Bees are wonderful for our gardens. They help with honey production and the pollination of hundreds of different types of plants all across the country. Yet this little insect can be the terror of children and adults alike, and for good reason.
Just one sting from a yellow jacket, honey bee or wasp can send someone to the emergency room. The venom from a wasp or hornet also holds pheromones that will paint you like a bull’s-eye, informing the hive where you are so they can all “attack the invader”. This defense mechanism is how a hive protects itself from destruction and most will admit they hate being stung. This article is here to educate about the dangers and also (if you are brave enough) how to eliminate the hive yourself. In order to eliminate a nuisance hive, first we need to find out which insect we are dealing with.
The most common type of bee that builds on a home is an Umbrella Wasp. Most people begin learning about these
pests at a very young age. They aren’t very aggressive and unless provoked, usually don’t sting. Wasps usually take several months to build their nest and once it has gotten to a fair size (about the size of a soft ball) they will attack passers by.
Elimination of the Nest
To eliminate wasps, a can of “Wasp Freeze” or any aerosol can or bug spray labeled for wasps will work. Typically the best time to attack umbrella wasps is in July or early August. This insures they do not have an adequate period to rebuild before winter. Wasps will also try to infest attic spaces through the winter and hibernate until spring. Customers have complained about seeing wasps around their soffits, ridge vents and louvers in fall and spring as if to catch a warm breeze from the attic.
Bees in Virginia really only come in three varieties, Honey, Carpenter and Bumble. Honey Bees usually nest inside a tree or soffit of a home. I have witnessed them going under vinyl siding as well.
Once in a wall void they will begin to produce honey. This will attract hornets and other honey bees. Sometimes the best way to get rid of honey bees in a house is to call a bee keeper. Bee keepers usually will take a hive away from a home for free. If a hive cannot be eliminated I would suggest calling a pest control specialist. Spraying honey bees can make them extremely angry. Honey bees, when they sting, leave their stinger behind which continues to pump venom into the victim. This kills the honey bee, so they usually do NOT sting but, if you irritate them with a spray insecticide, they will sting you. *The CDC estimates that approximately 2 million Americans have allergic reactions to bee stings.
If you are stung and begin to have problems breathing call 911.
Bumble bees are very much like honey bees. In my nearly 30 years of extermination, I have only ever ran across a bumble bee nest once, under a barn floor. I left the hive alone and they were gone by the next year. Bumble bees mostly die off in the winter so they usually pose no threat at all. I have never met anyone who was stung by a bumble bee but they can sting.
Carpenter bees look very similar to bumble bees and usually are misidentified as such. Carpenter bees are nearly
double the size of a bumble bee and drill half inch holes into lumber.
They love to drill into soffits and deck rails. Carpenter bees drill about an inch into a piece of wood, then turn 90 degrees and begin to drill a tunnel. Off this tunnel will be small galleries in which they lay their eggs.
These eggs will hatch in a few weeks as larva. The queens will sting spiders, crickets and other bugs. She then seals them into the gallery with their egg. When the egg hatches the babies have food to eat. Once these larva grow into adult bees they will fly out, usually around September.
Carpenter bees return to the same lumber year after year to lay more eggs so after a few years they can create thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
How to Treat carpenter bees
I suggest spraying the holes with a liquid pesticide in the spring, usually April into May. This will catch the bees as they are trying to reproduce. You can also use a dust labeled for bee control in the holes. You will need to treat these bees every year in the spring and maybe even in the fall. It usually takes a few years, in a house that is really infested, to be able to eliminate the bee problem. This is because of the generations that continue to return every year.
Bell hornets come in three varieties in Virginia. We have Yellow Jackets, Bald-Faced Hornets, and European Hornets. These are called bell hornets because of the shape of nest they create. It resembles a bell type structure. Usually yellow jackets will build their nest underground, bald-faced hornets up high in a bell, type nest, and European hornets, in a hollow tree.
Of these three hornets, the biggest is the European hornet, they can be over an inch long, and many of my customers explain to me “It looked like a wasp on steroids!” because of their size. Yellow jackets are the smallest and bald-faced hornets are a little bigger. Of the three, yellow jackets are the meanest. All three begin their nest in the spring and will grow in size throughout the year. By fall, if nothing has been done to eliminate the hive, I have seen nests as long as 3 feet (European hornets) or as big as a beach ball (yellow jackets / bald-faced hornets).
How to kill a Hornet Nest
The larger the nest, the harder they are to eliminate. A great deal of my customers will tell me “I went after them at night when they were asleep” THIS IS A HORRIBLE IDEA! Not all hornets sleep at night. Yellow jackets will all go into the hive at night to sleep but European hornets fly twenty four hours a day. I had a customer once who went after European hornets in a hollow tree with a flash light at night. European hornets are attracted to light, so you can guess how this went. He had over twenty stings and they followed him all the way back to his house, stinging him the entire way. He didn’t turn off the flash light. If you have a hornet nest I highly suggest calling a pest control specialist but if you want to risk being stung, go after the nest in the cool of the morning. This will ensure that the hornets are slow to react to being treated.
Don’t use gasoline.
While this method has worked for people before it does not always work and will cause the hornets to get extremely angry. Also using gasoline in the morning will not eliminate the foragers who are not in the hive and by night fall, when they return to the nest, the fumes from the gasoline would have evaporated. You can also use a dust labeled for wasps and hornets, this will work the best. Dust works exceptionally well when the nest is in the ground.
I hope this article has been informative. Remember never play around with bees. If you think the nest is too large to be safe you can always wear a bee suit. Bees are very dangerous. Call us anytime for pointers. We are always here at Green Akers Pest Control to help!