Yellow jackets are making life miserable for a lot of people right now in Middle Tennessee. Experts say the stinging insects are at peak populations in some of the best conditions they've seen in 25 years.
"It was just good growing conditions, a good year," said University of Tennessee entomology professor Dr. Frank Hale. "Everybody enjoyed this past summer. It was the mild temperatures. You didn't have to irrigate your garden so often. Everything was done by Mother Nature, and we just have big populations."
Hale says the conditions have been perfect for yellow jackets, and now we are all part of their last stand.
"This is their last hurrah, and they are out looking for sugar," Hale said.
Stinging stories are too numerous to count. Bellevue's Nick Leach said he was stung about 20 times Saturday while walking his dog.
"I thought I was going to pass out and thought it was going to be something really serious. I was stung on the head, throat, ears, legs, arms, back and chest," he said.
Others have been posting to Facebook, bragging - or lamenting - about the number of times they were stung.
Yellow jackets nest in the ground, and when their nest is disturbed, they send out an alarm pheromone and sting in mass.
So, what is the professional advice from the state's top insect man?
"Run. Run as fast as you can. When I was a kid at camp, we never got stung because we ran fast. Someone would yell, 'Yellow jacket!' and we would scatter," Hale said.
But if you are too dignified to run, screaming down a trail, at least watch where you step. The yellow jackets nest in holes dug by mammals.
You can typically see them easing in and out of the holes and often won't bother you if you don't bother them.
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