The Great British Summer and unwanted guests!

To some, insect bites and stings are a minor nuisance; to others they can be a serious issue, for which they will have a plan of action. As the weather warms up and our furry and not so furry winged friends increase in number, how can we reduce the risk of being stung or bitten, and if we do fall foul, how do we stop the incessant itch?

Warmer days, food eaten outdoors, fewer clothes – all signs that the British Summer is in full flow and that we can expect an increase in bees, wasps, horseflies, mosquitoes, and all manner of cute but quite annoying insects. While they do sting, it’s not their first plan of attack and only sting when they feel threatened.

According to the British Bee Keeping Association, most bee swarms occur on warmer days between May to the end of July and they are most active between 11am and 4pm. You’re likely to see even greater numbers when the weather is warm following colder/wetter weather.

Did you know that there are more than 7,000 species of wasps in the UK, but they generally come in two varieties – the common wasp and the German wasp. Both can sting! We notice wasps more in April and their active season continues into September. Attracted to sweet aromas from rubbish, wasps will think nothing of invading your garden, especially if it’s full of bright colours.

The dreaded horsefly, or cleg, is bigger than a housefly and has a quite distinctive striped body. The female of the species is the most dangerous, with razor-sharp teeth that can result in a nasty bite and infection. Definitely best avoided.

Mosquitoes are now a common occurrence in the UK, and they can be tricky to spot until it’s too late. Unlike their counterparts in other countries, British mosquitoes are not known to carry infection, so the worst you’ll have is a collection of rather annoying bites. They are most active at dusk and dawn and particularly if the climate is damp.

We can generally avoid being stung by bees and wasps by remaining calm – easier said than done when you have a wasp hovering around your child, grandchild, or delicious dinner. Keeping calm, not making sudden movements, and not swinging at them will hopefully spell disinterest from the insect and it will go about its business and leave you alone.

If you’re unfortunate enough to be stung by a bee or wasp, remember, it’s most certainly worse for them, especially poor bees. We’re not sure just how effective the old wives’ tale of rubbing garlic or bicarbonate of soda onto the area may be, but there are some sure-fire ways to ease your suffering and reduce the risk of irritation. Clean the area with water first, then, if you’re able to, take antihistamine medication which can help with the itching. Hydrocortisone cream and good, old fashioned calamine lotion can work wonders too. Drawing a ring around the area with a felt pen is an excellent way of assessing if an infection is present and spreading.

For horsefly bites, the advice is to steer clear of chemicals and simply wash the bite with soap and cold water, cleaning the whole area. If you’ve been bitten by a horsefly, you’ll know just how large and hard the bite can be – if it hasn’t reduced in size after a few days, you should contact your GP.

As for mosquitoes, you can either become a ninja – attuned to their frequency to detect them, or you can cultivate specific plants in your garden, including basil, garlic, lemon balm, rosemary, and lavender to repel them. You can also invest in repellents in the form of sprays and diffusers.

Whatever the Great British Summers brings us this year, you can defend your home and family from our flying visitors and enjoy the sun (when it comes out!).