckyou Fri 22-Jul-11 21:45:48

Me again. i too had heard that the army used avon so soft range as opposed to avon repellent - cannot find the link but believe it was in Scotland.
Bought some for my stepdad - had no discernible effect as a deterrent.

Is there any truth in it/anyone can confirm from personal exp as opposed to hearsay or is it an urban myth/Has it been debunked?


ViolaTricolor Fri 22-Jul-11 22:28:04

Thanks helly, it wasn't either of those (and I've seen both before). It was definitely like the picture I linked to, the colouring is really distinctive. My DP and I were both quite freaked out because neither of us had seen anything like it before confused.

pseudonomic Sat 23-Jul-11 00:23:46

Can I just say I am moving house to get away from wasps. I live in a thatched cottage and so far this year I've had 12 nests cleared and it's only July. We had hornets attacking wasps a few weeks ago and cannot enter or exit the house by the front door because they seem to adore this area of the garden.

God I hate them.

Why can't rentokil just kill all the blinking wasps once and for all. If we all chipped in could you not just nuke them or something? They just keep coming back. It's the insect equivalent of herpes hmm

corblimeymadam Sat 23-Jul-11 13:32:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Spoo Sat 23-Jul-11 14:55:18

my husband had a wasp sting some 7 years ago around his eye which then swelled up quite badly (first time it ever had happened). He ended up at A and E and had an injection but the swelling was there for a few days. Last week he got stung on his arm by a wasp whilst out running. His arm was swollen for a few days but he managed it through antihistamines that we had in the house. We have heard that as you get older your reactions can get more severe and could lead to anaphylactic shock. Is this correct? If so does my DH need to get an epee pen or something?

PrettyCandles Sat 23-Jul-11 17:12:04

Spider bites are completely different to mosquito bites.

(Warning: this is going to be gruesomely TMI)

Mosquito bites will have a red pinprick at the bite site, with swelling around it. If it is large, hard, and white or bruised-looking, then you are probably having an allergic reaction and need antihistamines. IME it is best to take a-hs as soon as or even before you are bitten, as they are far more effective before the swelling and itching get really bad. If the bite site gets infected you get a small yellow blister and a tight shiney red ring immediately around it.

(This is the gruesome bit) Spider bites are quite different. They start off looking like a regular bite, itchy but without the immediate area swelling, though the whole limb may swell and ache. A blister develops, which grows and spreads. Eventually the blister bursts and the flesh inside has died and comes away in lumps, layer after layer. You get an ulcer which takes a long time to heal and is very vulnerable to infection.

Humans tend to be allergic in varying degrees to the anti-coagulant that mozzies inject with their bites. Spider venom is tissue-dissolving, and humans don't tend to be allergic to it.

BTW although most spiders are venomous, very few British spiders can actually bite humans. Their mouthparts are the wrong shape.

One got me last year. British GP did not know what it was. South African friends recognised it at once.

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