Be careful when you go outside

Published 5:00 am Friday, June 28, 2002

It began as a pleasant stroll Monday evening along the banks ofHurricane Creek. My wife, Laurie; and our yellow Lab, Benton; werewith me, inspecting the area on our property.

Suddenly, the woodsy scene became unpleasant.

“Look out!” I shouted. “Hornets!”

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Making a quick retreat, I knocked one off of my arm and anotherfrom the side of my face. The stinging sensation beganimmediately.

“Get down on the ground,” was my wife’s sage advice. Seems likewasps and hornets aren’t supposed to see downward.

The ambush was over as quickly as it started. Call it aterrorist attack by the local insect population.

Our evening hike came to a halt and we headed for the house,looking for antihistamines and ice. Insect bites are nothing new ifyou live in a rural setting, especially in Mississippi. Don’t knowif you’ve noticed it but the deer flies and horse flies have beenextremely aggressive this spring and summer.

These so-called wasps or hornets which attacked me are believedto be Cicada Killer Wasps. That name sounds murderous.

Back in our air-conditioned living quarters, I began applyingthe ice bags to my left temple and both arms in the biceps area.These Cicada Killers had a game plan.

After supper, I noticed the swelling. The pain wasn’t bad butthe swelling was starting to spread. By bedtime, the area beneathmy left eye was beginning to puff up.

When the alarm clock went off at 5:15 a.m., I was limited to oneeye for vision. My left eye was swollen almost completely shut. Itlooked like I had stepped in the ring with heavyweight championLennox Lewis and lasted just a few seconds.

After eating breakfast, reading my daily devotional and walkingaround outside with Benton for a few minutes, I headed for TheDaily Leader. I bought some more antihistamines at a drugstore before arriving at work.

“Tom, what happened to your eye?”

My attempt at a humorous answer was met with a chuckle aboutsome reader who didn’t like what I wrote in a column.

By now my left and right arms were swollen. My left forearmlooked like a Popeye mutation. All I needed was an anchortattoo.

At my wife’s urging, I called the doctor for advice. Dr. RayMontalvo’s nurse said I needed to come by the office for ashot.

On further inspection, Tonya Hughey suggested a shot of steroidsand penicillin, one in each buttock. Then she prescribed someantibiotics to be taken for several days.

Thankfully, I’m feeling much better. The next step is toevaluate the enemy and plot my revenge strategy.

Obviously, it has been a great year of feasting for the CicadaKillers. In Mississippi this is the anniversary year for the13-year Cicada. We have been entertained by their droning song forthe last two months.

Thanks to the internet, I was able to pull up some informationon the Cicada Killer Wasps from the University of KentuckyEntomology Department. They attract attention due to their largesize, the burrows that they dig in home lawns and the buzzingflights over the lawn. They prefer to dig burrows in sandy, bare,well-drained soil exposed to direct sunlight.

“In spite of their large size, the wasps usually ignore peoplebut they can give a painful sting, if bothered. Mating males aremore aggressive and more easily disturbed.”

Obviously, the attackers had a high level of testosterone whenthey ambushed me. They certainly had a high level of venom.

How to spot the enemy.

A mound of fine soil surrounds the burrow of each Cicada Killer.That must not have been a crawfish home I kicked over as I walkedalong Hurricane Creek.


Cultural practices can prevent or eliminate the establishment ofCicada Killer colonies. Adequate lime and fertilizationapplications, accompanied by frequent watering promote a thickgrowth of turf on a lawn and can usually eliminate Cicada Killerinfestations in one or two seasons.

A strong wasp pesticide, kerosene or gasoline also works well onwasps. We can speak from experience.


The folks at UK say that paper wasps, hornets and yellow jacketsare a potential health threat. “Hundreds (perhaps thousands) ofpeople in the United States die each year from allergic reactionsto the venom of these insects.”

Stings can be life-threatening to persons who are allergic tothe venom. People who develop hives, difficulty breathing orswallowing, wheezing or similar symptoms of allergic reaction,should seek immediate medical attention.

So, be careful when you’re outside walking on your lawn orstrolling through the woods. Some critters can be hazardous to yourhealth.

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz by e-mail or by writing The Daily Leader at P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602.