Is that a person or a flower? Experimental evaluation of the standard recommendations given by physicians to venom-allergic patients regarding foraging Hymenoptera

Wednesday, December 16, 2009: 3:35 PM
Room 208, Second Floor (Convention Center)
John C. Carlson , Allergy and Immunology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Mark Fox , Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Physicians give patients with life-threatening allergies to Hymenoptera venom advice regarding avoidance of defensive stings as well as avoidance of foraging workers by their physicians. Some of this advice is in contrast to recommendations given by USDA and other organizations that employ entomologists: avoid wearing bright colors, floral patterns, and perfume that might attract foraging insects. The likelihood of a bee or wasp to alight upon clothing was tested in haphazardly chosen locations around New Orleans, LA over the summer of 2009. Dark clothing and bright, floral patterned clothing were placed on the ground and observed for 10 minutes. Perfume was applied to all clothing for a second 10 minute observation period. Control plots were observed during each replicate to ensure that foraging Hymenoptera were active on flowers at the location. No species from which allergy has been reported alighted on any article of clothing for the duration of the study. These results were expected based on the known sensory cues used by social Hymenoptera in locating food. In light of these findings, venom-allergic patients should not be advised to avoid perfume or bright clothing, especially because dark clothing has been associated with stings from workers defending honey bee colonies.