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A Brief Introduction To Bees And Wasps

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bees and wasps are considered beneficial insects, but that’s of little comfort to the homeowner who is severely allergic to stings. And, allergies aside, no one enjoys being stung. In this post, we’ll take a brief look at several types of bees, wasps, and hornets, each of which has distinct physical characteristics, eating habits, and preferred nesting sites.

  1. Honeybees are social bees; their nests, which consist of wax cells joined into combs, are most often found in man-made beehives, hollow trees, hollow walls, and attics. Orange or brown in color, adult workers are 1/2 to 5/8 inch long, and generally only sting humans when accidentally stepped on or grasped.
  2. Bumblebees are also social bees. Yellow and black in color, these large, fuzzy insects live in underground nests. They should not be confused with cicada killers, which also live underground.
  3. Carpenter Bees, which look very similar to bumblebees, are solitary bees which live in wood tunnels. It’s not uncommon to find several buzzing about the entrance to an old shed on a warm day, particularly here in Sussex County. Aside from the damage they can do to wooden structures when left untreated, carpenter bees are generally harmless.
  4. Cicada Killers, as mentioned above, live in sandy ground burrows, which often look like oversized anthills. Their large size — close to two inches long — frightens people, but cicada killers are unlikely to sting a human except in self-defense. Unlike bumblebees, these solitary wasps are not fuzzy.
  5. Yellowjackets are 3/8 to 5/8 inches long, black and yellow, and build nests underground or in the air, depending on the species. They’re often found in attics and wall voids, and are social insects.
  6. Paper Wasps are 5/8 to 3/4 inch long, and are named for their preferred nesting material, which is made out of chewed wood fibers. Their nests, often found around porches, decks, eaves, and windows, look like inverted umbrellas, which is why they are sometimes called Umbrella Wasps. They generally only sting when provoked.
  7. Mud Daubers build tube-shaped cells on the exterior walls of structures, in which they feed their larvae paralyzed spiders. These solitary wasps rarely sting humans, and can be controlled by simply removing the nests.
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