Bees & Wasps
Western Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)
Honey Bees are common in the Northwest, and are one of the only insects that are domesticated. American Extermination Plus does not exterminate or remove these essential garden helpers, but if you have a bee’s nest in a problematic area, we can recommend someone to safely remove the nest.
- Appearance: This bee has yellow-orange and black bands and is fuzzy- especially in the front. They have pollen baskets on their back legs, which are usually dark brown or black. They range in size from just over a quarter of an inch to three quarters of an inch long.
- Behavior: When a worker bee becomes an adult, it begins work in the hive. As it ages, it takes on different roles in the hive- from feeding larvae, to building cells, to storing food, and then on to foraging. A worker may live a few weeks to a few months, depending on the climate. Queens can live three to five years, but are usually replaced after one or two.
- Nests: While they may occasionally build hanging nests in warmer climates, Western Honeybees prefer to build their nests in existing cavities, such as the hollows of trees and in caves. They usually look for nesting places at least the feet off the ground, and use beeswax to fill it with honeycombs for storing honey, pollen, and larvae. Unlike most wasps, honeybees reuse their nests for several years.
- Bites and Stings: Worker bees have barbed ovipositors called stingers. Honey bees often die after stinging their targets, because their venom sacks and stingers detach from their body when the barbs on the stinger become lodged. the venom sack has muscles that continue injection venom even after it’s been separated from the bee.
Mud Daubers (Sphecidae and Crabronidae)
One of the most common types of wasp here in the Northwest, Mud Daubers are distinct from other wasps in a manner of ways. They don’t colonize, and they’re much less aggressive than yellowjackets. They are often seen around pools in the summer, collecting mud.
- Appearance: Mud Daubers come in many different colors, but they’re most commonly black and yellow. They have a long, thread like waist and curly antennae.
- Behavior: Mud Daubers don’t colonize like some other wasps do. Fertilized queens lay their eggs in the fall and pack their nests with hunted insects for the larva to eat once they hatch.
- Nests: Mud Daubers collect mud to make little domes to lay their eggs in. They like to make their little sod houses on the underside of shelters, such as exposed beams, in tool storage sheds, and attics.
- Bites & Stings: All wasps are capable of inflicting painful stings, which are especially dangerous to those who are allergic to their venom. This particular species is one of the less aggressive though, and won’t go out of their way to sting.
Paper Wasps (Polistinae)
Paper wasps are most easily recognized by their distinctive nests, which are often found under eaves and other sheltered areas. They form an umbrella shaped nest out of a “paper” they make of saliva and plant material. While they aren’t as aggressive as some other wasps, they do sting if they feel threatened. They can be beneficial to gardeners as they pollenate and hunt insects, but it is undesirable to have them nest near your home.
- Appearance: The name “Paper Wasp” actually refers to several species. The ones most common in the Northwest have shiny yellow and black striped bodies (similar to a yellow jacket), and range from 1/2 an inch to 1 inch long.
- Behavior: While not aggressive, paper wasps ARE territorial- and unlike bees, they can (and will) sting as many times as they feel necessary to protect their nests. Their diet consists of pollen and nectar, as well as insects that they feed to their young. They may also be attracted to meats and sugary foods and drinks, so it is wise to keep those items covered or sealed during the warm months. When cold weather comes, the males will die off and the fertilized queens for seek shelter for the winter.
- Nests: The Paper Wasp is sometimes called the Umbrella Wasp because of the unique shape of their nests. They chew up wood and other plant material to make a paste, which dries in to a paper like material. These nests are usually found in sheltered areas, such as eaves, window sills, and attics. the top of the “umbrella” is smooth, and the underside is made up of exposed hexagonal cells.
- Bites & Stings: Paper wasps can be aggressive, but they usually won’t bother you unless they feel attacked. Never swat at them, because it triggers pheromones that label you as a dangerous target. If they do sting you, the best thing to do is leave the area as quickly as you can. Some people are allergic to wasp venom. If you experience any allergic symptoms, contact your emergency medical provider immediately.
Yellowjackets (Vespula and Dolichovespula)
One of the more aggressive species of wasp, yellowjackets are well known for their distinctive markings. Other insects mimic their markings to scare off predators.
- Appearance: The Yellowjacket is named for it’s distinctive black and yellow bands. They have a small waist, and range from 1/2 an inch to 3/4 inch. They have long antennae and yellow faces.
- Behavior: In the spring, queen yellowjackets emerge from their winter burrows to construct a small “starter home” of 50 or less brood cells, where she lays her fertilized eggs. Around the middle of summer, the grown workers take over nest construction and hunting for protein to feed the young. Adults prefer a more sugary diet. At the end of the warm season, reproductives leave the nest to mate, and the new queens search for a safe and warm place to overwinter. Male reproductives and female workers begin to leave the nest and die off, and the nest is abandoned.
- Nests: Queens build their nests in the spring. Like the paper wasp, they make their nests of chewed up wood and saliva. Depending on the species, they make them underground, or they may build them hanging in the air under eaves or branches. In places where the winters are cold, the nests are abandoned when the workers die off. However, in some climates, the winters are mild enough for the colony to survive. In these cases, they yellow jackets will continue adding on to their existing nest.
- Bites and Stings: Yellowjackets have smooth lance-like stingers that they can use to attack multiple times. They are highly protective of their nest, and will sting anyone that comes within a few feet of them. When they sting, they inject venom that can be quite painful- even causing allergic reactions in some people that can even lead to death.