Pest-control firm calls for yellow-jacket reportsWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Russell Lamp, owner of Integrated Pest Control in Oregon, said he has a “swell time” handling stinging insects such as wasps, hornets and bees. But when it comes to collecting certain species for pharmaceutical firms manufacturing vaccines for individuals with allergic reactions to stings, he takes his work seriously.
Lamp is calling for property owners to “give him a buzz” if they encounter the little buggers, especially yellow jackets’ ground nests, which are now in demand to help stock supplies in the venom immunology industry. Doctors inject small amounts of vaccines into patients before they’re stung to build immunity against allergic reactions ranging from swelling in minor cases to death or near-death experiences.
“This is where the life-saving issue comes in because a lot of people don’t react quick enough or get the medical attention they need when they’re stung, especially when they’re highly allergic,” Lamp said. “Multiple stings could exaggerate the situation.”
Exceptionally warm weather contributed to a prosperous season for insects, with yellow-jacket populations doubling about every 10 days in late June and early July, he said. The result has been more frequent run-ins with stinging insects that tend to aggressively defend their nests. In one case in Whitehouse, Lamp and his employees recently removed what he described as the largest yellow-jacket nest he’s ever seen.
“We’ve had basically an ideal summer,” he said. “It’s been an insect summer. If you try to go out and enjoy the mosquitoes, you can see why. There’s been plenty of water, plenty of food, and the heat has just been about ideal.”
His crew works at night after the yellow jackets have returned from hunting other insects such as caterpillars, flies and mosquitoes. Lamp, whose pest-control experience dates back to 1979, said he used to wear protective gear in the field, but today he usually foregoes it because it “just gets in the way.” However, he emphasized that “knowledge is king, and if you don’t have the knowledge, don’t even attempt it.”
“The actual collection of the insects is the easy part [for us]; processing is the hard part because when we ship the insects, they’re frozen; they’re never allowed to thaw,” he said. “And when we’re processing them, we’re not allowed to let them thaw more than 10 or 15 minutes or we’ve got to throw them away.”
He also warned against spraying insecticide, which contaminates the venom, as well as underestimating the danger involved in dealing with stinging insects based on their size. While some species, such as Vespa crabro, a giant hornet about two inches long, may appear more threatening, the yellow jacket currently on Lamp’s hit list, Vespula maculifrons, poses a greater risk.
“Size is immaterial; size just means they can make more noise and scare you to death. It’s the little ones which are the deadly ones. The ones we’re collecting right now are the deadliest ones,” he said.
About 2 to 4 percent of the human population remains susceptible to potentially deadly insect stings, according to Miles Guralnick, president of Vespa Laboratories Inc. in Spring Mills, Pa. He said that candidates for immunization must qualify based on criteria including a history of systemic allergic reaction and a positive result after a diagnostic test.
He also described the specifications for the collection of insects and the manufacture of vaccines as “very rigid.” Vespa Laboratories receives shipments from Lamp and other providers while primarily supplying raw materials to its parent company, ALK-Abelló in Denmark.
“Of the people who collect insects for us, most of them are very skilled at it,” Guralnick said. “They wear the proper gear; they know the behavior of the insects; they know the way to do it in order to protect themselves and not put themselves in danger.”
For more information or to report a ground nest for removal, which Lamp said is usually free under the right conditions, call (419) 836-3710.