Bees and Wasps
Bumblebees are social insects that are large (3/4 inch long) with black and yellow hair patterns on their abdomens. Queens and workers have pollen baskets on their hind legs. Bumblebees feed on nectar and gather pollen to feed their young. Bumblebees form colonies, which are usually much less extensive than those of honey bees. Often, mature bumblebee nests will hold fewer than 50 individuals. Bumblebee nests are first constructed by over-wintered queens in the spring. Upon emerging from hibernation, the queen collects pollen and nectar from flowers and searches for a suitable nest site. The characteristics of the nesting sites vary among species, which include clumps of dry grass, old bird nests, abandoned rodent burrows, old mattresses, car cushions or even in or under old abandoned buildings. Once the queen finds a site, she prepares wax pots to store food, and wax cells to lay eggs in. In the fall, all members of the colony die except the fertilized queens. Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but will sting in defence of their nest, or if harmed. Unlike a honey bee's stinger, a bumblebee's stinger lacks barbs, so it can sting repeatedly without injuring itself.
Carpenter Bees are large, black and yellow bees frequently seen in spring hovering around the eaves of a house or the underside of a deck or porch rail. They are most often mistaken for bumble bees, but differ in that they have a black shiny tail section.The carpenter bee is so-called because of its habit of excavating tunnels in wood with its strong jaws. The round entrance holes are usually found on the underside of a board. The males do not have stingers, but they are territorial and will harass other bees and people who venture near their protected areas. Females can sting, but rarely do so unless highly agitated. Inside her gallery, the female bee deposits an egg near a pollen ball and then seals off this section of tunnel with a partition made of chewed wood. She constructs additional cells in this manner until the tunnel is completely filled, usually with six to seven cells. Typically, carpenter bees do not cause serious structural damage to wood unless large numbers of bees are allowed to drill many tunnels over successive years. Woodpeckers may damage infested wood in search of bee larvae in the tunnels.
Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers in the 1600's . They directly compete with some native species of bees which are close to becoming extinct since they must compete with Honey Bees. Honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless provoked. A hive's inhabitants are generally divided into three types. Workers are females that are not sexually developed. Workers forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean, circulate air by beating their wings, and perform many other societal functions. A single hive can have up to 80,000 bees. The queen's job is simple—laying the eggs that will spawn the hive's next generation of bees. There is usually only a single queen in a hive. If the queen dies, workers will create a new queen by feeding one of the worker females a special diet of a food called "royal jelly." Queens also regulate the hive's activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees. Male bees are called drones—the third class of honeybee. Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are expelled for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode. Bees live on stored honey and pollen all winter, and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Larvae are fed from the stores during this season and, by spring, the hive is swarming with a new generation of bees.The worst predator for Honey Bees is the Varroa Mite. Varroa Mites are tiny arachnids (spider cousins). Varroa Mites weaken the Honey Bee's immune system, which makes them vulnerable to diseases.
Paper Wasps get their common name from the paper-like material out of which they make their nests. Paper wasps are sometimes called umbrella wasps, after the shape of their distinctive nests. Paper wasps are semi-social and live in small colonies. They eat nectar and other insects including caterpillars and flies. In the autumn, inseminated females will seek places to spend the winter, and may find their way indoors, especially if there is a cathedral ceiling present. Paper wasps hang their comb nests from twigs and branches of trees and shrubs, porch ceilings, the tops of window and doorframes, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, deck floor joists and railings, etc. While not an aggressive species by nature, paper wasps will sting if they are disturbed or their nest is threatened. Wasp stings are painful and can cause the same risk of allergic reaction as other insect stings.
Mud Dauber is a name commonly applied to a number of wasps that build their nests from mud. Mud daubers are long, slender wasps with thread-like waists and are about 1-inch in length. The name of this wasp group comes from the nests that are made by the females, which consist of mud molded into place by the wasp's mandibles. Mud daubers are rarely aggressive and stings are very uncommon. Like most other wasps, mud daubers are predators. The females not only build the nests, but also they hunt to provision them. However, pipe-organ mud dauber males have reportedly brought spiders to the nest, and they aid in nest guarding. Black and yellow mud daubers primarily prey on relatively small, colorful spiders, such as crab spiders (and related groups), orb weavers and some jumping spiders. They usually find them in and around vegetation. Blue mud daubers are the main predator of the black and brown widow spiders.
Yellow Jackets & Bald-Faced Hornets.The baldfaced hornet is actually a yellowjacket. It receives its common name of baldfaced from its largely black color but mostly white face, and that of hornet because of its large size and aerial nest. In general, the term "hornet" is used for species which nest above ground and the term "yellowjacket" for those which make subterranean nests. All species are social, living in colonies of hundreds to thousands of individuals. Colonies are founded in the spring by a single queen that mated the previous fall and overwintered as an adult, usually nests may be aerial or terrestrial and are found under the bark of a log, decayed stumps, tree cavities, between sidings of a home and attic voids, depending in part upon the species of the wasp. Regardless of location, each nest is a series of horizontal combs completely surrounded by a paper envelope. Initially, the solitary queen must not only construct the paper brood cells, but also forage for food, lay eggs, feed her progeny, and defend the next from intruders. When the first offspring emerge as adults they assume all tasks except egg laying. The queen devotes the remainder of her life to this task and does not leave the nest again. For most of the season the colony consists of sterile worker females which are noticeably smaller than the queen. In autumn, larger cells are constructed for the crop of new queens. Larvae in these cells receive more food than do those in normal cells. At the same time, the queen begins to lay unfertilized or male eggs in either large or small cells. After emergence, the new queens mate and seek shelter for the winter. These will be the founders of next spring's colonies. The old founder queen dies, and the workers begin to behave erratically until social order breaks down. With winter's arrival, the remaining colony dies. Yellow Jackets perform a valuable service in destroying many insects that attack cultivated and ornamental plants. However, nests near homes may prove a source of irritation. If the nests are large or difficult to approach, for example within the walls of a house, the safest procedure would be to hire a pest control operator to eliminate the colony. Any attempt to remove or destroy nests by the layman should be done at night when nest activity is at a minimum. It is important to note that even though nests are relatively inactive at night, any disturbance will result in instant activity by the colony. It is necessary to work cautiously but quickly. Protective clothing is advisable. These wasps are adept at stinging and are especially aroused if danger threatens the nest. Unlike the honeybee, which dies upon inflicting a single sting, yellow jackets may sting as often as they find a target. In fact, when a yellowjacket or hornet is injured it often releases an "alarm pheromone" which quickly results in an aggressive, defensive behavior from other members of the colony. Yellowjackets and hornets are also attracted to sugar sources, this becomes a problem when the sugar source is a food or drink being consumed by a human.
The European Hornet is an introduced species first reported in the United States in 1840 in New York. Currently, its geographical range extends from the Northeastern states west to the Dakotas, and south to Louisiana and Florida. It belongs to a family of wasps called the vespids, which encompass all of the yellowjackets including the bald-faced hornets. Technically, the European hornet is the only true hornet in North America and is large and will aggressively defend their nests. Homeowners should be cautious when attempting to manage this hornet. Their nests are typically located in a cavity, such as a hollow tree or wall void. They will rarely appear freely suspended like the football-shaped bald-faced hornet nests. The entrance to European hornets' nests are frequently 6 feet or more above ground. In some instances, a portion of the gray, papery nest extends outside the cavity or void. Each fall, the colony produces males and females that mate, and the females become next year's queens. Only the overwintering queens survive in protected sites such as under loose bark, in tree cavities, and in wall voids of buildings. All other colony members produced in the current year will perish. In the spring, the emerging queens establish new nests in aerial cavities, deposit eggs in cells they have constructed, and feed the first batch of larvae. The larvae mature, pupate in their cells, and then emerge as sterile female workers. These workers take over the responsibility of foraging for food to feed the young larvae, collect cellulose to expand the nest, and protect the nest from external threats. Typical food for the young include crickets, grasshoppers, large flies, caterpillars, and the workers of other yellowjacket species. European hornet colonies often contain 300 or more workers by September or October (maximum of 800–1,000 workers). These workers are unique among the yellowjackets for their ability to forage at night. It is not unusual for workers to bounce off of external lights or house windowpanes during summer nights. Although the workers will sting if handled, they are not normally aggressive unless the colony is threatened. In addition to the hazard created by their stings, the hornets will also damage various trees and shrubs by girdling the branches and twigs to gather bark for nest building and to obtain nourishment from the sap. For treatment of European hornets in wall voids of buildings, we advise the use of professional pest control services. Be certain NOT to plug the hornets' entrance because they may chew through interior wall coverings in an attempt to escape and enter the living area. There is evidence that this insect may also attempt to create a new entrance/exit when liquid insecticides are sprayed into the entry. Therefore, to repeat, it is wise to contract with a pest management professional rather than attempting to do this yourself.