When being invaded by stinging insects, it is important to know what is invading your space. Bees are distant relatives of wasps and hornets and each type of insect has its own markings and distinct behavior. There are many different kinds of wasps and their close relatives, hornets. Some are social and live in colonies, both above ground, and underground. Others are solitary, like the Cicada Killer, hunting and paralyzing living insects to provision their nests and feed their young. Wasps are capable of stinging multiple times and some species, such as yellow jackets, are highly defensive. If you are stung by one of these stinging insects, there is a good chance that it will be a yellow jacket sting.
Most species of bees are valuable pollinators. Honeybees, in particular, are essential in the production of food crops for humans. Certain species of bees, such as honeybees, die after stinging because of their stingers, which are attached to their abdomen, have little barbs or hooks on them. So, after stinging something, when the bee tries to fly away, part of the abdomen is ripped off. Other bees, like bumblebees, can sting more than once because their stingers are smooth. By and large, bees are much more docile insects than wasps and hornets and do not sting unless they are disturbed.
Honeybees: The majority of honeybees in the US exist as managed colonies, living in wooden boxes called hives, which can be transported for crop pollination and from which honey can be harvested without harming the bees. They are essential to our system of agriculture. Here in New Jersey, crops like blueberries and cranberries, of vital importance to our state's agriculture, rely on honeybee pollination. Most fruit, nut, and many legume crops require honeybee pollination. The only major food group that does not depend on insect pollination is grains, which are wind-pollinated.
Honeybees are protected under New Jersey law! In New Jersey, except for colonies residing within buildings or other indoor structures, it is illegal to kill honeybee colonies without approval from appropriate agencies. If a honeybee swarm lands on your property, please do not try to remove it or disturb it. You can contact a beekeeper through the New Jersey Beekeepers Association who will remove it.
Bumblebees: Bumblebees have round yellow and black bodies covered with fine hair. They build nests in cavities in the ground but can be found above ground in patio areas or decks. They will sometimes build their nests in attics or under roof beams. If disturbed, bumblebees will buzz in a loud volume and will aggressively defend their nests as well as chase invaders for long distances. The bumblebee sting is one of the most painful stings. Swelling and irritation can last for days.
Because bumblebees will sting when threatened, homeowners are advised not to address the infestation themselves. A pest control professional should be called in to help. Although bumblebees pollinate, as do honeybees, their colonies are much smaller and they are not used for large-scale crop pollination. Beekeepers generally keep and manage only honeybees because of their ability for large-scale crop pollination and for their honey production capabilities.
Mud daubers: Mud daubers (also known as dirt daubers or mud wasps) are solitary wasps that do not live in colonies. They construct small nests of mud in sheltered areas. You'll find their nests in homes, especially around roof eaves, as well as in sheds, barns and under open structures, bridges, rock overhangs, and similar sites. The female carries mud balls from a puddle to the nest site.
There are several hundred species of mud daubers, and different species can be identified by their coloring and nest structure. Generally, these wasps are about one-half to an inch in length and slender with a narrow, thread-like waist. The most common species in New Jersey, and throughout the United States, is the organ pipe mud dauber. This particular wasp builds vertical, parallel rows of cells so that the distinctive finished product of cylindrical tubes looks like a pipe organ or a pan flute. These insects are thread-waisted and black with blue wings and white "stockings" on its hind legs. The male organ pipe mud dauber stays at the nest standing guard, while the female is the one that ventures outside bringing home the bacon, or in their case, spiders.
Other common species are the black-and-yellow mud dauber and the metallic-blue mud dauber. All of these species tend to occupy the same sites year after year, so over time, a large number of nests can accumulate. Mud daubers reserve their sting mostly for prey, primarily spiders, paralyzing them with their venom, but not killing them. This way, when the wasp larvae hatch, the prey will not have decomposed and the larvae have fresh food to eat.
Mud Daubers are exceedingly docile, seldom sting humans, and generally pose no threat. They are non-territorial and don't defend their nests like paper wasps, yellow jackets, and other social species of wasps. As long as their numbers are not too great, mud daubers are a good natural remedy to have around the home to reduce spider populations. Some species even specialize in hunting black widows! However, in large numbers, these wasps but can become a nuisance once they start building their mud nests all over your home. In that case, it's wise to have a pest control technician remove them to avoid mishandling and being stung. Old inactive nests should be removed since some species reuse old nests or the nests may be adopted by more dangerous wasp species. Also, remaining insect carcasses in the nest can be a food source for beetles. If the nest has round holes, the wasps have emerged and the nest is probably inactive. You can help control mud dauber populations by controlling spider populations. Caulk or plaster cracks where spiders can live and hide and regularly remove webs in corners and crevices.
Are you in search of more specific information about bees and wasps in New Jersey? Check out our in-depth bee and wasp technical papers by clicking the "Learn More" button!
Carpenter bees are solitary bees. They look something like a large bumblebee but their abdomens are black and shiny. They build nests just for themselves and only to feed their young. They get their name from their ability to drill through wood. Carpenter bee stingers are not barbed so they are able to sting multiple times. Carpenter bees bore through soft woods to lay eggs and protect their larvae as they develop. Female carpenter bees will chew a tunnel into a piece of wood to build a nest gallery. They frequently choose the fascia or siding of homes for their nests, leaving visible pencil-sized holes. The bits of wood chewed and deposited outside the nest are called “frass” and is a telltale sign of either a carpenter ant or carpenter bee infestation. The tunnel openings look shallow, but these bees are capable of building tunnels 10 feet long with several rooms to hold their eggs and food. Carpenter bees, like carpenter ants, are wood-boring insects not wood-consuming insects like termites. Nevertheless, if left untreated they are capable of causing significant damage. Carpenter bees can drill into almost any wood but prefer bare wood, so painting and staining can sometimes deter them. Their nests can be hard to reach and a pest control professional should be contacted to help.
Yellow Jackets: The common yellow jacket is a type of wasp about a half-inch long with jagged bright stripes of yellow and black on the abdomen. They can be a bigger menace than many insects because of their painful stings and aggressively territorial behavior especially if their nest is inadvertently disturbed. They are known as “meat bees” because, like all wasps, their larval stage is carnivorous and the adults must obtain animal proteins to feed their young. Workers scavenge for meat and sweets; it is why yellow jackets are attracted to picnics and open trash cans, especially when there are half-opened cans or bottles of soda.
Some species of yellow jackets nest in a hole in or near the ground such as an abandoned rodent’s nest or cavity in a rock wall. All that is visible from above is a hole in the earth with yellow jackets coming and going. They are fairly aggressive and can become easily agitated, such as from a rumbling lawnmower overhead. Other species of yellow jackets are aerial, building grey, roughly football or teardrop-shaped paper nests. They make this paper themselves, like all wasps and hornets, by chewing on tiny slivers of wood or other organic materials and using their sticky saliva to glue it together into organized cells. The young are hatched and the food is stored in the nest’s core. When yellow jackets nests outside in trees, shrubs, or in the eaves of a house, their nest is visible and easy to identify. However, when they nest inside your home the nest is not visible; you’ll see them flying in and out some small crack or crevice of your home. On occasion, one can hear yellow jackets inside. The crackling sound is the noise of yellow jackets chewing through plaster or drywall to build their hive. Yellow jackets die in the fall with only the fertile queens over-wintering.
Paper (Red) Wasps: Paper wasps have the slender “wasp” waist and long legs most people associate with wasps. They may be brown, reddish brown, or black and yellow depending on the species. They build a small paper nest with open cells in a single layer, attached to the underside of an eave, picnic table, or other structure where the nest can be attached by a short paper stem. If the nest is located near a door or other location placing people near their nest, there is the risk of stinging.
Cicada Killers: Cicada killers are big black, yellow and red wasps up to o1¾ inches in length. These are solitary wasps that tunnel nests in bare soil, flower beds, or areas of scant vegetation. They can be threatening because of the stingless and territorial male dive-bombing intruders. These wasps rarely sting people; the females hunt and paralyze cicadas to provision their nests and feed their young. They overwinter as larvae in the soil and emerge in spring.
Bald-faced Hornets: Bald-faced hornets are three-quarters of an inch long and black with ivory markings on their faces and abdomens. They build a grey spherical paper nest sometimes 12” or more in diameter. The nest is abandoned in the fall when the colony dies and is usually not reused. Fertile female hornets over-winter under tree bark or in other small cavities and start new nests in the spring. They are a physically strong insect and are capable of stinging through a layer of thick clothing.
When it comes to bee removal and even bee extermination, it's best to leave it up to professionals. Cowleys Pest Services brings years of experience to your property when dealing with a bee control issue. Call or contact them today for a free inspection throughout Mercer, Ocean, Monmouth, Middlesex County, New Jersey.