Bug Category: Stinging Insects

Bumble Bee

Summary

Bumble bees are beneficial insects because they pollinate crops and plants.

Habit

The occupants of a disturbed bumble bee nest will buzz in a loud volume. They defend their nests aggressively.

Habitat

Bumble bees often nest in the ground, but can be found above ground around patio areas or decks. They will sometimes build their nests in soffits of attics.

Threats

As part of their aggressive defense of their nests, bumble bees will chase nest invaders for a considerable distance. The bumble bee sting is one of the most painful. Unlike honey bees, bumble bees can sting more than once.

Prevention

Bumble bees can be prevented through inspection of potential nesting areas and removal of potential harborage materials. Because bumble bees will sting when threatened, homeowners are advised not to disturb nests.

European Hornet

Summary

The European or giant hornet is an introduced species first reported in the United States in 1840 in New York. Currently, its geographical range extends from the Northeastern states west to the Dakotas, and south to Louisiana and Florida. It belongs to a family of wasps called the Vespids, which encompass all of the yellowjackets including the bald-faced hornets. Technically, it is the only hornet in North America.

The European hornet is a large, aggressive yellowjacket. Homeowners should be cautious when attempting to control their nests.

Description

The adult European hornet worker is approximately 35 mm in length with yellow and brown coloration. The overwintering queens are somewhat larger. The nests are typically located in a cavity, such as a hollow tree or a wall void. They will rarely appear freely suspended like the football-shaped bald-faced hornet nests. The entrance to European hornets’ nests are frequently 2 meters (6 feet) or more above ground. In some instances, a portion of the gray, papery nest extends outside the cavity or void.

Life Cycle

Each fall, the colony produces males and females that mate, and the females become next year’s queens. Only the overwintering queens survive in protected sites such as under loose bark, in tree cavities, and in wall voids of buildings. All other colony members produced in the current year will perish.

In the spring, the emerging queens establish new nests in aerial cavities, deposit eggs in cells they have constructed, and feed the first batch of larvae. The larvae mature, pupate in their cells, and then emerge as sterile female workers. These workers take over the responsibility of foraging for food to feed the young larvae, collect cellulose to expand the nest, and protect the nest from external threats. Typical food for the young include crickets, grasshoppers, large flies, caterpillars, and the workers of other yellowjacket species.

European hornet colonies often contain 300 or more workers by September or October (maximum of 800–1,000 workers). These workers are unique among the yellowjackets for their ability (actually a propensity) to forage at night. It is not unusual for workers to bounce off of external lights or house windowpanes during summer nights. Although the workers will sting if handled, they are not normally aggressive unless the colony is threatened.

In addition to the hazard created by their stings, the hornets will also damage various trees and shrubs by girdling the branches and twigs to gather bark for nest building and to obtain nourishment from the sap.

Management

For treatment of European hornets in wall voids of buildings, we advise the use of professional pest control services. Be certain NOT to plug the hornets’ entrance because they may chew through interior wall coverings in an attempt to escape and enter the living area.

Honey Bee

Summary

One of the most familiar insects in the world is the Honeybee. This member of the insect order Hymenoptera plays a key role in the human and natural world.

Honey is a thick liquid produced by certain types of bees from the nectar of flowers. While many species of insects consume nectar, honeybees refine and concentrate nectar to make honey. Indeed, they make lots of honey so they will have plenty of food for times when flower nectar is unavailable, such as winter.

Unlike most insects, honeybees remain active through the winter, consuming and metabolizing honey in order to keep from freezing to death.

Honeybees have a bright color pattern to warn potential predators that they have a weapon to defend themselves. Their weapon is a modified ovipositor (egg-laying tube). This is combined with a venom gland to create a stinger (formally known as an aculeus) located at the end of the abdomen. Because the stinger is modified from a structure found only in females, male bees cannot sting. When the hive is threatened, honeybees will swarm out and attack with their stingers to drive the enemy away.

Honeybees are social insects. In the wild, they create elaborate nests called hives containing up to 20,000 individuals during the summer months. (Domestic hives may have over 80,000 bees.) They work together in a highly structured social order. Each bee belongs to one of three specialized groups called castes. The different castes are: queens, drones and workers.

There is only one queen in a hive and her main purpose in life is to make more bees. She can lay over 1,500 eggs per day and will live two to eight years. She is larger (up to 20mm) and has a longer abdomen than the workers or drones. She has chewing mouthparts. Her stinger is curved with no barbs on it and she can use it many times.

Drones, since they are males, have no stinger. They live about eight weeks. Only a few hundred – at most – are ever present in the hive. Their sole function is to mate with a new queen, if one is produced in a given year. A drone’s eyes are noticeably bigger than those of the other castes. This helps them to spot the queens when they are on their nuptial flight. Any drones left at the end of the season are considered non-essential and will be driven out of the hive to die.

Worker bees do all the different tasks needed to maintain and operate the hive. They make up the vast majority of the hive’s occupants and they are all sterile females. When young, they are called house bees and work in the hive doing comb construction, brood rearing, tending the queen and drones, cleaning, temperature regulation and defending the hive. Older workers are called field bees. They forage outside the hive to gather nectar, pollen, water and certain sticky plant resins used in hive construction. Workers born early in the season will live about 6 weeks while those born in the fall will live until the following spring. Workers are about 12 mm long and highly specialized for what they do, with a structure called a pollen basket (or corbiculum) on each hind leg, an extra stomach for storing and transporting nectar or honey and four pairs of special glands that secrete beeswax on the underside of their abdomen. They have a straight, barbed stinger which can only be used once. It rips out of their abdomen after use, which kills the bee.

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