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The Buzz on Bees and Wasps

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The Buzz on Bees and Wasps

It’s a common sight during late summer. A picnic table is spread with sweet, gooey desserts and cups of sugary drinks. You reach for your can of soda and are just about to drink, when something bright yellow catches your eye. You pull the can away from your mouth just in time to see the pointy, gleaming body of a yellow jacket emerge from inside. You lucked out this time, but decide to pour out your drink before your luck runs out.

During the late summer and early fall, bees and wasps can become even more of a nuisance than in the dead of summer. The air is getting colder, which means these stinging insects are looking for their last meals before the cold of winter sets in. Honeybees are foraging for nectar from the last flowers of the season before confining themselves to their hive for the long winter ahead, while wasps — including yellow jackets and hornets — are out scavenging for anything they can get.

While it is common to refer to all stinging insects as “bees,” it’s important to note the distinction. Honeybees are gold to orange in color and have stout fuzzy bodies. Though they will sting if threatened, they are rarely aggressive. Wasps are smoother and narrower than bees, and much more prone to sting without warning. While wasps come in a range of colors, many of the most common species are black and yellow, which leads to much of the confusion between wasps and bees.

Among the most likely pests to disrupt late summer picnics is the yellow jacket, an aggressive wasp that is attracted to a wide range of foods, including sweets and rich sources of protein, such as hamburgers and hot dogs.

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The best way to manage wasps is to avoid attracting them in the first place. Instead of leaving food and drinks out for long periods of time during a picnic, only bring it out when people are ready to eat. When you’ve finished eating, put away any leftover food and place trash into a receptacle with a tight-fitting lid. Cover unfinished drinks with a lid or a piece of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. If this isn’t possible, always carefully check cups and cans for bees or wasps before drinking from them. If a wasp flies onto your food, wait for it to fly away or carefully brush it away. Remember, wasps may sting with little or no provocation and, unlike honeybees, which leave behind their stingers and die when they sting someone, a single wasp can sting repeatedly.

What if you find a nest of bees or wasps on your property? If you discover an unwanted hive of honeybees in your home or yard, call a local beekeeper to remove them. The North American honeybee is an endangered species and is beneficial to people, not only because it produces honey and beeswax, but also because it pollinates food crops. Without honeybees, we couldn’t grow fruit or vegetables. A knowledgeable beekeeper can safely remove the bees and create a new home for them where they won’t cause problems.

If you find a wasp nest on or near enough to your home to pose a danger, we also recommend you call a professional to remove the next. If this is not an option, you can purchase a commercial wasp and hornet spray from your local grocery or hardware store to eradicate them. Wait until nighttime, when wasps are less active, to apply the spray, and follow the directions on the can. If you continue to see live wasps in the area, reapply every three days until they are gone.

If you are opposed to using chemical pesticides, you can try a more organic method of pest control. If you discover the nest in late summer or fall, remember that worker wasps do not live through the winter and never reuse an old nest. A few good frosts will kill the colony. Depending on where the nest is located, and how close it is to winter, it may make sense just to wait the wasps out. Then, next spring, you can safely remove the old nest without fear of being stung.

Regardless of how you decide to remove the wasps, check with your doctor first to make sure that you aren’t allergic. Otherwise, a single sting can be life threatening!

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1 Nancy Boisvert { 08.07.16 at 11:36 am }

We have 2 bushes with yellow jackets ,sprayed 4 times,can’t see nest,any ideas.

2 Susan Higgins { 07.23.15 at 3:33 pm }

Hi Matthew Matuse: I wouldn’t recommend it as if you get them aggravated, you don’t know what they’ll do next. Best to call a professional.

3 Matthew Matuse { 07.22.15 at 1:25 pm }

Is it possible to smoke them out with a fire built underneath the nest?

4 Susan Higgins { 07.23.15 at 3:34 pm }

Hi Sandra Hancock, some of these remedies might work:

5 Sandra Hancock { 07.22.15 at 11:17 am }

We are being pestered and bothered with horseflies; is there any remedy to keep the horseflies away? I have serious reactions to their bites/stings and have no idea how to keep them away. We live in north central Louisiana.

6 Allergy=girl { 07.22.15 at 1:19 am }

Yellow jackets are the culprit and nest my post refers. Although, I am allergic to insect stings and nothing has ever landed on me and left without incident so that I must carry an epi pen. Therefore, it’s on like donkeykong and I aim to deter but wasp …. if I must… kill you I will. Bees, never ever never….. I plant for them clover and anything they want.

7 Allergy=girl { 07.22.15 at 1:14 am }

Deterrent: Yes. Non-chemical. Keep vinegar in a spray bottle near by. I use apple cider and stream the sprayer to spritz the nest. They will not like it and leave. It may take several hits to get the nest wet with vinegar and they will try to come back. What worked for me is scraping down the squirted nest and rubbing the woodwork with an open garlic clove. I grow garlic chives basil, mint, rosemary on the deck which helps, too. and a tiny piece of garlic between the window sill and screen helps with stink bugs. I’ve used moth balls for those stink bug window treatments but like the garlic better. (take care dogs do not get into the garlic cloves and vinegar hurts if it gets into your eyes and can make some herbs unhappy)
these stinging things things are warriors building nests right above our heads when we walk out the door. but I’ve not seen any since I used the vinegar and garlic rub. best wishes/good luck.

8 Ada Overbaugh { 07.21.15 at 9:20 am }

We live on a farm and when we first moved here there were a lot of bees with nests here…My husband got stung several times and he would be sick for 3 or 4 days….we decided to just kill them when they got in the house instead of using chemicals…our theory was and still is that the chemicals is the reason bees are so toxic..each time you spray a nest there are some that survive and they become super charged with the chemicals …when they sting you they are actually putting the chemical into you and that causes a bad reaction…the reason I say this is because I got stung at a park where they used chemical sprays on the bees…I swelled up really bad… so now if we get stung here on the farm you barely see a welt raise up….so I agree with the ones who say not to use sprays….

9 Becky { 07.21.15 at 8:56 am }

This is a chemical free suggestion. I had bees and wasps starting to build nests in the eaves of my home. I filled a brown paper lunch bag with plastic bags, tied it with string and hung them near the nests. Within a day the bees and wasps were gone. This method does not effect honey or bumble bees. The wasps and other bees think the paper bags are paper wasp nests! It really works! They will move on to another place. All summer I have not seen any wasps or yellow jackets. Every other year I’ve had tons of them

10 Susan Higgins { 07.23.15 at 3:39 pm }

Hi Paul Beard: I’d call a professional.

11 Paul Beard { 07.21.15 at 6:46 am }

I have a Mud Dobber’s nest attached to a light fixture under our home soffet, 20ft up. Tried knocking it off with a long pole. Nope. Didn’t want to damage or knock off the fixture. Suggestions without me having to get out my extention ladder and climb up there?

12 brenda { 07.21.15 at 5:48 am }

Wait till almost dark and throw boiling water on the nest.effectively kills all wasps and larvae in nest. Chemical free…

13 Robin Farmer { 07.20.15 at 11:29 pm }

any advice for a large hornets nest?

14 Linda fridy { 09.14.14 at 12:49 pm }

We have what looks like open holes about 4inch around. Small bees are buzzing inside and out. They are easily excited and go after my husband when he mows and we are afraid our small puppy will be stung, my husband was sung multiple times trying to now.please help we’ve tried wasp spray does not work

15 dvaillan { 05.07.14 at 12:31 pm }

I have yellow jackets and wasps already swarming around my home. They are actually flying into the window and knocking themselves away. My porch, shed, etc. There everywhere. any big solutions or suggestions?

16 Izak Gregory { 09.11.13 at 6:26 pm }

Just take a stick and knock the nest down and they will usually leave. A wasp as well as bees are VERY beneficial and should not be destroyed. It should be a criminal offense to spray them or anything else with the Hazardous chemical spray. Gee whiz use your heads folks. Also a wasp will land on you take one smell and leave because you stink to them. Of course if you start swatting at them then they think you are a threat and bingo they will nail you.

17 Jaime McLeod { 05.10.12 at 9:38 am }

Sorry Sue,
I don’t know of any deterrents, other than vigilance. I had some wasps trying to build a nest on my porch last year, and I kept obliterating it with the garden hose when it was still very small. They gave up and moved on.

18 Sue { 05.09.12 at 2:20 pm }

Is there any way to “prevent” the wasps from making a nest on your home? I live on the upper level in a condo and I can not reach the eaves where they make their nests and I get wasps swarming around my balcony all summer! I also get some sort of flying pest that builds their “nest” out of some sort of mud or clay that turns hard as rock in my furnace air intake fan. I have had to replace the part once already since continues cleaning bends the blades and it rattles the whole building. I was told I couldn’t put a screen over the tube opening…..

19 Dave { 05.09.12 at 10:06 am }

For wasps all you need is a sprayer with dawn dish washing soap and water mixed and just spray away, they die almost instantly when hit with that simple solution.

20 Farrah { 09.10.11 at 8:40 pm }

Dragonflies are absolutely not included in this group. You didn’t mention any ways to get rid of yellow jacket nests- the only ones that really worry me. We don’t use any chemicals on our property, but have successfully killed off two yellow jacket nests over the years by simply following them back to the nest and then putting a clear glass dome over it at night once they’re all inside. In the morning when they come out, they’ll just buzz around and around. It has to be clear glass though, or they will simply dig a new exit. As long as they can see out, they don’t. It takes about a week for them to all die off, maybe longer if in deep shade.

21 Joy Alvey { 09.10.11 at 6:07 pm }

feed the wasps a little meat they are hungry watch them saw small bites and fly away

22 Wasp Control { 07.01.11 at 5:25 am }

I found a wasp nest in my shed last summer and I was worried that they can cause danger to my children and me so I called a local pest control company and lucky they came out the same day and removed all of the wasps. It’s very dangerous to try to remove a wasp nest yourself and this can anger the wasps and they can then harm people.

23 dennis kloepping { 09.14.10 at 2:06 pm }

The dragonflyies are eating small insects. The small insects are having their last swarm and the dragonflies are there to feast. They are a beneficial insect and eats alot of mosquitoes.

24 Maybelle { 09.14.10 at 9:34 am }

Would dragonflies be included in these “crazy bees” group? There were hundreds of them in my backyard yesterday and I’ve never seen them like that before.

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