Things That Sting… And how to share the golf course with them painlessly.
14 Sep, 2015

Exclusive as the golf course may be to humans, there is an open door policy to insect visitors of all temperaments. Among them will be the beautiful butterflies and dragonflies, their creepy caterpillars, the problematic army worms and the group of interest, the stinging insects.

Stinging insects include bees, wasps and hornets (a type of wasp), and kerengga ants. Technically, the ants do not have stingers but they can give a vicious bite and follow that with a spray of formic acid into the wound causing a
stinging sensation.

To all of these insects, the golf course is particularly attractive as a well stocked pantry and prime real estate. The landscape is full of shrubs and trees whose flowers provide nectar as a high energy food source. Interestingly, in a links course where there are very few plants except wild grasses and turf, there will still be bee activity. This is because grass is wind-pollinated and produces vast quantities of pollen which the bees also collect. Wasps are omnivores so they eat fruit, nectar as well as other smaller insects (including bees!); all of which are found in great abundance in the course.

As for shelter, bees and wasps choose tall trees, dense shrubbery, quiet ‘rough’ areas in the golf course and nooks and crannies of buildings; anywhere where the hives and nests can be protected from rain and other disturbances. Kerengga ants stitch together live leaves to form a nest which is very well camouflaged.

Bees and wasps spend much of their time on duties around the hive/nests and only fly around to forage when the weather is not very hot. While on these food gathering trips, any close encounters with humans will pass uneventfully. However, when humans become unintentional intruders by stumbling upon their hives and nests or even being too noisy around them, it can spell trouble. The surprise visit will be perceived as a threat deserving a defence of equal hostility.

If one is so unfortunate to be besieged….RUN!

Run purposefully to get away as fast and as far as your breath can take you. There is no use doing a zigzag route and waving your arms to swat them will only rile them up further. Bees will give chase but the good news is that they can’t fly very fast. Most people will be able to outrun them over a short distance.

Bee stingers are barbed and become embedded firmly in your skin once they sting you. As the bee tries to leave, the stinger, together with much of the abdomen will tear off and leave the bee mortally wounded. What is a minor trauma for you is a total disaster for the bee! In contrast, wasps have smooth stings and technically, can live to sting multiple times over.

It is important to know that dead or crushed bees and wasps emit a scent signal that summons their sisters to seek revenge. (Yes, only females sting!). So, remember to move away from the scene before you tend to your stings. First aid yourself by scraping out the stinger (with the rigid edge of a finger nail or a credit card) and numbing the skin with a cold compress. See a doctor if sting is near your mouth or eye or if you are generally feeling ill.

Hopefully though, this does not come to pass. Some effective precautions to try are:

Do not have anything of interest to a bee or a wasp.

No perfume. No brightly coloured clothes. No fruits or opened cans of sugary drinks in the buggy.

Wear tighter clothing or clothes with fitted cuffs so that insects are not easily trapped between cloth and your skin.

Observe the area where your ball lands and be on the alert for hives, nests and irritated insects as your ball may have hit and dislodged their nests.

By giving bees and wasps a little space and a little respect while you go about your game, we can happily coexist and enjoy the golf course together.