Venomous arthropods, such as spiders, ants, bees and wasps can be found throughout the United States. Some of the most common and dangerous venomous arthropods found in the country include black widow and brown recluse spiders, bark scorpions, fire ants, yellow jackets and honey bees. Luckily, the brown recluse spider cannot be found in Massachusetts, and while the northern black widow’s habitat extends well into eastern Canada, these spiders are rarely encountered by humans in the northeast US. Also, with the exception of the non-native European fire ant and the newly introduced Asian needle ant species, the northeast is not home to any medically significant ant species that are known for being pests of homes or yards. However, European honey bees and several wasp species are abundant in Massachusetts during the warmer months where they pose a seasonal public health threat to residents. Yellow jacket wasps are particularly dangerous to humans due to their habit of nesting in urban and residential areas where dangerous encounters with individual foragers and angry swarms occur numerous times every year in the northeastern states alone.

According to a recent study that saw researchers analyze 60 years of data on animal related attacks in the US, venomous insects were the only group of animals that have been causing more and more human fatalities with each passing year in the country. Wasps and honey bees are responsible for the majority of deadly insect attacks, and the rate of fatal wasp and bee envenomation cases has been steadily increasing over the past 2 decades. Thirteen percent of all nationwide wasp and honey bee fatalities reported to the CDC between 2008 and 2015 occured in the northeast. During this eight year period, 65 deadly wasp or honey bee envenomation cases were reported in the northeast, while 0 deadly spider envenomation cases were reported in the region. The majority of these fatalities were caused by yellow jacket wasp species, several of which establish nests in various residential areas, including below the ground in yards, beneath the eaves of structures, in trees, in garages, and in houses, particularly in attics. The researchers who conducted the study believe that the continued increase in annual wasp and honey bee fatalities is due to a lack of knowledge among the public concerning the urban nesting habits of wasps, as well as a lack of available emergency medical remedies, mainly Epipens, for those who are, or may be allergic to insect venom.

Do you typically find a wasp nest in your yard each year?