Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What just stung me?!

OUCH! No one likes getting "zapped" by a stinging insect, and with all the warm weather Seattle is getting, there's no shortage of bees and wasps out doing their thing. Being able to recognize what is flying around and understanding a bit about their behavior is a good way to avoid being stung, so read on to learn the differences between bees and wasps.

There are several species of stinging insects here in the Pacific Northwest; the most commonly encountered are the bumble bee, the honey bee and yellow jackets, a species of wasp. In the image to the left the bumble bee is quite larger and appears more round and fuzzy than the honey bee, although both collect pollen.  Bumble bees nest underground, but they are so big they're easy to distinguish from other bees and yellow jackets. Their colonies rarely tops 100 individuals, in contrast to the thousands in a yellow jacket colony. Bumble bees will chase invaders and will pursue them further than honey bees, but they won't come out in droves like yellow jackets because their colonies are relatively small. Like a yellow jacket, an individual bumble bee can sting multiple times.

Wasps are members of the family Vespidae, which includes yellow jackets and hornets. Wasps generally have two pairs of wings and are not fuzzy at all. While they do consume other garden pests, wasps can inflect nasty stings and can be aggressive, showing up at outdoor activities. Only the females have stingers, but they can sting people repeatedly. Yellow jackets are social wasps (that is, they form colonies) and often nest underground or build their nests in the eaves of houses, bushes, brush piles or log piles, and other similar areas. If you see lots of flying insects emerging from a hole in the ground, they're probably yellow jackets. By late summer, a colony may contain thousands of individuals that will aggressively defend their nests from intruders. They're easily provoked and will attack in force, chasing the perceived threat for large distances. What's worse, each yellow jacket can sting multiple times. Sounds and vibrations, such as those from a mower or trimmer, can trigger an attack, even from a distance

Photograph by Kathy Keatley Garvey
Honey bees nest in cavities, such as hollowed out tree trunks (or in beekeepers' boxes). In contrast to yellow jackets, honey bees are relatively gentle (with the exception of Africanized honeybees). Bees that are out foraging among flowers for nectar and pollen usually sting only if stepped on or swatted. If you approach their nest, they'll defend it but only within the immediate area. They won't chase you hundreds of yards like yellow jackets will. A honeybee can sting only once. When it stings, its barbed stinger and the attached venom sac are ripped from its body, killing it. So the honeybee stings only as a last resort, sacrificing its life to protect the colony. There's been a lot of news lately about the decline of honey bees, so responsible pest control companies such as Cascade Pest will always call in a beekeeper to remove the queen and colony.

Here are some general tips on avoiding insect stings:
  • Don't swat at flying insects. If they land on you, gently brush them off, then walk away.
  • Observe the flight pattern of insects to determine their nest site, and then avoid it.
  • Avoid floral perfumes, lotions and hair products, which may attract insects.
  • Yellow jackets are attracted to sugary sodas and may fly into the cans, so pour the drink into a glass so you can see it.
  • Keep garbage cans and pet food covered.
Yellow jacket traps can help keep the population of a nest in check if they're set out in spring and early summer, when the population in the yellow jacket colony is small. Later in the season, placing the traps around the perimeter of an outdoor seating area may help reduce their pestering, but the traps won't do much to reduce the overall population.

If you are observing a consistent flight pattern, or hearing buzzing in your walls, it's time to call in the experts at Cascade Pest. We can quickly positively identify the flying pest, determine the best treatment plan, and safely and effectively rid your home of the nuisance.Call 425-641-6264 for a no-obligation phone consultation, and enjoy the great outdoors!


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