Bees and wasps pose a serious threat to humans, especially those at risk of allergic reaction, and are a potential nuisance to household pets. Belonging to the same order as ants (Hymenoptera) both bees and wasps exist throughout the world with several thousand different species. Yellow jackets can produce huge colonies with nests containing the upwards of 30,000.
Unless threatened, wasps and bees usually won’t attack. Both will inject a venom with their sting, causing pain, local inflammation, and redness at the site. In the 1% of the population that is allergic, the consequences can be fatal. Being the more aggressive species, wasps can sting multiple times, unlike the bee, who can only sting once. If killed within 15 feet of their nest, they will release an alarm pheromone to signal the others, which can ignite an attack from the colony.
The hairy body and short legs of the bee, enables them to effectively collect pollen. They primarily feed on pollen and nectar as they gather and collect, and bring it to their young. Along with their helpful ability in nature to spread pollen, bees are valued in our society for their production of honey and wax for consumption and use in various products. They are also believed to be responsible for pollinating a vast amount of the global food supply.
When a honeybee stings an individual, it cannot pull the barbed stinger back out. It leaves behind not only the stinger, but also part of its abdomen and digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture is what kills the honeybee, making them the only species to die after a stinging. Removal of a honey bee nest is a delicate issue. Sometimes a local bee keeper will need to get involved to effectively remove the hive to relocate the nest in a safer environment.
Bee control is of upmost importance in removal of Africanized honeybees. Also referred to as “killer bees”, these strains of honey bees are highly aggressive compared to the true honeybee. Known to attack humans or animals within 100 feet of their nest, these pests pose a risk to anyone in their path. Similar in appearance to other honeybees, the one difference with Africanized honeybees is they are smaller in stature.
Like honeybees, bumble bees assist in pollination and feed on nectar. These social insects are covered in long hairs called pile, which gives them the appearance of a fuzzy body. Their larger size and tendency to colonize in smaller numbers is what differentiates the bumblebee from the honeybee. The bumblebee, though considered unaggressive, lacks a barbed stinger giving it the opportunity to sting multiple times. Interestingly, the buzzing sound a bumblebee produces is actually the result of vibrating its flight muscles, and this can be achieved while the muscles are decoupled from the wings.
Carpenter bees are non-social insects that don’t colonize, but bore holes in wood dwellings, which can result in damage to wooden structures. Often, carpenter bees will nest near one another, and females have been known to divide labor between one another. They create tunnels within the wood structure that divide into cells to house the bee larvae. Similar in size and color, carpenter bees are often mistaken for the bumblebee. The unique feature being a carpenter bee’s shiny hairless bottom half.
With their smooth, long bodies and cinched-in waist, the legs of the wasp are much longer than the average bee. Despite the fact that wasps are not high-volume pollinators, they are useful as natural pest control. Wasps typically will make a meal of other insects for their larvae, thus controlling the populations of such insects as caterpillars and grubs. By paralyzing its prey, wasps will bring the stunned insect into the nest itself. Certain wasps will paralyze the host to lay eggs inside it. Some social wasps, such as yellow jackets, will scavenge for dead insects to feed their young.
Although the role of a wasp is beneficial to our society, the nuisance of their nests and dangerous sting from the Vespid family of wasp, make them undesirable to live amongst. Vespid wasps include yellow jackets, hornets and paper wasps– all of which hold their wings lengthwise to their bodies. Mostly active in warmer weather, the wasp dwells in a papery nest or sometimes in ground nests which are more difficult to detect.