What are stinging insects?
Stinging Insects can be very frightening when they are hovering around you. The very presence of stinging insects makes people feel threatened because of the stinger they have extending from their hind end. When stinging insects are nesting or foraging for food in our yards, their presence can be unnerving and they make enjoying your outdoor space difficult.
Several stinging insects are common in New Jersey: carpenter bees, bald-faced hornets, paper wasps, yellow jackets, mud daubers, and cicada killers.
Carpenter bees are large stinging insects and have a black-blue and yellow metallic coloring. At times, people mistake carpenter bees for bumblebees because of the similarity in size and color. The key difference between a carpenter bee and a bumblebee is the abdomen. The carpenter bee's abdomen is bare and shiny, while fine hair covers a bumble bee's abdomen.
Despite its descriptive name, the bald-faced hornet is not a hornet; it's a type of yellow jacket. The bald-faced hornet has characteristic white markings on its face. The white and black coloring distinguishes it from other yellow jackets that are usually yellow and black. Bald-faced hornets feed on caterpillars, spiders, and flies and help control their populations, making them a beneficial species when they aren't nesting in our yards.
Paper wasps are from the family of Vespidae, and there are over 200 species of paper wasps in the world. They construct nests from paper-like materials. Paper wasps have narrow bodies, slender waists, and black wings; their color depends largely on their species. There are brown wasps with yellow stripes on their abdomen, thorax, and head, and others have a reddish coloring. Paper wasps act as a type of natural pest control because they hunt caterpillars, flies, beetle larvae, crickets, and other insects to feed their larvae.
Yellow jackets are notably more aggressive and dominant compared to other stinging insects. True to its name, the yellow jacket has a black and yellow body with yellow markings near the head and bottom half, particularly around the abdomen. Some may have patches of white. These pests have big black eyes, which are almost bulging, and long antennae. Wings rest lengthwise along their body when not in flight. Yellow jackets are a type of predator and feed on flies, beetles, and other insects.
Mud Daubers get their name because they construct nests from mud. Their bodies have a bluish-black coloring, with some metallic markings. The adult mud dauber has a narrow waist with a distinctive thread-like segment between the thorax and abdomen, giving it the appearance of having a "stretched" waist. Their long thin wings are either dark or clear. They are a solitary species, meaning that each female will build an individual nest to lay eggs.
Cicada killers are large, solitary wasps. The cicada killer can grow to over an inch and a half long, and its head and thorax are an orange-red or rust color. The abdomen section of the cicada killer is black and yellow, similar to the coloring of a yellow jacket. They received their name because these predatory stinging insects sting and paralyze cicada bugs (and other insects) to feed their newly hatched larvae.
Are stinging insects dangerous?
Although hard to believe at times, bees and wasps rarely sting, and when they do, it is because they have been disturbed in some manner. That said, getting stung is painful and can even turn fatal for those people that are highly allergic.
People allergic to stinging insects may exhibit some or all of the following symptoms after a sting:
- Swollen faces and lips
- Pains in joints
- Swallowing difficulties
- Increase heart rate
- Skin flushing
Anyone exhibiting some or all the above should seek medical attention immediately.
The carpenter bee is an example of a stinging insect that is more destructive than dangerous. Males do not have a stinger, and while females have a stinger, they are very docile. Carpenter bees nesting on your property can cause severe damage to wooden structures on your home and property if left untreated.
Why do I have a stinging insect problem?
Stinging insects can become a problem on almost any property, whether located in a wooded area, the city, or a rural open area. If there is food, water, and shelter available, there is a species of stinging insect that will take advantage.
In our area, stinging insects tend to be most active during the same times of the year that people spend most of their time outside; spring, summer, and early fall. They are also active during the day when we are. When stinging insects decide to nest in our yards, it puts us into direct contact with them on a daily basis. The more time we spend with stinging insects, the more likely a painful sting will occur.
Where will I find stinging insects?
In most cases, early in the spring is when carpenter bee activity will start to appear. As carpenter bees begin to emerge from overwintering, mating will occur. Females then begin the nesting process. Carpenter bees are solitary, and each female will create its own nest. However, it is very common for many females to nest in the same area every year.
Carpenter bees do not make nests like other bees and wasps; they chew through the wood to create tunnels that lead to nesting galleries. More specifically, the female carpenter bee will make a quarter to one-half-inch round hole directly into the wood. Under the holes, sawdust will pile up.
Carpenter bees build nests in exposed wood, like house siding, telephone poles, fence posts, decks, railings, facial boards, exposed wood window trim, and even wood furniture.
In most cases, carpenter bees like softer woods like cypress, cedar, pine, or redwood. They also like older or untreated wood but will nest in stained, painted, or pressure-treated wood if necessary.
Every spring, new bald-faced hornet colonies are started by an overwintering queen. The queen chooses a nest location, starts building it, produces an initial group of eggs, and feeds this initial batch of larvae. The larvae turn into workers that continue building the nest and gathering food.
Generally, bald-faced hornet nesting sites include bushes and trees, the sides of buildings, and beneath rock overhangs. The nests are created from a paper-like substance (saliva and plant fibers) and are egg-shaped.
Paper wasps create nests out of a paper-like material that looks like an upside-down umbrella and has no outer shell. Paper wasps build their nests on window sills, door frames, eaves of houses, branches of trees, old cloth lines, etc. To make the nests, they use plants and animal fiber mixed with saliva and chewed into a paper mache-like material.
The yellow jacket queen will build its nest in the spring with a new nest produced each season. The nest itself resembles the honeycomb of a honey beehive and can become as large as a basketball!
Yellow jackets eat many of the same foods (proteins and sweets) we do and are often very problematic around outdoor eating areas, trash cans, recycling bins, and compost piles.
Some colonies build their nests in trees or on rooftops, while others might go underground to start a nest. Sidewalk cracks, under steps and porches, and in bushes are all places you might find them. Yellow jackets are adaptable and can nest almost anywhere, making avoiding problems with these pests difficult.
Like most other species of stinging insects, mud daubers become active in the spring. They create their nests from many short mud tubes constructed side by side. Mud dauber nests are built in sheltered areas and are commonly seen on the sides of homes or on the ground in soft mud. Their nests are also found on chimneys, under porches, in attics, and inside birdhouses.
Cicada killers are usually most problematic at the edge of wooded areas, in gardens, grassy areas, and the soil next to sidewalks and foundations. They prefer to be in sunny areas.
After they have mated, the female digs a burrow about six inches deep in the soil. Inside the burrow, the female will make several cells or small oval-shaped chambers. You can typically identify cicada killer nests by the "U"-shaped dirt around the hole.
How do I get rid of stinging insects?
If you are starting to see bees or wasps emerge and hover around your home, call Alliance Pest Services to have your home inspected for seasonal bee and wasp activity. It is better to address this problem at the early stages before someone gets stung.
At Alliance Pest Services, our focus is on meeting each customer's unique pest control needs. We understand there is no one-size-fits-all solution to pest problems. Our professionals will take the time to get to know you, your home, and your pest control needs in order to protect you and your family from stings.
Dedicated to continually developing new pest control and prevention programs, at Alliance Pest Services, our primary goal is to provide our customers with industry-leading pest control services. If you live in Monmouth County, NJ, and would like to learn more about our stinging insect control options, give us a call today!
How can I prevent stinging insects in the future?
In addition to our home pest control and commercial pest control services, protect your property from pests with the following prevention tips:
- Cut back shrubs and tree branches from the exterior walls of your home.
- Maintain your lawn and control weeds. Stinging insects love to gather around flowering weeds.
- Place covers on chimneys, vents, and place screens in windows and doors to keep stinging insects out of your home.
- Reduce the amount of flowering vegetation planted near your house.
- Eliminate standing water that will provide a water source for stinging insects and some of the insects they prey on.
- Clear away things like brush piles, fallen trees, and hollow trees that stinging insects could use as a nesting site.
- Wear shoes when outside, especially when walking on the grass.
- Dark-colored clothing attracts wasps; avoid wearing dark colors or wearing heavily scented lotions or perfumes when working outside in garden areas.
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