Things You Should Know About Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Honey Bees, Carpenter Bees, Ground Bees and Yellowjackets

Bee and Wasp Information

Things You Should Know About Bumble Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Honey Bees, Carpenter Bees, Ground Bees and Yellowjackets.

These photos and descriptions of different types of stinging insects will help you describe your bee problem to The Bee Hunter of Mass so that he may better assist you when you call.

Remember, "your bee" or its nest may not look exactly like the photo; simply try to find the bee that looks the closest.

 

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These bees love to work with wood and are often found in wooden decks, eaves and porches tunneling their homes into yours. Although they are not as aggressive as other types of bees, the expense they create in destroying your home over time makes them just as burdensome.

You may first notice carpenter bees when you identify small holes that look as though they have been perfectly drilled into your wooden deck, porch or eave. It wasn't a carpenter, but carpenter bees that were able to create these perfectly round 3/8-inch holes. A common misconception is that the bees are eating the wood through this hole, but that is not true -- what they are doing is making tunnels in which to lay their eggs. And while they may destroy a lot of wood, they won't destroy a house the way termites will - they typically will not destroy the structural part of your home.

Carpenter bees differ from bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets in that, while they build their nests close to other carpenter bees, they are usually solitary insects.

 

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Bald-faced hornets are so named not because they are bald, but because they have a white head. They are physically the strongest bees in the Massachusetts area. Hornets closely resemble yellowjackets, but there are more than 20 hornet species. The hornet is more aggressive than most other bees, wasps and yellowjackets - keep your distance!

Hornets' nests are typically found outside: hanging from tree branches, inside a shrub, attached to an eave or fascia in your house, or under a deck, etc. You will rarely see hornets entering your house through a gap in the construction the way a yellow jacket can. Their nests look like the traditional nests you see on TV or in the movies. Their nests are football-shaped and look like a grayish thin paper, which they make themselves.

Hornets can be very dangerous - they have the ability to sting directly through protective clothing and are known to sting multiple times. When hornets sting, it can hurt worse than a wasp sting because they leave more venom in their victim. And watch out, because if you make a hornet mad enough, it can mobilize its entire colony to come after you if they are defending their nest. They do this by releasing a pheromone in the air that lets the other bees know they are under attack.

Hornets are actually wasps of the genus Vespa. (Now you know where that popular scooter got its name! The name Vespa actually means "wasp" in Italian.)

Hornets eat nectar and sugar-rich plant foods and over ripe fruit. They will also kill other prey, like grasshoppers, locusts, and even honey bees, reducing their corpses to mush and feeding it to their larvae.

 

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Bumblebees are often confused with honey bees and indeed, they do make honey but not to the extent that honey bees make honey for so many people to enjoy.

Bumblebees love your garden and can often be seen inside of flowers, sucking on the sweet nectar. They are quite complacent, but if they happen to decide to make a nest in or near your home and you decide you don't want them as neighbors, they can be aggressive in defending their home. Resist the urge to pet them!

It is rare that you will actually see a bumblebees' nest, as they tend to build their nests in loose materials like leaves, grass clippings or mulch. You will be able to tell a nest has been built near your home when you can see them travelling in and out of your yard consistently.

They will usually build nests (of dried leaves, insulation, or other material they may find) inside attics, but can also be found underground or near sidewalks and patios.

There are 250 species of bumblebees and they are covered with fuzzy hair. They are often yellow and black, but there are types that are also orange, red or entirely black.

Unlike a honey bee, and more like a hornet, a bumblebee does not have a jagged stinger, so it won't get stuck inside your skin, which means it can sting several times.

There are more than 30 types of bumblebees that are endangered or are thought to be extinct. Having flowers and a garden helps keep bumblebees thriving, but it is good to keep your yard free of debris to lessen the chances that bumblebees will want to build a nest under your ladder, a piece of wood or hose.

 

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A wasp is not a bee, although they are often confused with bees. Wasps tend to be more slender and less hairy than bees. And unlike bees, wasps do not have an anchor on their stinger like bees, which get stuck in your skin upon a sting. Therefore, wasps can sting multiple times, releasing their powerful venom. Also, wasps do not make honey.

There are 4,000 types of wasps in the United States, including the bald-faced hornet and the yellowjacket, and more than 100,000 species of wasps worldwide. Wasps come in many various colors, including red, yellow, black and blue. Yellowjackets, bald-faced hornets and paper wasps are the most common types of wasps.

Like bees, wasps eat nectar and fruits, but they also eat insects and caterpillars. Unlike bees, wasps do not make honey. However, some species of wasps do pollinate other flowers, plants and fruits, like bees. They are found all over the world, except in Polar Regions.

Wasps prey and parasitize upon many other pests and insects and for agriculture purposes are often used as pest control themselves!

Wasps release pheromones in the air when they die, which their comrades in the hive can smell. This serves as a warning signal to the wasps, but if you are the cause of the wasps' death, it could trigger the entire wasp colony to come after you, especially if the pheromones land on your skin.

 

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Like hornets, yellowjackets are also wasps. They are slightly smaller than hornets and, of course, are yellow and black. My Pittsburgh colleague, the Bee Hunter of Pittsburgh, calls them "Steeler" bees!

You have probably seen yellowjackets show up at your family picnic or buzzing around your soda can. They will eat human food, especially sweets, but also meat. Yellowjackets also eat spiders and other insects.

Because they like human food, they want to be around humans and often build nests in or around your home, especially under decks around garages, but they will also set up shop in trees, shrubs and cracks in walls. Their nest, like the bald-faced hornets', is football-shaped and looks like a gray paper mache. Oftentimes, if you see them flying around your home, but can't find their nest, their home is probably inside of YOUR home, but it may not be visible. If you listen closely you may even be able to hear them - they may sound like leaves rustling. If this happens and you see the hole, please do NOT seal the hole shut because you inadvertently will be trapping the bees inside your house.

Please read my Bee Removal FAQ page for more information about what to do if you see bees in or around your home or if you have been stung by a bee, wasp, hornet, or yellowjacket.

 

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Often confused with yellowjackets, you may encounter ground bees (typically while using your lawn mower!)

Ground Bees build hives two inches to two feet underground, often using existing holes in your yard. They are usually smaller than other yellow jackets. They are aggressive and easily agitated. Most times you might not even see them, until it is too late. Then you'll know they're there! See my FAQ pageabout what not to do with a ground bees' nest.

 

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Honey bees are the "good" bees. I will try to capture a hive or swarm of honey bees alive if I can, as opposed to exterminating them. Their function in society is important and beneficial in so many ways.

These interesting little creatures are the only animals that can physically make food on a large enough scale for humans to consume. And not only do they make honey for us to eat, but without honey bees, our produce section in the grocery store would be very slim. Bees pollinate over 100 types of crops in the U.S. giving our food flavor and life: strawberries, apples, nuts, and coffee, you name it. One out of every three bites of our food is pollinated by a honey bee.

Honey bees are capable of building enormous hives that contain thousands and thousands of bees and weight over 100 pounds. If they are nesting inside your house, the nest will typically run between the 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 joists along your floors and/or walls.

Sometimes, a group of honey bees will break off from their hive and fly off in search of a spot to build a new hive. This is what we call a swarm. They will fly in one big pack that resembles a tornado until they get tired. Then they will stop and rest at a convenient place, like on tree branches or something similar. A swarm has not developed a hive yet and can usually be removed from your property without killing them.

You may have heard stories of "Africanized" honey bees. They are much more aggressive than the honey bees described above. It is highly unlikely that you will see any of these in Massachusetts, as they generally require a much warmer climate to survive.

Honey bees' stingers have a barb that can anchor the stinger in their victim's skin. If this happens, the honeybee's venom pouch can rip from the bee, causing the bee to soon die after an abdominal rupture.

The honey bee's wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, which is why they make such a loud "bzzz". During a trip out of the hive to collect nectar to make honey, a honey bee visits between 50-100 flowers. Honey often tastes different, depending on which flowers the bees are visiting.

How much honey will a honey bee make in its lifetime? Only about one or two teaspoons! But an entire bee colony can produce more than 100 pounds of honey that can be collected.

And contrary to popular belief, a beehive does not have one female and a bunch of male bees working for her - it is actually the female bees of the hive that do all of the work (worker bees). The males are the drones that guard the hive and wait around until the Queen bee decides whether she's ready to mate with one of them or not. But if she does choose them, it might not be the best of luck for them since they will die soon after mating!

Feeling forgetful lately? Eat honey — it is the only food that contains 'pinocembrin', an antioxidant that improves memory and brain function.

Recently a phenomenon knows as Colony Collapse Disorder has been occurring that is causing bees to rapidly disappear. Much research is needed to know the cause of this and what can be done about it. When removing honey bees, the Bee Hunter of Massachusetts will try to safely find another home for the bees by handing them over to a beekeeper, where they will be happy and not harm anyone. In addition, the best thing you can do to help the bee population is to plant flowers in your pretty yard or become a bee keeper yourself and harvest your own honey!


If you are having a problem with bees or other stinging insects, call me today, 24/7! Let's put an end to your bee problems - Call me if you need a bee exterminator in Mass or want to get rid of wasps' nests, bee swarms, hornets, or any other stinging insects.