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Bees and Wasps

The European or giant hornet, the bald faced or white faced hornet, and the yellow jacket are the most important structure-infesting wasps. These beneficial social wasps live in colonies which number thousands of individuals and would not be a threat to humans except for their opportunistic behavior of nesting in structural voids, attics and cavities associated with landscaping features. They scavange in trash recepticlss and forage upon food and beverage people try to enjoy outdoors. They feast on ripe fruit in our gardens, farms and vineyards. Finally, in the autumn, when the outside temperature cools, food becomes scarce, nest population and expansion is greatest, and newly emerged reproductive wasps seek warmth and light, they invade our living and work spaces. Colonies of these wasps are not generally noticed until late summer and fall when colony numbers are their greatest. The gaster patterns of hornets and yellow jackets are shown in the figure below:



There are both aerial and ground nesting or concealed-nesting yellow jackets. The ground nesting yellow jacket usually do not present a problem to humans due to the fact they nest in ground with little foot traffic, and the colonies are typically small. They have between 75-350 workers, complete their life cycle by early September and feed strictly on insects. They do not scavenge for human food.

The aerial yellow jacket as a group are considered aerial because they typically construct their exposed paper nests above ground among leafy branches of trees and shrubs and on structures. Occasionally, the nest may be constructed on the side of the building (see below). The size of the nest, number of individuals in a yellow jacket wasp colony, and the length of time activity persists in autumn depends on the species considered. See below for pictures of nesting.



Above is a picture of a yellow jacket nest in an abandoned 1955 Chevy that was left untreated for too long








HONEY BEES:



It is to the honey bee, one of humanity’s oldest friends, that we are indebted for honey, beeswax, and most important of all, the pollination of many of our crop-bearing plants. The honey bee is a social insect living in large colonies ranging from 20,000 to 80,000 individuals. Honey bees are the only bee or wasp that has a true perennial colony surviving many years. The honey bee is likely the most important beneficial insect in agriculture due to it’s role as a pollinator. More than 100 agricultural crops are pollinated by honey bees in the US, and honey bees are involved in about 80% of the foods consumed by Americans. According to the US Department of Agriculture, bee pollination activities are worth about $19 billion in the US, while beeswax and honey production is a $140 million industry. Beekeeping is a thriving industry in Europe, Africa, North, and South America. This industry has suffered of late in the US due to two types of tiny mites and cold, wet weather.

When the honey bee stings, the stinger, venom sac, muscle, and other parts of the bee’s anatomy are torn from it’s body. It soon dies. Wasps and other types of bees, however, can sting repeatedly.

BUMBLE BEES:



Honey bees are robust insects covered with dense black and or orange setae. They are beneficial as pollinators of certain kinds of crops and ornamentals. Most bumble bee nest in the ground, utilizing deserted rodent burrows and shallow cavities excavated beneath patio stones, landscaping timbers, piles of grass clippings, and in dense thatch of long grass. Above ground they will occupy abandoned bird nests and fiberglass-insulated structural voids associated with outside walls, patio roofing, and decks. The colonies are annual in temperature regions and tend to be rather small, containing a few dozen to a few hundred workers. Nests are founded by fertilized, overwintering queens who rear the first brood until they mature into workers. The first group of workers assumes the responsibilities of foraging, attending to the young and the queen and defending the colony. Late season nests contain a token population of drones (males) as well. The sting of the bumble bee is the most painful of North American stinging insects, but unlike honey bees, each bumble bee can sting more than once. They are solitary bees and usually ignore human activity around them unless they feel threatened or they feel their nest is being threatened.