I.D. Your Bee

What Type of Bee Problem Do You Have?

Identify your bee: bumble bees, honey bees, ground bees, wasps, hornets, carpenter bees, or yellow jackets here!

These photos and descriptions of different types of bees will help you accurately relay your stinging insect problem to The Bee Hunter so that he may better assist you when you call.

Remember, "your bee" or its nest may not look exactly like the photo; simply try to find the bee that looks the closest.

 

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You know those "bees" that like your snow cone or can of soda-pop more than you do? The ones that seem to show up at every family picnic or backyard barbeque like an uninvited and very unwelcome guest? These are yellow jackets. Yellow Jackets are easily recognized by black and yellow stripes – "Steeler" bees.

When Yellow Jackets nest in trees, shrubs, under decks, or high in the eaves, their nest is very visible and easy to identify; a "football" or upside down teardrop-shaped nest constructed from gray paper. Yellow Jackets, like wasps and hornets, actually make this paper themselves by chewing on tiny slivers of wood. The young are hatched and food is stored in the nest's center or "core" of hexagonal (or six-sided) cells.

When yellow jackets nest inside a structure (such as your home) the nest is not at all visible. You'll see them flying in and out at some small gap, crack, or crevice on the exterior of your house. Note: Please do not seal this entrance hole shut. Read my Common Questions About Bees for more information about this.

You may even be able to hear yellow jackets inside. Listen to your wall or ceiling for a crackling, tickling, "rustling-leaves" sound. Those are yellow jackets going about the business of building their hive and slowly chewing through your plaster or drywall.

 

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Do you have a memorable story that begins "I remember one Summer when my father/uncle/big brother was cutting the grass when all of the sudden..."? These were ground bees (actually a type of yellow jacket) that chased your father around the yard. They build hives two inches to two feet underground often using abandoned mole or mouse burrows. They are much smaller than other yellow jackets but are fairly aggressive and can become very easily agitated – especially with a giant lawnmower rumbling overhead. (Note: Pouring gasoline into their hole is not at all safe. Give me a ring; I'll take care of them for you.)

 

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One of the most common questions I'm asked is, "What bee stings hurt the most?" Wasps. Without a doubt the most painful "bee" sting doesn't even come from a bee at all.

Wasps are long and very thin – particularly at the waist. Their long droopy legs hang below as they fly back and forth along eaves and gutter lines to enter their favorite harborage site - attics.

Wasps prefer nesting in attics but will nest practically anywhere; in eave peaks, behind shutters, under deck railings, in gas grills, swing sets, mailboxes, and light fixtures. Their nests aren't very large and can be tucked into any little nook or cranny. I once removed several wasps' nests from under the hood of an old classic Chevy.

They seem to prefer new construction to old, and I keep very busy treating wasp infestations in suburban housing developments. While a wasp problem can be "spot" treated, the most effective way to solve such a problem is with an overall house treatment designed specifically for wasps. Please see Stinging Insect Prevention to learn more about this comprehensive preventive treatment program for wasps and other stinging insects.

 

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The expression "as mad as a hornet" is an accurate one. Bald-faced hornets are certainly the physically strongest stinging insect that I encounter. It is the only one able to sting directly through my protective clothing or shoot venom into my eyes if it hits hard enough against the protective netting covering my face.

Hornets nests are entirely exterior; trees, shrubs, under decks, and high in the eaves. They construct a "football" or upside down teardrop-shaped nest from gray paper. Hornets, as do wasps and yellow jackets, actually make this paper themselves by chewing on tiny slivers of wood. The young are hatched and food is stored in the nest's center or "core" of hexagonal (or six-sided) cells.

 

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These are the bees that people most often associate with "bees." They are also one of the most beneficial insects on the planet. Their role in pollination is vital to all sorts of fruit and vegetable crops. It is the honey bees' instrumental and indispensable role in pollination that makes their recent and unexplained disappearance, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, such a great concern.

Bees in a hollow tree or beekeeper's box are all well and good, but when they invade your home it can be quite a different story. Honey bees are capable of producing massive hives containing tens of thousands of workers and weighing hundreds of pounds – doesn't go well in the living room, does it?

When honey bees nest inside a structure (such as your home) the nest is not at all visible. You'll see them flying in and out at some small gap, crack, or crevice on the exterior of your house. Note: Please do not seal this entrance hole shut. Read my Common Questions About Bees for more information about this.

Because they are so beneficial to man and the environment, every effort is made to take these bees alive and transport them to a safe, more suitable location. In a situation where this is not possible, the bees will be destroyed and their nest removed. This is probably one of the most involved, tedious, and time-consuming jobs I do. It's certainly the stickiest!

 

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Bumble bees are seen most often on flowers. They pollinate plants and gather nectar to make honey, but do not make nearly as much honey as honey bees. Bumble bees are not particularly aggressive while buzzing from flower to flower and are much more interested in the next flower than they are in you. However, they are very quick to defend their nest and will not hesitate to sting if they feel their nest is threatened. Those little guys pack a punch too.

Bumble bees tend to build fairly simple and disorganized nests in; dry grass clippings, piles of dried leaves, porch furniture cushions, insulation, or other loose "fluffy" material. I once discovered bumble bees flying through a broken attic window, crossing the attic, and nesting in an old discarded mattress. They may also nest underground or under exterior concrete slabs such as patios or sidewalks.

 

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See those holes in the wood along the eaves? Looks like a carpenter climbed up there and drilled them perfectly round. Actually, the "carpenter" responsible was just over an inch long, weighed only a few grams, and she (yes, they're mostly females) flew up there and drilled a perfectly round 3/8 inch hole with her mandibles.

They do not eat the wood but rather make tunnels through it in which to lay eggs and raise young. While carpenter bees are strictly considered "wood-destroying" insects, the damage they do is typically limited to surface wood and they are not likely to do any damage to the structural or weight bearing wood of a house.

Carpenter bees are solitary insects, but they will often nest in close proximity to other carpenter bees. Left untreated, they can grow to large numbers and eventually completely destroy the wood in which they are nesting and tunneling. Note: While carpenter bees are strictly considered "wood destroying" insects, they typically will infest only the wood in which you see them nesting. They don't "get into your house" to destroy studs, rafters, and joists.