Bees and wasps, although feared by many, are a very helpful group of insects. They are responsible for pollinating flowering plants and reducing the number of many insect pest species. They are feared because of the number of deaths reported each year from insect bites in which bees, hornets, and wasps account for approximately 30%. However, when there is an immediate threat to people, pets or your peace-of-mind you should have these threats treated by a pest control professional. In the upstate their are at least six recognizable species.
Carpenter bees get their name from boring holes into wood creating galleries for raising their young. They can be found worldwide with as many as 7 different species in the United States, including South Carolina.
The carpenter bee closely resembles the bumble bee, but with their top abdomen surface mostly bare and shiny. They are not considered social insects and do not live in colonies or nests and begin appearing in the spring. Male carpenter bees are most likely to be territorial and will become aggressive when humans are around. They will hover a short distance in front of your face or buzz around your head. It’s worth noting that males have no stinger, so these actions are merely for show. However, the female does have a potent sting which is seldom used.
Yellowjackets are commonly recognizable from the their black and yellow color pattern in which their name is derived. Their are approximately 16 species in the United States with many of them found in South Carolina.
They can be identified by their yellow and black-banded abdomen but their are some species with white and black and a couple of northern species also marked with red. Yellowjackets are social insects that live in nests or colonies and tend to appear in late summer. Nest sizes can vary but can contain as many as 1,000 to 4,000 workers at its peak. Here in the south, some species are known to maintain large perennial colonies that often have multiple queens, tens of thousands of workers, and contain several million cells.
Yellowjackets are typically very slow to sting unless you approach their nest at which point they can become very aggressive. Every yellowjacket can sting multiple times and their sting is quite painful. Some people become hypersensitive to their stings and they can actually become life threatening. If there is a nest anywhere near places with human activity it can create some real problems and should be considered a legitimate concern. If you have any nests located near occupied buildings, recreational areas, or within any structures you should seek out professional pest control.
Honey bees get their name from the sweet yellow to brown fluid they make from the nectar of flowers and their use of food. They are known for producing honey but are even more important as pollinators. Honey bees can be found worldwide with a couple of species most common in the United States. They do have the ability to sting although not as aggressively as the yellowjacket.
Honey bees can be recognized by their orangish brown to sometimes black rear abdomen that is banded with orange and brown or brown and black. Their body is mostly covered with branched, pale hairs, mostly on the thorax. Honey bees are social insects and live as colonies in hives with mature colonies containing 20,000 to 80,000 individuals. There is only one egg-laying queen in the hive that mates only once but can lay as many as 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day, and can live as long as 5 years.
Honey bees are not aggressive and do not seek out something to attack. However, they are defensive and will attack anything that is threatening the colony. Worker bees have barbed stingers and when used, the stinger, poison sac, and associated tissue are torn from the body. If the stinger is not removed immediately, muscle contractions will drive the stinger deeper and deeper into the skin and there is a greater time for toxin injection. It’s also important to note that the stinger gives off a pheromone which attracts other bees and induces an alarm and attack behavior. It is dangerous to approach a colony, hive or swarm of honey bees or to be within 100 feet of them. We never kill honey bees if there is an alternate form of removal available to us.
European hornets get their name from its introduction to Europe into the New York area around 1840-1860. It can be found in 31 states within the United States including, South Carolina. They appear brown in color with yellow abdominal stripes and a pale face.
European hornets are social insects and live in colonies or nests and usually appear in late summer. These colonies can contain as many as 1,000 workers but typical colonies contain 200-400 at their peak. Typically, you can find European hornets nesting in hollow trees, barns, out buildings, hollow walls of houses, attics, and abandoned bee hives.
Generally, European hornets are a forest dwelling species having little opportunity to be a stinging hazard. It is relatively non-aggressive around its nest. While they are beneficial in helping control many pest insect species they still warrant control if their nest is located close to or within a structure, or in a recreational/camping area.
Baldfaced hornets are large, black-and-white yellowjackets that get their baldfaced name for their largely black color and mostly white face and hornet because of its large size and aerial nest. They are found throughout the United States, including South Carolina. Along with the black and white pattern on most of its face, the baldfaced hornet has 2 angled stripes on its thorax towards its head and on its last 3 abdominal segments.
Baldfaced hornets are social insects living in aerial nests and usually appear in the late summer. Their nest can contain 100-400 workers at its peak. Their nest can be found in shrubs, ground-level vines, or up high in trees. Nest can also be found along overhangs, utility poles, houses, sheds, or other structures. They are almost always constructed in exposed locations. These nests can reach sizes up to 14” in diameter and over 24” in length.
Baldfaced hornets are helpful in controlling many pest insect species but if their nest is located close to the ground and near an occupied structure or recreational area, control becomes necessary.
Paper wasps get their name from the paper like material of which they build their nests and are very common in South Carolina with various species found throughout the United States. Normally, they are not considered aggressive but are nuisance pest. Paper wasps are typically brownish in color with yellow markings.Paper wasps can be yellow with black striping or brown to reddish brown.
Paper wasps are semi-social, existing in colonies but without a worker caste. Their nests consist of a single layer of paper-like comb with the cells opening downward. You can usually find this comb suspended from a branch, twig, or horizontal surface by a single long stalk which aids in the defense of the nest by predators such as ants. Nests are small to moderate in size containing up to 150-250 cells.
Problems can occur when shrubs and hedges are trimmed or fruit is being picked from trees. If you come in contact with a nest during one of these activities it is very likely that you will get stung. Paper wasps also like to hang their comb nests from porch ceilings, tops of window and door frames, soffits, eaves, attic rafters, deck floor joists and railings, etc. These insects are beneficial for helping to control many insect pests but when located near any human activity they do pose a threat.
If you suspect or have problems with any of these bees or wasps, contact Walker Pest Management and we will remove any threats or concerns you have.