This page is designed to help the general public with their “BEE PROBLEMS”… TCBA receives many emails and calls each year, asking for advice about “bees” on people’s property. Sometimes the offending insects are in the ground next to a walkway, or perhaps in the walls of your home… Where ever they are and what ever type of “bee” they are, we will try to help…
You may have noticed above that the word bee is always in quotation marks (“bee”)… This is because much of the general public, understandably so, includes all stinging insects into the category of “bees”. TCBA feels that it is important to educate the public about the different kinds of stinging insects. We feel that the greatly beneficial honey bee, all too often, gets a bad rap by being associated with other, more aggressive, unwanted, stinging insects… This unfair association is exacerbated by the public’s practice of lumping everything into the name “bee”… So, in addition to helping you with your insect problem, we hope to educate you with this webpage, so you can be ambassadors for the beneficial honey bee.
Disclaimer – We at TCBA are not licensed, professional exterminators. Any advice given here is not a substitute for the advice of a professional exterminator. Disturbing any stinging insect may result in a stinging incident which could result in injury or even death. The level in which you involve yourself with your insect problem, you do at your own risk. TCBA is not responsible. We also remind you to follow all labeled instructions, including the use of personal protective gear, on any insecticides you may decide to use.
OK… With all that legalize done, lets get down to helping you.
The pictures and text below will help you determine what insect you are dealing with. Each of the pictures will be accompanied by the insects common name, a description of the insect, its nesting habits and some advice for dealing with the insect… We will start with the most frequently identified culprit and end with the least…
We estimate that the Yellow Jacket is the insect involved in 80% of our “insect problem” calls. As you can see, they are black and yellow. They are 1/2″ to 5/8″ long. Yellow Jackets are aggressive insects when their nests are disturbed and can sting multiple times. Their colony starts new each year with a single queen that survives the winter in a protected place. The larger queen comes out in April (in Ohio), searches out a nest site, builds a small paper comb and raises several worker offspring. These workers then add onto the nest, which builds over the summer to perhaps 2,000-4,000 individual insects by September. So, although the nest has been present all summer, you may not have noticed it until the population peak in late summer. The good piece of news is that a Yellow Jacket nest only lives for one year and then it dies-off naturally in November. As mentioned above new queens are raised to then over winter and start anew the next spring. Another bit of good news is that the old nest site is rarely reused the next year. Yellow Jackets, for the most part, do very little pollination of crops, if at all. For this reason, and their aggressiveness, many people consider exterminating the nest if possible, especially if the nest is near an area visited by family members and others.
When it comes to nesting sites, there seem to be two preferences, which actually indicates that there are at least two varieties of Yellow Jackets.
One location is in or close to the ground.
In many cases the queen selects an old, unused chipmunk hole for her nest. Many people find these nests in their yards, the hard-way, as they mow their lawns in late summer. If you get stung while mowing or working in your yard, it is most likely because you disturbed a nest in the ground. After licking your wounds, wait 15 mins and consider cautiously approaching the area to locate the colony’s entrance. If you were mowing, you may have changed the appearance of their entrance, so look for a small cluster of insects flying near the ground. From a distance, consider marking the entrance with a long stick or board. Don’t hit the entrance with it, just lay the stick on the ground so the end points to the entrance. The stick will remind you where the entrance is.
Treatment – Only you can decide your next move… If you decide to eliminate the colony yourself, here is some non-professional advice…
Many TCBA members find that aerosol type, spray insecticides are not very effective against an in-ground colony. The poison rarely makes it to the center of the nest and the colony quickly recovers. For most members, a powder-form of insecticide (like powered Sevin®) seems to work better. The powder gets on the body of the insects, the insects spread the powder by groom each other and the colony usually dies within 24 hours. We find it best to wait until night or early morning. We sprinkle the recommended labeled dose in the entrance hole and walk away.
The other nesting location is above ground
Hollow trees are often used but most of the calls we received are from concerned people with a colony in the wall of their home. The picture above shows a large colony viewed from inside the attic of a home. Normally, what people see from the outside are insects coming and going from perhaps a crack in the siding or trim.
Treatment – Only you can decide your next move… If you decide to eliminate the colony yourself, here is some non-professional advice… We again find the same powdered Sevin® to be effective against a colony in a home. The trick is to get the powder into the entrance. A bellows or plunger type of insecticide applicator works well. Some find that a spoon containing the proper labeled dose, flung into the entrance works. Also, a squeezable container, with a hole drilled in the lid, held slightly horizontal and then puffed also works. Again, darkness is our friend and also an important note is that most insects do not see the color RED, so using a flashlight that outputs red light is a good tool to use. Yellow Jackets do not store honey in their nest, so the old nest in your house can be left in place, if removing it is impractical.
Bald Faced Hornet
The next most popular insect we get calls about is the Bald-Faced Hornet. From the picture above, you can see that it is black and white and is about 3/4″ to 1 inch long. They are more aggressive than Yellow Jackets and can sting multiple times. Extreme caution must be taken with this insect. Just like Yellow Jackets, the fertile queens over winter, start a new nest in the spring which quickly grows over the sumer. Again, like Yellow Jackets, the nest population will die-off in November, the nest will deteriorate during winter and the nest site not reused the following year.
Preferred locations of nests is above ground
In most cases home owners are concerned about a nest in a shrub or short tree. But sometimes the queen decides to start her hive on a protected place of your house. The nest is made out of chewed-up wood pulp and saliva. Because of their aggressiveness and their very low impact on pollinating crops, most homeowners choose to eliminate the colony if it is near human activity.
Treatment – If you decide to eliminate the colony yourself here is some non-professional advise… Like with Yellow Jacket nests, our members find again that a powdered insecticide seems to work better than a spray. Using a bellows or plunger type applicator may work better to get the powder into the small entrance hole. Again, applying at night or at first light, with a red flashlight if needed is best…
Occasionally we receive calls about the relatively docile bumble bee. As you can see its body is very “hairy”, mainly black and yellow/gold and perhaps some white. As mentioned, bumble bees are a non-aggressive insect but if antagonized, it may sting and can multiple times. Like the other insects described so far, the queens overwinter and start a new colony in the spring, reaching perhaps only 50 or so individuals by summer’s end. Bumble bees are very good “buzz pollinators” in that they vibrate the flower so much that the pollen is dislodged, which aids in the pollination process. You may also see bumble bees visiting flowers that other insects don’t work-on. One reason for this is because their tongues are longer then many other insects so they are able to reach deep into the flower to collect nectar and intern, reward the flower by pollinating it. Bumble bees are raised by some people for their great ability to pollinate certain crops. Especially certain crops that are raised in green houses.
The preferred location for bumble bee nests is below ground or close to it.
Like yellow jackets, bumble bees sometimes reuse old chipmunk holes, especially if the tunnel goes underneath a rock, sidewalk or other protective structures. At times they may also set up home inside a small birdhouse or utility box that is close to the ground. Homeowners are usually concerned when the nest is close to human traffic or activity. Although there may be a rare confrontation, usually these very docile, beneficial insects can peacefully live right next to you on your property. Many varieties of bumble bees are in decline in the USA, so preserving this good pollinator is important. To reduce the chance of stepping on their entrance, consider placing a small wire fence approximately 12 inches around their entrance.
The Honey Bee and other insect discussion is coming soon… Check Back…
Pictures on this page are reused from the non-profit Wikipedia® website