Bees & Wasps - Problems for New Jersey Homeowners
Bees are different than wasps, and belong to the Anthophila family. They are considered beneficial insects and are crucial to agriculture. Bees have thick-waisted bodies covered with tiny hairs. Their hairy bodies differentiate bees from wasps, which may have similar markings but are smooth-bodied.
As bees fly from flower to flower feeding on plant nectar, they collect pollen in specialized abdominal hairs, in the process pollinating flowers and crops. When bees return to the hive, they mix collected pollen with nectar, creating yellow pollen balls to feed their larvae. With the exception of the solitary carpenter bee, most bee species in New Jersey live in large social colonies called hives under a caste system that defines the role of each individual.
Some New Jersey bee species form annual colonies with only the fertilized queen surviving the winter to form a new colony each spring. In other species, the adult bees die off but larvae overwinter, pupating in the spring to repopulate the colony. Honey bees are unique in that the entire hive overwinters, pressing together in the hive for warmth and feeding on the honey stored in waxy combs. Honey bees are a protected species. When honey bees colonize a wall or attic, they cannot be exterminated. A bee keeper is called in to remove and relocate the colony. Clean up and sanitizing of the hive site is critical to prevent residual honey from attracting a secondary pest invasion.
Bees seldom sting unless threatened. It is a myth that all bees sting once and then die. Only bees with barbed stingers like the honey bee are limited to a single sting. Their barbed stinger becomes embedded in their victim, ripping away the bee's abdomen as it escapes, killing the bee. Bees with straight stingers like the bumble bee can sting multiple times. Bee stings are painful and usually raise an itchy, red hive. People who are allergic to bee venom can go into life-threatening anaphylactic shock. In the U.S., bee stings kill 50 to 100 people every year and hospitalize 500,000.
Bees Commonly Found in New Jersey
Bumble Bee (Bombus sp.). A beneficial pollinator, bumble bees are 1 inch long with distinctive black and yellow striped bodies. Their loud buzzing belies their usually docile behavior. However, when provoked, bumble bees are aggressive nest defenders known to chase invaders for a considerable distance.
Bumble bees have straight stingers and can sting multiple times. Their sting is particularly painful and their ability to sting repeatedly makes them a serious threat to people allergic to bee venom.
Living in small colonies of 50 to 200 individuals, bumble bees frequently nest in the ground, colonizing vacated animal tunnels, but may also construct their nests in garages, storage sheds or attic soffits. An annual species, only the queen survives the winter.
Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp.). A solitary bee that lives in mating pairs, carpenter bees are thick-bodied and 1 to 1 1/2 inches long with yellow and black striped markings and a smooth abdomen.
Most active in May and June, carpenter bees tunnel into soft wood to lay their eggs, damaging unpainted wood siding, fascia boards, porches, decks, lawn furniture and children's play sets. Their name comes from the perfectly circular holes the female drills into wood surfaces and the loud, drill-like buzzing the male makes as he guards the nest.
Carpenter bees are rarely a stinging hazard as only the docile females have stingers. However, the stingerless males are very aggressive, dive bombing anyone who comes near the nest. The damage carpenter bees do to outdoor wood structures is cumulative, increasing each year as bees return to the same site.
Ground Bee. Ground bee is a generic term commonly used to describe any ground-dwelling bee or wasp species, including bumble bees, sweat bees and yellow jacket wasps. Colonizing abandoned animal burrows, ground-dwelling bees build extensive underground nests.
Their presence is usually discovered when bees are observed hovering in one place near ground level or flying in and out of a nest entrance. Ground bees pose a serious hazard to unsuspecting adults and children who may stumble upon a nest while walking across a lawn or playing.
When a nest is disturbed, hundreds of angry bees can come swarming out the nest, attacking en masse and stinging viciously. Even people who are not allergic to bee venom have succumbed to the repeated stings of swarming ground bees.
Halictid Bee (Halictidae). Commonly called Sweat Bees, halictid bees are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long and have shiny black bodies with distinctive blue or green metallic markings. Sweat bees feed on nectar and pollen but also harvest sweat from human skin, giving this bee its name.
Ground dwellers, sweat bees build their nests in the burrows of chipmunks and other small animals. Females dig branching tunnels into the soil, laying a single egg at the end of each tunnel. Tunnels are lined with sweat beads and provisioned with a pollen ball to provide food for hatching larvae.
Adults die in the fall, but larvae overwinter in the nest, pupating in the spring to repopulate the colony. While sweat bees will sting if startled or swatted, their sting is minor. It is their annoying hovering behavior that makes these small bees such an annoying pest.
How Wasps Differ From Bees
Wasp (Aculeata). Wasps are smooth bodied with a nipped-in, ant-like waist, differentiating them from bees that are hairy and thick-waisted. Predatory insects, wasps feed primarily on insects and their young, including other wasps, but will also eat fruit, plant nectar and carrion. Wasps can be either social, living in huge social colonies, or solitary, although research has shown that even solitary wasps engage in some social behavior.
Wasps build their nests in sheltered spaces both above and below ground, constructing elaborate, layered structures using a paper-like substance they produce from partially chewed wood and tree bark. Frequently colonizing abandoned animal burrows, wasps may also build nests between the branches of pine trees; in attics, garages or wall voids; and under the eaves of buildings.
Several wasp species, notably hornets, build large aerial nests shaped like oversized, gray footballs suspended from tree branches. All wasps are annual species. With the exception of the fertilized queen, the entire colony dies off in the fall. The queen overwinters underground, emerging in the spring to build a new colony.
While many wasp species attack only in defense, some wasps, notably yellow jackets and hornets, are extremely aggressive, particularly at the end of summer, and will attack without provocation. Wasps have strait stingers that allow them to sting repeatedly, posing a serious health threat, even to people who are not allergic to their venom.
Wasps Commonly Found in New Jersey
Hornet (Dolichovespula spp.). The largest wasp species in the U.S., hornets are 1 1/4 inches long with yellow-striped brown bodies. They feed on other insects and their larvae. One of the most aggressive wasp species, hornets have a straight stinger and can sting multiple times. Because of their size and ability to sting repeatedly, attacking hornets pose a serious threat that can be deadly.
A rural pest that is rarely seen in urban environments; hornets live in horizontal, multi-layered, papery nests called combs. Primarily constructed in hollow trees, combs are occasionally located in animal burrows, barns, attics or wall voids. Hornets are also the primary builders of the large, gray, football-shaped; aerial hives seen hanging beneath tree limbs. Only used for a single season, aerial hives are abandoned in the fall when the colony dies and are not reused by subsequent colonies. Only the fertilized queen overwinters, emerging in the spring to create a new colony.
Paper Wasp (Polistes sp.). Solitary wasps, paper wasps have slender, 3/4-inch long bodies with extremely narrow waists and dangling legs. Frequently black in color, paper wasps may also be vivid orange, yellow, red or brown. These wasps feed on insects and plant nectar.
Paper wasps are named for the gray, paper-like material (chewed wood) used to construct their unique nests. Paper wasps build circular, single-layered, open combs distinctively-shaped like upside-down umbrellas. Combs are built one cell at a time with small groups of wasps often adding cells to the same comb in an excellent example of social behavior exhibited by solitary wasps.
Paper wasp combs may be comprised of anywhere from 5 to more than 100 cells. Inside the exposed combs, wasps and immatures can frequently be seen harboring inside individual cells. Suspended from a single slender stalk, paper wasp combs are constructed in protected areas and frequently found hanging under house eaves, door frames, roof peaks, porch ceilings, deck railings and garage and attic rafters. Paper wasps sting readily when disturbed and have a vicious sting that can provoke allergic reactions. Only the egg-bearing females overwinter, sometimes seeking winter harborage inside New Jersey homes.
Yellow Jackets (Vespula spp.). The most aggressive stinging insect in northern New Jersey, yellow jackets are responsible for the majority of life-threatening bee and wasp attacks that occur in the U.S. Yellow jackets are most aggressive in late summer when they frequently attack without provocation and may launch deadly swarming attacks if their nest is threatened or disturbed. Straight stingers allow these wasps to sting multiple times, making yellow jackets a serious threat even to people who are not allergic to their venom.
From 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, yellow jackets have stocky abdomens distinctively striped with alternating black and yellow bands. Social insects, yellow jackets are primarily ground dwellers, colonizing abandoned animal burrows where they build massive nests that can harbor thousands of individuals. Occasionally, yellow jackets will locate their nests in attics or wall voids or build aerial hives. Both adult yellow jackets and their larvae feed on insects.
In late summer, adults frequently seek out discarded sugars and proteins in outdoor trash receptacles, their aggressive behavior creating problems at outdoor picnics and events. Yellow jacket colonies die in the fall with the exception of the fertilized queen that survives the winter to begin a new colony in the spring.
We Provide Specialized Bee and Wasp Services
If your home or business is threatened by the presence of bees or wasps call us, the New Jersey hive removal specialists. Not only will we treat to remove bees and wasps, but will remove hives. Contact us today to keep your family safe from dangerous stinging insects.