Of the 50 or so deaths reported each year from anthropod bites or stings, stinging insects including bees and wasps account for about 30% of them. However, for the most part, they are a very beneficial group of insects. Most importantly, they are major pollinators of flowering plants. Therefore, since all bees and wasps are extremely beneficial to nature, pest control should only be done where there is an immediate threat to humans or their pets, or when a need for peace of mind is involved.
In general, bees and wasps are categorized as either solitary or social (solitary species are those that live independently of each other, while social species live together in colonies or nests). Common solitary groups include carpenter bees, mud daubers, and velvet ants while common social groups include bumble bees, honey bees, hornets, paper wasps and yellow jackets. Knowledge of whether a certain kind of bee is solitary or social is essential for staying safe and keeping them under control.
Bees and wasps are easily recognizable and are unique in that they have constriction at the base of the abdomen, and they have four wings with the front wings being a little longer than the hind wings.
Bees and wasps have a complete metamorphosis. When cold weather sets in, the workers and male bees die off (with the exception of honeybees) leaving only the inseminated queens to live throughout the winter.
Feeding-wise, adults of social species feed on nectar, honeydew, sap and fruit juices, while other groups are scavengers and predators. Read more about specific types of bees and wasps below...
The name carpenter bee applies to several species of bees in the United States that excavate tunnels in sound wood. They are similar in size and appearance to bumble bees but the top surface of the abdomen is black, almost entirely hairless, and shiny. Males have a white face, females a black face.
Biology and Habits
Carpenter bees are normally considered to be beneficial insects since they pollinate a wide variety of plant species. However, when making tunnels in the wood of human structures, they are considered to be economic pests and therefore, Carpenter Bee pest control service is always recommended to help protect your home.
The lifetime of a carpenter bee, from egg to death, covers one year. New adult bees emerge briefly in August or September, feed and re-enter their galleries to pass the winter. In the spring those bees that survive winter emerge again in April, mate, and produce a new generation. They reuse existing tunnels or build new ones in which to lay their eggs. These adult bees die in July, following mating and egg-laying. Carpenter bee activity begins again when their offspring have matured and emerge briefly during September. Infestations may persist for several generations over several years, with each generation lasting a full year.
People may become alarmed when holes begin to appear in exposed wood. Unsightly defecation stains may also be present near the openings to carpenter bee tunnels. While carpenter bees attack many species of dried, seasoned wood, they seem to prefer softwoods such as pine, fir, redwood and cedar. They may damage porch and shed ceilings, railings, overhead trim, wooden porch furniture, dead tree limbs, fence posts, wooden shingles, wooden siding, windowsills and wooden doors. They prefer unpainted or well-weathered wood to painted or hardwood timbers. Preferred nesting sites are usually at least 2 inches thick.
Management and/or extermination of carpenter bee populations consists of treating each individual tunnel opening. Tunnel openings should be treated after dark when the bees are calm and in the nest -- preferably on cool nights. Within a few days after treatment, tunnels can be filled. If paint on the surface is not undesirable, painting will discourage further attack by other carpenter bees. If your house is invaded by these pests, completely exterminating carpenter bees should be your goal.
Consider treating tunnel openings in the early spring before bee activity begins. Spring treatment is best and most effective before mating and egg-laying activity begins. When you treat tunnel openings before activity begins, wait until the bees have become active for a few days before you fill the tunnels.
If mating, tunneling, and egg-laying activities have already begun in the spring; tunnel openings will need to be treated at least twice. The first treatment eliminates the adults that are mating and building new nesting sites. A second treatment made to the tunnel openings during the late summer will ensure that adults emerging from pre-existing larvae are also eliminated. Tunnels can be sealed after the second treatment.
When carpenter bees are discovered during the brief activity period of late summer and early fall, a single treatment applied to tunnel openings is usually enough to rid the homeowner of these pests.
Honey bees (or honeybees) are generally distinguished by the production/storage of honey as well as the construction of colonial nests made out of wax. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. Other types of related bees produce honey (and store it), but only members of the specific genus Apis are true honey bees.
The honeybee is 2/3" in length, yellow and black and brown in color, with hairs covering the body. The honeybee can sting.
Two particular species of honey bee (A. mellifera and A. Cerana), are usually maintained by beekeepers to help in pollinating crops.
In colder climates, honey bees cease to fly when the temperature drops below about 50 F and they crowd into a central area of their hive to form a "winter cluster." The worker bees huddle around the queen bee in this cluster, shivering in order to keep the center between 80 F at the start of winter and 93 F once the queen resumes producing eggs. The worker bees rotate through the cluster so that no bee gets overly cold. The outside edges of the cluster stay at about 48 degrees. The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes. During winter, they consume their stored honey to produce body heat.
All honey bees live in colonies where the worker bees will sting intruders as a form of defense, and alarmed bees will release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response in other bees. The different species of honey bees are distinguished from all other bee species by the small barbs on their stinger, but these barbs are found only in the worker bees. The sting and associated venom sac pull free of the body once lodged, and the sting apparatus has its own system which allows it to keep delivering venom once detached from the host. The worker bee dies after the stinger is torn out of its body. If are in need of honey bee pest control, call Amco today.
Africanized Honey Bees
Africanized honey bees (killer bees) s are approximately 3/8 to ½ inch in length and are yellowish-brown with dark brown bands on the abdomen. They are almost identical to common European honey bees; the difference can usually be determined by measuring their wing size.
The Africanized honey bee is a result of mating between African honey bees and European honey bees. They resulted from an experiment in the mid-1950’s designed to breed a superior honey bee that was suited to tropical conditions. However, the African queens escaped and interbred in the wild with European honey bees, resulting in “Africanized” offspring.
The venom of the Africanized honey bee is no more poisonous than that of the European species. However, they are more defensive if provoked, respond faster and in larger swarms, and will travel greater distances from their nest to chase an intruder. Also, vibrations from motors and loud noises, such as the sound of a lawnmower, seem to agitate them greatly.
Africanized honey bees are no more likely to sting than European honey bees (the venom of both types is almost identical) and they are not indiscriminate hunters. The term “killer bee” is actually somewhat of a misnomer.
Africanized honey bees typically colonize large areas and will leave the colony altogether and exhibit a trait known as “absconding”, i.e. they will move to a new location if their environment does not suit them, such as harsh winters or hot dry summers. They will often fly several miles to abscond.
Africanized honey bees are not particularly discriminating when it comes to choosing nesting sites. They often build nests in the ground, in cavities in trees and under buildings, old tires, abandoned vehicles, outdoor structures, etc. In rare cases a colony will decide to nest inside an attic, a crawl space, or a wall void in a home, but more so if it is unoccupied. They have spread through South America and most of the southwestern U.S., and have also been found in Florida.
European honey bees that interbreed with Africanized honey bees are harder to control as pollinators and may produce less honey. This should be considered since honey bees produce about $150 million worth of honey a year and add at least $10 billion to the value of more than 90 crops in the U.S. as they are natural pollinators. They are a vital link in U.S. agriculture.
Their venom is similar to European honey bees; both leave their stinger in the wound with a tiny venom sac attached and can only sting once before they die due to abdominal rupture. Stings can be painful; however most deaths that have been attributed to Africanized killer bees occur from severe allergic reactions, often from many stings resulting from a disturbed nest.
Africanized honey bees cannot be distinguished with the naked eye and should be treated with caution as one would with other bees or wasps. If a nest or nesting site is found it should be handled by a pest control professional, like Amco Exterminating.
If you do disturb a nest and start to get stung, stay calm and get away as quickly and safely as possible. Cover your head and with a jacket or shirt and run in a straight line into the nearest shelter.
If you are stung, gently scrape the stinger out to remove it. Promptly applying a paste of meat tenderizer with water or vinegar to the stung area will soothe the pain. The meat tenderizer contains the enzyme papain, derived from papaya, which breaks down protein, which is why it tenderizes meat. Venom contains proteins, which explains why this remedy works.
If you are stung and have a known allergy to bee or wasp stings, seek medical attention immediately.
Bumblebees(sometimes Bumble bees) are social insects that are generally 1" in length, black and yellow in color and covered with hairs, called pile, that covers their entire body, making them appear (and feel) fuzzy. Some species have orange or red on their bodies, or may be entirely black. Bumblebees are important pollinators of both flower and crops. Like their relatives the honey bees, bumblebees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young.
Bumblebees form colonies that are usually significantly less extensive than those of honey bees. The nest of the bumblebee is made of wax cells, typically below ground (nests may be found within tunnels in the ground made by other animals), but sometimes in walls or under slabs. Often, mature bumblebee nests will hold fewer than 50 bees. Bumblebees do not usually keep their nests through the winter, though some tropical species are known to live in their nests for a few years. Queen bumblebees can live up to one year, possibly longer, in tropical settings.
Queen and worker bumblebees can sting, but usually only if provoked. Unlike a honey bee's stinger, a bumblebee's stinger does not have barbs. As a result, they are able to sting more than once. Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but will sting in defense of their nest. Female cuckoo bumblebees will aggressively attack host colony members, even stinging the host queen, but will ignore other animals, including humans (unless threatened).
One common, yet incorrect, assumption surrounding bees is that the buzzing sound is caused by the beating of their wings. The sound is actually the result of the bee vibrating its flight muscles, a feature known in bees but not in other insects. This phenomenon is especially pronounced in bumblebees, as they must warm up their bodies considerably to be able to fly in low temperatures
Most wasps are 3/4"-1" in length, black or brown in color, with red and a few yellow markings. Wasps build a paper comb of cells that open downward and are common under window frames and decks. Wasps can sting. As well as affecting humans by being a nuisance and sometimes stinging, wasps can be a threat to conservations. Therefore, wasp extermination is a very common need in all areas, including New York and New Jersey.
The following characteristics are present in most wasps:
- Two pairs of wings (except in wingless species)
- A stinger (which is only present in females because it derives from a female sex organ)
- Few or no thickened hairs (in contrast to bees)
- Nearly all wasps are terrestrial; only a few specialized groups are aquatic
- Predators, mostly on other terrestrial insects; most species specialize in using spiders as prey
The type of nest produced by wasps can depend on the species and location. Many species of social wasps produce paper pulp nests on trees, in attics, holes in the ground or other types of sheltered areas that have access to the outdoors. Unlike honey bees, wasps do not have wax producing glands. Instead, many wasps create a paper-like substance primarily from the pulp found in wood. More commonly, wasp nests are simply burrows in the soil or, if constructed, they are constructed from mud.
Hornets are technically wasps and are generally about 3/4" in length. Hornets can sting and their sting is painful to humans, but the sting toxicity varies greatly by hornet species. All hornet stings are an allergen for people with an allergy to wasp venom, and they are more painful than a typical wasp's due to a large amount (5%) of a chemical called acetylcholine. Some deliver just a typical insect sting which is not too painful, while other hornets are among the most venomous known insects.
Allergic reactions, fatal in severe cases, can occur with hornet stings. An individual suffering from anaphylactic shock due to hornet stings may die unless treated immediately using a device such as an EpiPen and/or prompt follow-up treatment in a hospital. As a result, pest control for hornets is often necessary and recommended.
As in all stinging wasps, hornets are able sting multiple times. However, they do not die after stinging a human (which is typical for a worker honey bee) as a hornet's stinger is not barbed. Hornets can also bite and sting at the same time.
Hornets, like many social wasps, can mobilize the entire nest to sting in defense, which is highly dangerous to humans. The hornet alarm pheromone is used to raise alarm of a nest being attacked and to identify prey, such as bees. It is not advisable to kill a hornet anywhere near a nest, as the distress signal can trigger the entire nest to attack vigorously. Materials that come in contact with pheromone, such as clothes, skin or dead prey must be removed from the vicinity of the hornets nest to avoid future attacks.
Hornets prey on many insects that are considered to be pests, including bees. Unlike honey bees, hornet colonies die out every winter.
Yellowjacket (sometimes Yellow Jacket) is the common name in North America for a specific type of predatory wasps. Most of these are black and yellow; some are black and white (such as the bald-faced hornet), while others may have the red abdomen, instead of black.
Yellow Jackets can be identified by their distinctive markings, small size (usually about ¾” long), and a characteristic, rapid, side to side flight pattern prior to landing. Yellowjackets' closest relatives, the hornets, closely resemble them but have a much bigger head, seen especially in the large space from the eyes to the back of the head.
All female yellowjackets are capable of stinging, which usually causes pain to the person who has been stung. Therefore, yellow jacket extermination by a prrofessional pest control company like Amco is often a necessary step. Yellowjackets are also important predators of pest insects.
Yellow jackets typically nest underground in large globular nests made of paper material. Nests may be built in an aerial location and usually last for only one season, dying off in winter. The nest is started by a single queen, who is called the "foundress". Typically, a yellow jacket nest can reach the size of a basketball by the end of a season. In parts of southwestern coastal areas of the United States, the winters are mild enough to allow nest overwintering. Nests that are able to survive multiple seasons can become massive and often possess multiple egg-laying queens.