Swarms of angry paper wasps, yellow jackets and hornets continue to plague Hurricane Michael victims as the displaced colonies search for new homes, food and water.
"When the storm came through, just like people's homes were damaged, they lost their homes too with either wind or flooding," said Beth Bolles, the horticulture agent for the University of Florida's Escambia County Extension. "Right now among all of this debris they are looking for food and water and looking to rebuild their nests. They are more angry right now and will sting."
After Hurricane Michael made landfall Oct. 10, the swarms appeared almost immediately, causing an added nuisance for residents trying to remove debris from their homes and communities.
Bolles said the swarming issue following the storm was escalated by high numbers of wasps normally seen during late summer and early fall. She encouraged residents working outside to wear long sleeved shirts and gloves to avoid getting stung.
Many of the wasps, according to a press release from the University of Florida, are attracted to the sap from the recently broken trees caused by Hurricane Michael. Bolles said they are also being forced to find food in trash cans and other residential areas because of a low insect population caused by the storm.
"Their food source may be gone now, too," Bolles said. "Some of them may die off, or they may feed on human garbage or nectar. They are attracted to sweet things, but catch caterpillars or spiders to raise their young."
Doug Mayo, the Jackson County Extension director, said Monday the insect issue seems to be a historical one following hurricanes in the area. It's an issue, Mayo added, that's the least of the agents' worries.
"Everyone has noticed it, but it's minor compared to all of the other problems," Mayo said. "Our office has only been open for a week and the calls have been coming in about fences down and crops destroyed. People are calling needing help with their homes."
Bolles said the swarming will likely continue until temperatures cool down.
"With cool mornings there will be slow activity," she said. "Until then, they will continue to fly around."