Bald-Faced Hornets and Aerial-Nesting Yellow Jackets

Size: 5/8 to 3/4 inch long
Commonly confused with: honey bees, solitary bees, ground- and house-nesting yellow jackets, and hornets
Distinguishing marks
hornet•Bald-faced hornet ◦black and white patterns on face, thorax, abdomen, and first antennal segmen,t mostly hairless

•Aerial-nesting yellow jacket
◦smaller than the bald-faced hornet
◦hairless body
◦ abdomen black with yellow stripes and markings

Adult yellow jacket
Jim Kalisch, Dept of Entomology
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Life cycle:
Bald-faced hornets and aerial-nesting yellow jackets are social insects with annual nests. In both species, a solitary queen emerges from hibernation in the early spring. She builds a golf-ball sized nest using chewed wood pulp and raises the first generation of workers on her own. After they emerge, the workers collect food for the next generation of developing workers, while the queen restricts herself to laying eggs. Larvae are fed pre-chewed insects caught by adults, while adults feed on nectar and fruit pulp.

The nest
consists of several tiers of comb covered by a round, paper casing with an entrance at the bottom. Nests are typically located about 10 to 12 feet high in tree or shrub branches, although they may be built on the sides of houses. The nest structure grows rapidly since workers continually add to the paper nest as the population grows. As fall approaches, colonies produce males and new queens, which leave the nest to mate. Newly mated queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. The workers, males, and the old queen perish in the fall. Nests are not reused.

Bald-faced hornet nest
Nicholas Calderone
Damage:
The bald-faced hornet causes little agricultural or structural damage. Yellow jackets and bald-faced hornets become very numerous towards the end of summer and may be persistent, unwelcome guests at picnics, where they scavenge for food.

Benefits:
Both bald-faced hornets and aerial-nesting yellow jackets control many harmful insects, such as crane flies, flies and caterpillars.

Sting:
Both the bald-faced hornet and the aerial-nesting yellow jacket are protective and will sting repeatedly if their nests are disturbed. They do not usually sting when away from the nest. Unlike honey bees, these insects have a smooth stinger and can sting repeatedly. Also, the venom of these wasps is different from that of bees, and may elicit a more painful sting. Check your shrubs for nests before pruning or gardening. If you are stung, cooling the area with ice may be soothing.

Remember!
Insect stings can elicit a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some individuals. Check with your physician to determine what symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. Never attempt any control measure if you have a known allergy to insect stings.

Further sources: Akre, R.D., A. Greene, J.F. MacDonald, P.J. Landolt, and H.G. Davis. 1980. Yellow jackets of America North of Mexico. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook No. 552, 102 pp.
Prepared by: Kathryn Gardner, Carolyn Klass, and Nicholas Calderone
Date Prepared: July 2004


 

bumblebeeBumble Bees

Bumble bee queen foraging for nectar
James Castner, UF/IFAS, Document ENY-215
March 2003 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu

Size: 3/8 to 3/4 inch long

Commonly confused with: carpenter bees

 

Distinguishing marks:

  • large and robust
  • very hairy, generally black and yellow, but often with white or orange bands

Habitat:

woods, open fields

Life cycle:

Bumble bees are social insects with annual nests. A mated queen emerges from hibernation in early spring and starts a colony on her own. Nests are often found in old rodent burrows, compost piles, woodpiles, discarded sofas or cavities underneath sidewalks. Small workers develop first and collect nectar and pollen for subsequent generations of developing brood. Unlike wasps and hornets, which feed on insects, bumble bees consume only nectar and pollen. They do not produce large amounts of honey, only enough to feed the developing young. At its peak, a bumble bee nest may contain 300-500 individuals. Towards the end of summer, males and new queens develop. After mating, the new queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter in hibernation. The workers, males and old queen perish in the fall.

 Damage:

generally none, minimal structural damage if they nest in a wall cavity; normally docile and only sting if provoked

 

Benefits:

Bumble bees pollinate a wide variety of crop and ornamental plants, and many gardeners place nesting boxes in their garden to encourage bumble bees to nest. Active bumble bee colonies are commercially available.

 

Sting:

Bumble bees are normally docile and will only sting if provoked or if their nest is in danger. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees have a smooth stinger and can sting repeatedly. If you are stung, cooling the area with ice may be soothing.

 

Remember!

Insect stings can elicit a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some individuals. Check with your physician to determine what symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. Never attempt any control measure if you have a known allergy to insect stings.

 

 

Further sources: Goulson, D. 2003. Bumblebees: Their Behaviour and Ecology. Oxford University Press, 240 pages.

Kearns, C.A. and J.D. Thomson. 2001. The Natural History of Bumblebees:

A Sourcebook of Investigations. University of Colorado Press, 120 pages.

Prepared by: Kathryn Gardner, Carolyn Klass, and Nicholas Calderone

Date Prepared: July 2004


 

carpenterbeeCarpenter Bee

Carpenter bee gathering nectar, note the shiny abdomen Jerry A. Payne, USDA ARS, www.insectimages.org

Injury

Carpenter bees bore into wood to make a home for the young. In preferred sites, bees can drill a large number of holes. A common species in the Northeast, Xylocopa virginica, drills holes 1/2 inch in diameter. Often the same nesting sites are used year after year, and the same tunnels are reused. The damage is primarily to fascia boards. Nail holes, exposed saw cuts, and unpainted wood are attractive nesting sites to these insects. Porches, garages, shed ceilings and trim, railings, roof overhangs and outdoor wooden furniture, are all common nesting sites. Continued borings may weaken some wooden structures, and the yellow "sawdust and pollen" waste materials may stain cars, clothing, or furniture.

Behavior

The males are territorial, and in the spring they often guard the potential nest sites. They discourage intruders by hovering or darting at any moving thing that ventures into the nesting area. This can create a "human annoyance" factor, and it is one that often startles and concerns the homeowner. However, male carpenter bees do not sting. The female carpenter bee, like many other bees, can sting -- but it is uncommon for her to do so.

Description

Carpenter bees of the genus Xylocopa are large black and yellow insects about one inch long that closely resemble bumblebees. The thorax is covered with yellowish hairs. The abdomen is mostly a shiny black, with few hairs (in contrast, bumblebees often have a band of yellow or orange hairs on the abdomen).

Life History

Xylocopa carpenter bees nest in dry wood. They overwinter as juvenile adults in the tunnels from the previous year. Those that survive the winter mate in the spring (April to June) and then begin nesting activities. They often refurbish old tunnels in preference to boring new ones. The tunnel constructed by the bee may be a foot or more in length. The eggs are placed in cells within the tunnel. In each cell the female places nectar and pollen she has gathered from flowers as provisions for the young. The larvae hatch and feed on the pollen and nectar and then pass through the pupa stage. New adults emerge before cold weather sets in during the early fall.

IDL INSECT DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORY

Cornell University, Dept. of Entomology, 2144 Comstock Hall, Ithaca NY 14853-2601

 


EuropeanHornetEuropean Hornets

Size: 3/4 to 1-1/8 inch long

 

Distinguishing marks: 

  • very large
  • head, thorax, 1st abdominal segment, and legs are reddish-brown
  • remainder of abdomen is dark yellow with dark bands and small spots

 

Habitat:

usually forests; sometimes in barns and other buildings

 

Life cycle:

Giant hornets are social insects with an annual colony. Each spring, mated queens emerge from hibernation and start new colonies. Nests are often found under porches and in protected cavities, such as hollow tree trunks. The nest is constructed of chewed tree bark and mud. Worker hornets forage for other insects, such as caterpillars, to feed to the developing young. Although mainly a predator, these hornets will also eat sugary liquids, such as sap and fruit juices. Colony populations can grow to 1,000 individuals by the end of the season. Towards the end of the summer, males and new queens develop. After mating, the new queens find a suitable site to hibernate during the winter, typically in buildings or under loose bark. The workers, males, and the old queen perish in the fall. Nests are not reused.

 

Damage:

Hornets chew holes in ripe fruits, especially grapes and apples, to obtain sugar. They scrape off the tender bark of young deciduous forest trees to obtain construction materials and sugary sap. They may also raid honey bee nests. Hornets nesting in a home or other building may pose a stinging hazard.

 

Benefits:

These hornets are voracious predators of other insects and may help control populations of harmful insect pests.

 

Sting:

These insects mostly avoid confrontation and will usually only sting if threatened. In the presence of a hornet, avoid rapid movements, blocking their flight path and vibrating or disturbing the nest. If you are stung, cooling the area with ice may be soothing.

 

Remember!

Insect stings can elicit a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some individuals. Check with your physician to determine what symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. Never attempt any control measure if you have a known allergy to insect stings.

 

 

 

Further sources: Akre, R.D., A. Greene, J.F. MacDonald, P.J. Landolt, and H.G. Davis. 1980. Yellow jackets of America North of Mexico. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook No. 552, 102 pp.

Prepared by: Kathryn Gardner, Carolyn Klass, and Nicholas Calderone

Date Prepared: July 2004


groundnestingbee

Ground Nesting Yellow Jackets 

 

Adult yellow jacket, James Castner March 2003  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu

 

Size: 1/2 to 5/8 inches long

Commonly confused with: honey bees, hornets

Distinguishing marks: 

  • stout, mostly hairless body
  • black with bright yellow markings on sides of head, thorax, abdomen and legs
  • fly with legs close to body

Habitat:

Meadows and edges of forested land; The eastern yellow jacket builds nests underground or at ground level in fallen logs or tree stumps. The German yellow jacket often nests in the walls of houses and other buildings.

Life cycle:

All yellow jackets are social insects with annual nests. In spring, a solitary queen emerges from hibernation. She builds a small nest using chewed wood pulp and raises the first generation of workers on her own. After they emerge, these workers collect food while the queen restricts herself to laying eggs. The larvae are fed pre-chewed insects caught by adults, while the adults feed on nectar and fruit pulp. The nest grows quickly and may contain several hundred to a few thousand workers by the end of the summer. As fall approaches, colonies produce males and new queens, which leave the nest to mate. After mating, the new queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. The workers, males, and the old queen perish in the fall. Nest sites are not reused.

Damage:

The yellow jacket can cause structural damage if a nest is built in wall or attic. Yellow jackets become very numerous towards the end of summer, and may be persistent, unwelcome guests at picnics, where they scavenge for food.

Benefits:

They are predatory and eat many harmful insects.

Sting:

Yellow jackets will sometimes sting without provocation; and unlike the honey bee, they can sting repeatedly. Avoid disturbing a nest, since yellow jackets are aggressive and can deliver a painful sting. Check your lawn and shrubs for nests before mowing or pruning. If you are stung, cooling the area with ice may be soothing.

Remember!

Insect stings can elicit a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some individuals. Check with your physician to determine what symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. Never attempt any control measure if you have a known allergy to insect stings.

 

 

 

Further sources: Akre, R.D., A. Greene, J.F. MacDonald, P.J. Landolt, and H.G. Davis. 1980. Yellowjackets of America North of Mexico. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook No. 552, 102 pp.

Prepared by: Kathryn Gardner, Carolyn Klass, and Nicholas Calderone

Date Prepared: July 2004

 


 

honeybeeHoney bees

Honey bee gathering nectar and pollen, Jerry A. Payne, USDA ARS  www.insectimages.org

 

Size: male (drone): 5/8 inch long; female (worker): 3/8 to 5/8 inch long; queen: 3/4 inch long

Commonly confused with: yellow jackets, wasps and hornets

 

Distinguishing marks: 

  • males are robust with large compound eyes
  • queens are elongate and rarely seen
  • workers are most commonly seen ◦variety of colors from yellow to black

◦solid or striped abdomen, often with bands

◦ often seen carrying pollen on their hind legs

 

Habitat:

Wild nests are found in hollow trees and manmade structures. Colonies managed by beekeepers are typically kept in wooden hives and may be found in urban, suburban and rural settings. Workers visit flowers in meadows, open woods, agricultural areas, yards and gardens.

Life cycle:

Honey bees are highly social, usually consisting of a single queen, between 6,000 and 60,000 workers, and a few hundred to a few thousand drones. Colonies are perennial, usually surviving for several years. At the beginning of the spring, the population of the colony is low. However, as the queen lays eggs, and the workers forage for pollen and nectar to feed the developing brood, it grows through the summer.

Colonies reproduce by swarming, which typically occurs in May or June, but occasionally in September or October. A swarm consists of the original queen and several thousand workers. A swarm will cluster on a branch near the original nest while scouts seek a new, permanent location. This may take a few hours or a few days. Rarely, a swarm will build a new nest where it first alights. Honey bees prefer to nest in hollow cavities of trees, but manmade structures are commonly selected as well. All individuals within a colony, except the drones, survive the winter on stored honey.

Damage:

Honey bees nesting in the wall of a house or building present two problems. First they pose a stinging hazard. Second, they can cause structural or aesthetic damage. If the colony is killed or dies, honey may ferment and create a nuisance odor. The wax comb may sag or melt, and honey may flow from the combs and damage drywall and plaster.

Benefits:

Honey bees provide pollination for over 90 commercially grown crops as well as many wild plants. It is estimated that honey bee pollination adds $14.6 billion per year to agricultural output in the US. They also provide over 200 million pounds of honey, as well as a variety of other products such as beeswax, pollen and propolis.

Sting:

Honey bees can be defensive around their nest, and they often defend in large numbers. If this happens, it is best to cover your face with your hands and carefully move in a straight line away from the nest. Unlike other stinging insects, honey bees have a barbed stinger that remains in its victim after stinging. If stung, remove the stinger as soon as possible by scraping it out with a fingernail or credit card. If you are stung, cooling the area with ice may be soothing.

Remember!

Insect stings can elicit a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some individuals. Check with your physician to determine what symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. Never attempt any control measure if you have a known allergy to insect stings.

Further sources: Seeley, T.D. 1996. The Wisdom of the Hive: The Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies. Belknap Press, 309 pages.

Winston, M.L. 1991. The Biology of the Honey Bee. Harvard University Press.

Prepared by: Kathryn Gardner, Carolyn Klass, and Nicholas Calderone

Date Prepared: July 2004


 

 

paperwaspsPaper Wasps

Adult paper wasp, Whitney Cranshaw, Colorado State University, www.insectimages.org

 

Size: 1/2 to 1 inch long

Commonly confused with: hornets, honey bees

 

Distinguishing marks: 

  • body reddish brown to black with yellowish rings around abdomen
  • constructs paper-like nest of upside-down brood cells (compartments for young), supported by a single stalk, which resembles an upside down umbrella
  • each nest consists of a single tier of cells that is not enclosed by a paper cover
  • wasps appear “alert” to activity near their nest
  • long slender legs hang down in flight

 

Habitat:

meadows or fields, prefer to nest under an overhang, such as the eave of a roof

Life cycle:

Paper wasps are social insects with annual nests. A solitary queen emerges from hibernation in the early spring and builds a small nest using chewed wood pulp. She raises the first generation of workers on her own. After they emerge, these workers collect food while the queen restricts herself to laying eggs. The larvae are fed pre-chewed caterpillars caught by adults, while the adults feed on nectar. Nests are typically small, usually a few dozen workers, but may contain as many as 100 workers. As fall approaches, colonies produce males and new queens, which leave the nest to mate. After mating, the new queens burrow into the ground where they spend the winter. All workers, the males, and the old queen perish around November. The same nest is not used again.

Damage:

These wasps are aggressive and will defend their nest if provoked. They deliver a painful sting. Their nests do not cause structural damage to buildings.

Benefits:

These insects are voracious predators of several residential and agricultural pests. They are especially valuable near vegetable gardens, where they provide natural and free control of herbivorous caterpillars.

Sting:

If a paper wasp approaches you, slowly raise your hands to your face and walk away. Remain calm! Avoid swatting at the wasp or running, as quick movements may elicit an attack. If possible, avoid the use of scented perfumes and soaps, and wear gray, white or tan to reduce the chances of a wasp approaching you. Unlike the honey bee, paper wasps have a smooth stinger and can sting more than once. If you are stung, cooling the area with ice may be soothing.

Remember!

Insect stings can elicit a life-threatening, allergic reaction in some individuals. Check with your physician to determine what symptoms require a visit to the emergency room. Never attempt any control measure if you have a known allergy to insect stings.

 

 

 

Further sources: Turillazzi, S. and M.J.West-Eberhard. 2002. Natural History and Evolution of Paper Wasps. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K., 416 pages.

Prepared by: Kathryn Gardner, Carolyn Klass, and Nicholas Calderone

Date Prepared: July 2004