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Take the Sting Out of Your Backyard

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 by Bill Cowley

Stinging insects in NJ

It’s summer and finally we get to enjoy our back yard with barbeques, picnics, and parties. For those of us with young kids, many summer hours are spent playing in the yard (assuming you unplug and hide the x-box). Outside of a sudden thunderstorm or Uncle Bob having one too many beers, nothing can ruin the use of your yard faster than the sting of a bee, wasp, or hornet. Insect stings hurt like the dickens, and for those who are allergic, a sting is a serious emergency.

Many stinging insects call Colonia, NJ, (and the rest of the state) home, but the “big three” are bumblebee, yellow jackets, and bald-faced hornets. Take a few moments to learn how to distinguish them and how to avoid or manage each one.

Bumblebees. These large, hairy insects with their lazy buzz and clumsy, bumbling flight pollinate flowers, crops, and plants. Of the three, they are the least aggressive. However, they are only “nice” up to a point. They can and will sting if they feel that their nest is being threatened, and they can’t distinguish between hostile intentions and the unlucky person innocently meandering nearby. The bumble bee is oval-shaped, has black-and-yellow stripes, and are about an inch long, although when buzzing near your face, they seem a whole lot bigger. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees can sting more than once and will chase nest invaders for a considerable distance. The best way to keep from being stung:  Stay away from their nests! They often nest in the ground, but sometimes nests are built above ground around patio areas, decks, or in soffits of attics.

Pest control technician in bee suit

Yellow Jackets. They have a similar color scheme to bumble bees but their body shape is very different from the pudgy bumblebee. Yellow jackets are sleek,, just likewasps and hornets, with a noticeably segmented body and a fashionably small ‘waist.’ They are usually about a half- inch long. Nests made by yellow jackets are most often found attached to bushes, trees, or the eaves of homes, and are are built with a recognizable paper-like material. Yellow jackets feed on sugary substances, and are especially attracted to soda.  Yellow jackets are aggressive and territorial when their nest is approached. Stay away from their nests, keep foods covered, especially those containing sugar. Half-open soda cans are an invitation for trouble.

Bald-faced hornet. The bald-faced hornet is a relative of the yellow jacket, and is similar is size and shape. It’s so-named because of its largely black color and mostly white face. This insects is also capable of stinging multiple times. Their nests are at least three feet off of the ground and are relatively large, up to two feet in length. These insects  are more than happy to build one right on your home. Just ask the homeowner of this Fair Haven, NJ property. Bald-faced hornets are extremely aggressive, and they will attack anyone and anything that they perceive as encroaching on their space.

The best way to take the sting out of your backyard this summer is by inspecting your yard and the perimeter of your home for nests. If you see one or two stinging insects, chances are there are more where they came from. Pay extra attention to children’s play areas, pools, underneath deck railings, and near seating areas. If you see a stinging insect, keep a close eye on where he returns to so you can find the nest and instruct everyone to avoid that area until the nest is removed.

Although the “big box stores” sell sprays, removing stinging insect nests is not a good DIY weekend project. We strongly advise homeowners to contact a pest control professional. For starters, if removal is not done properly, the chance of being stung is very high. Protective gear is essential. Removal of nests is tricky business, and even with full protective gear, these insects still mange to weasel their way in and sting. Second, you need to know the kind of insect in the nest. In New Jersey, as with many states, honey bees are protected. They are of vital importance to New Jersey crops including blueberries and cranberries. Destroying a honey bee nest (something easily mistakable for a bumblebee nest) carries a large fine. Beekeepers will relocate them.

Please stay safe this summer. If you have stinging insect concerns, call us for a free estimate.