Denton County Termite
and Pest Control Inc.
Serving North Texas Since 1940
THE AFRICANIZED BEE
The Africanized bee is the same species as the European honey bee kept
by beekeepers all over the United States. Introduced into Brazil from
southern Africa, it is adapted to longer warm seasons than are northern
It is thought that this bee will advance as far into the northern temperate
region as it has into the southern temperate region. If this is true, Africanized
bees will be distributed north in a line that will reach from southern
Pennsylvania, west to Seattle, Washington.
Africanized bees do not store as much honey to take them through the winter
as honey bees do. They have smaller colonies and tend to swarm more
often. Smaller swarms allow colony development in smaller cavities. In South
and Central America, Africanized swarms settle in hollow trees like northern
honey bees; they also colonize in rubber tires, crates and boxes, wall voids,
abandoned vehicles and other protected places that abound in urban areas.
Worker bees tend to mob intruders. The urbanized Africanized honey bee
presents a new management challenge not only to beekeepers but to urban
pest management technicians.
HONEY BEES (Apis mellifera)
The honey bee was introduced into the United States in Colonial America.
Honey bees are highly social insects and communicate with each other,
relaying direction and distance of nectar and pollen sources. Bees make
combs of waxen cells placed side by side that provide spaces to rear young
and to store honey. The bee colony lives on the stored honey throughout
winters, and therefore, can persist for years.
When colony populations are high, the queen may move part of the colony to
new harborage. Bees swarm at this time, usually finding hollow trees to
begin their new colony, but they occasionally work their way into building wall
Drones are male bees and they have no stingers. Drones do not collect food
or pollen from flowers. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. If the
colony is short on food, drones are often kicked out of the hive.
Workers, which are the smallest bees in the colony, are undeveloped
females. A colony can have up to 60,000 workers. The life span of a worker
bee depends upon the time of year. Her life expectancy can be as long as
Workers feed the queen and larvae, guard the hive entrance and help to
keep the hive cool by fanning their wings. Worker bees also collect nectar to
make honey. In addition, honey bees produce wax comb. The comb is
composed of hexagonal cells which have walls that are only 2/1000 inch
thick, but support 25 times their own weight.
Honey bees' wings stroke over 11,000 times per minute, thus making their
A honey bee colony in a house wall can cause major problems. The bees
can chew through the wall and fly inside. Their storage of large amounts of
honey invites other bees and wasps. Their detritus (e.g., dead bees,
shedded larval skins, wax caps from combs and other material) attracts
beetles and moths.
When a bee colony is found in a building wall, it must be killed. Killing can be
accomplished in the same way as killing yellowjackets in wall voids is done.
Listen to the bee noise from inside rooms to locate the exact position of the
nest in the wall to assure that the whole colony is treated.
After the colony is dead, the nest must be removed. If the nest is not
removed, the wax combs -- normally cooled by the bees -- will melt and allow
honey to flow down through the walls. Honey stain can never be removed; the
walls will have to be replaced. As well, the freed honey attracts robber bees
and wasps. The comb wax will attract wax moths that may persist for several
years. The dead bees attract carpet beetles.
After the colony is killed the entrance hole should be caulked or repaired to
prevent further bee infestation.
CARPENTER BEES (Xylocopa)
Carpenter Bees are not social insects; they live only one year. The most
common Carpenter Bee, Xylocopa virginica, is distributed throughout the
eastern half of North America. This bee is a large insect with a hairy yellow
thorax and a shiny black abdomen. Superficially, it resembles yellow and
black female bumble bees, which are social and more closely related to
honey bees. Western Carpenter bees are also large, shiny, sometimes
metallic, and are shaped like bumble bees.
Carpenter bees bore in wood and make a long tunnel provisioned with
pollen and eggs. They prefer to enter unpainted wood and commonly tunnel
in redwood and unpainted deck timber. They will also go into painted wood
especially if any type of start hole is present. New females reuse old tunnels
year after year; they are also attracted to areas where other females are
tunneling. Egg laying and tunnel provisioning occurs in the spring. Males
hover around the tunnel entrance while the female provisions the nest and
Males dart at intruders belligerently but they can do no harm; they have no
stingers. Since these bees are not social, there is no worker caste to protect
the nest. Stings of females are rare.
New adults emerge after the middle of summer and can be seen feeding at
flowers until they seek overwintering sites, sometimes in the tunnels.
Carpenter bees drill into the end grain of structural wood or into the face of a
wooden member, then turn and tunnel with the grain.
The insects most beneficial to humans are found in the large insect order
Hymenoptera. Not only are the bees and many of their relatives pollinators of
flowering plants, including fruits and vegetables, but thousands of species of
small wasps are parasites of other arthropods including pest insects. Without
these parasites that limit the growth of insect populations, pests would
overtake most crops.
The urban pests of the order Hymenoptera are the stinging insects. Although
the first image to come to mind implies danger to humans, these
yellowjackets, hornets, and wasps sometimes serve our interest: They feed
their young largely on flies and caterpillars.
Many of these stinging insects are social. They live in colonies with a caste
system or a division of labor and overlapping generations -- all offspring of
one individual reproductive. Some of these colonies persist for many years
(ants, honey bees) and others, like stinging wasps, start anew each year.
Bees & Carpenter Bees
Wasps,Yellow Jackets & Hornets
NESTS AND COLONIES
In parts of the United States, particularly in the eastern states, yellowjackets,
wasps, hornets and bees are all called bees by the general public. Of course
the general public is principally focused on one attribute these insects have
in common -- their stingers.
Knowledge of the behavior of these pests is essential to their management;
effective communication with frightened or, at best, fearful clients is an
important skill technicians must develop.
Nests of stinging pests are usually the target for control. Understanding
nesting and the make-up of the colony is essential.
Yellowjackets, hornets and paper wasps are all in the same insect family,
Vespidae. The common Paper wasp with its umbrella shaped nest or single
comb best demonstrates the basic building pattern of a colony.
Paper wasp queens, like other Vespid nest mothers, is the lone female
reproductive, who begins her nest by attaching a thick paper strand to an
overhanging structure. She then builds hollow paper cells by chewing wood
or plant fibers (cellulose) mixed with water and shaped with her mouthparts.
When a half dozen cells or so are hanging together, the Queen lays an egg
near the bottom of each one. The little white grubs that hatch from the egg
glue their rear ends in the cell and begin receiving nourishment in the form of
chewed up bits of caterpillars provided by their mother. When they grow
large enough to fill the cell cavity, they break the glued spot and hold on their
own by their stuffed fat bodies, hanging head down.
Mature larvae, then, spin silk caps, closing off the cell, and molt into pupae.
This same larval behavior pattern is followed by yellowjackets and hornets
also. All are females. Other than their white color, these Vespid pupae look
like adults; they develop adult systems, then shed their pupal skins, chew
through their silk cell cap, pump out their wings, and take their place as
worker assistants to their mother. (Paper wasp queens and workers are the
same size; yellowjacket and hornet queens are larger than their daughters.)
From Spring on, the queen lays eggs and the daughter workers feed larvae
and expand the comb or nest. They do not eat the protein (insect) food they
gather for the larvae but get their energy from flower nectar. Later in the
season, some of the larvae develop into males and others will become next
The new males and females mate with those of other colonies, and the
fertilized females find hiding places under tree bark or in logs and wait out
the winter until they can begin their new colony in the spring.
The male Vespids die in winter, likewise the nest disintegrates and will not
be used again.
Paper wasps nests are often found near doorways and other human activity
areas without occupants being stung. Colonies can become problems, but
when they do, Paper wasps can be controlled easily.
When attracted to fallen ripe fruit, these wasps sting people who venture into
the same area. Colonies in trees, out buildings, hollow fence posts and other
protected places are not as easy to control as those from nests on
MUD DAUBER WASPS (Family Sphecidae)
Mud Dauber wasps are not social wasps like Paper wasps. They are in a
different family. Many paralyze spiders to provision mud cells built to enclose
eggs, larvae and pupae. The mud cells form long clay tubes or large lumps.
The wasps are slender; they are shiny black or brown, orange or yellow, with
black markings. Many have long slender thread waists.
Like Carpenter bees there is no protective worker caste; these wasps are
not aggressive; they will not sting unless pressed or handled. Mud Daubers
place their mud nests in protected places like electric motors, sheds, attics,
against house siding and under porch ceilings. So many wasps congregate
at the same site to construct the mud nests that later removal of the nests
and repainting is often expensive.
THE GIANT HORNET (Vespa crabro)
Technically, this wasp is the only hornet in North America, but it did not
originate here; it was introduced from Europe. It is found in the northeastern
quarter of the United States; it ranges as far south as North Carolina and
Tennessee with scattered sightings extending west of the Mississippi River.
The Giant hornet is reddish-brown and yellow and almost an inch long. It
builds its nest mainly in hollow trees, and in wall voids of barns, sheds and
sometimes houses. An open window or door is an invitation to hornet
workers, and they frequent buildings under construction. Their large combs
and envelope are constructed of partially decomposed wood and, like the
Eastern yellowjacket, are very brittle. Workers of the Giant hornet capture a
variety of insects including bees and yellowjackets to feed their young.
Workers also have a habit of stripping bark back from some shrubs --
especially lilac. As they girdle the branches, they lick the sap from the torn
edge. They will sting humans, and the sting is painful.
Yellowjacket (with eighteen species in North America) colonies begin with a
large fertilized queen; she develops smaller daughter workers and later
reproductives just as the Paper wasps, but the nest structure is not the same.
Some yellowjacket nests hang in trees and shrubs, and some are developed
Several yellowjackets make the aerial football- shaped paper nests,
commonly called hornets nests. Two of these yellowjackets are common: the
Aerial yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arenaria, and the Bald Faced hornet,
The Aerial yellowjacket is found in the west, Canada, and east ( but not in the
central and southern states). This species begins its nest in March or April
and is finished and no longer active by the end of July. Their nests, usually
attached to building overhangs are smaller and more round than those of
The Bald Faced hornet is larger than the other yellowjackets and is black and
white -- not black and yellow. It lives along the west coast, across Canada,
and in all of the states in the eastern half of the country.
On warm spring days, the large Aerial nesting queen develops a small comb,
like the Paper wasp with a dozen or so cells, but she encloses it in a round
gray paper envelope. The daughter workers later take over the nest duties,
and by mid summer, when the worker population is growing and food is
plentiful, the nest is expanded to full size. A full-sized Bald Faced hornet nest
consists not of a single umbrella comb like the Paper wasp, but four to six
wide circular combs -- one hanging below the other and all enclosed with an
oval paper envelope consisting of several insulating layers. Bald faced
hornets not only gather flies, but are large enough to kill and use other
species of yellowjackets for larval food. They attach their nests to low shrubs
or high in trees or on buildings. Although Aerial colonies can have four to
seven hundred workers at one time, their food gathering habits do not
routinely bring them in contact with humans. Large nests are often
discovered only after leaves have fallen and the nests are exposed -- both to
view and to nature's elements that finally bring about their disintegration.
The stinging wasp, often identified as a yellowjacket, is black and yellow.
Primarily yellow bands cover a dark abdomen. These species are in the
They begin their nests like the aerial nesters -- with an enveloped small comb
made of wood fiber paper. Only these nests are started in soil depressions,
rodent burrows, or in any small hole in the ground that will give protection until
workers can develop.
Once workers begin nest care, they enlarge the entrance hole and expand
the nest. Combs are placed in tiers, one below the other. They can be very
large; they have firm support from the soil surrounding the external envelope.
Several species of Vespula make their nests in building wall voids, attics,
hollow trees and other enclosed spaces as well as the ground.
Both Aerial and Ground Nesters
Of the thirteen species in North America, only a few require pest
management. These few species have certain characteristics and habits that
put them on a collision course with people:
•They can live in what might be called disturbed environments (areas that
have been changed to suit human activities in urban settings) such as yards,
golf courses, parks, and other recreation areas.
•They have large colonies -- some will develop thousands of workers.
•Their habits do not restrict them to a specific kind of prey. Foraging workers
capture insects for their larvae and nectar and other sweet carbohydrates for
themselves where they can find it. Essentially, they are scavengers and work
over garbage cans and dumpsters. They especially enjoy picnics and
One can easily see that these habits put a large number of foraging stinging
insects into close association with large populations of humans.
THE COMMON YELLOWJACKET
V. vulgaris ranges across Canada and the northeastern United States.
Common in higher elevations, it nests in shady evergreen forests around
parks and camps in the western mountains and the eastern Appalachians.
This species also is one of the most important stinging insects in Europe.
THE EASTERN YELLOWJACKET (Vespula maculifrons)
This common ground nesting yellowjacket is distributed over the eastern half
of the United States. Its western border is from eastern Texas north to
eastern North Dakota. Workers are slightly smaller than most yellowjackets,
but colony size can number around 5,000 or more individuals. The nest of V.
maculifrons is dark tan, made of partially decomposed wood and is quite
brittle. The Eastern yellowjacket sometimes nests in building wall voids.
Most yellowjackets have very slightly barbed stingers but the sting will not set
in the victim's tissue like the barbed stinger of the honey bee. The stinger of
V. maculifrons, however, often sticks and when the insect is slapped off, the
stinger may remain.
THE GERMAN YELLOWJACKET (Vespula germanica)
In Europe, German yellowjacket nests are subterranean, but in North
America the vast majority of reported nests are in structures. This
yellowjacket is distributed throughout the northeastern quarter of the United
States. Nests in attics and wall voids are large, and workers can chew
through ceilings and walls into adjacent rooms. The nest and nest envelope
of this yellowjacket is made of strong light gray paper. Colonies of this
yellowjacket may be active in protected voids into November and December
when outside temperatures are not severe.
Problems with yellowjackets occur mainly when:
•Humans step on or jar a colony entrance.
•A colony has infested a wall void or attic and has either chewed through the
wall into the house or the entrance hole is located in a place that threatens
occupants as they enter or leave the building.
•Worker yellowjackets are no longer driven to feed larvae in the late summer
months, and they wander, searching for nectar and juices -- finding ripe,
fallen back yard fruit, beer, soft drinks and sweets at picnics, weddings,
recreation areas, sporting events and other human gatherings.
Yellowjackets are sometimes responsible for injections of anerobic bacteria
(organisms that cause blood poisoning). When yellowjackets frequent wet
manure and sewage they pick up the bacteria on their abdomens and
stingers. In essence, the stinger becomes a hypodermic needle. A
contaminated stinger can inject the bacteria beneath the victim's skin. Blood
poisoning should be kept in mind when yellowjacket stings are encountered.
Bee Stings vs. Wasp Stings
Honey bee venom contains almost 20 active substances. Melittin, the most
prevalent substance, is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents
known. It is 100 times more potent than hydrocortisol. Adolapin is another
strong anti-inflammatory substance, and inhibits cyclooxygenase, also
creating analgesic activity as well. Apamin inhibits complement C3 activity,
and blocks calcium-dependent potassium channels, thus enhancing nerve
transmission. Other substances, such as Compound X, Hyaluronidase,
Phospholipase A2, Histamine, and Mast Cell Degranulating Protein
(MSDP), are involved in the inflammatory response of venom, with the
softening of tissue and the facilitation of flow of the other substances. There
are also measurable amounts of the neurotransmitters Dopamine,
Norepinephrine and Seratonin.
Wasp venom changes depending upon the type of wasp. Most have similar
ingredients to the bee but the make up is different in the percentages of each
ingredient. One of the main differences between the wasp sting vs. the bee
sting is the way the two inject their venom.
The wasp thrusts his shaft into the victim and the lancets move rapidly
backwards and forwards (sliding along the stylet) in a sawing action. The
lancets are barbed, meaning, they have small backward-pointed hooks
along their edges. As the shaft penetrates further into the victim's body, the
barbs allow anchorage against the flesh until the alternate lancet moves
forward and 'claws' the shaft deeper into the wound. The movement of the
lancets also enables a pumping action to take place at the abdomen end of
the shaft. This causes the poison sac to pump venom down through a central
poison canal, between the lancets and out through the shaft tip into the
wound. Both Bees and Wasps sting their victims using a similar process but
there is an essential difference, especially important when the victim being
stung is a human-being. Bee lancets have larger barbs than wasps. The bee
is unable to rip the shaft back out through the wound due to the barbs'
resistance against the firmness of human flesh. The wasp stinger has lancets
with very small barbs, more like fine serrated edges. A wasp can extract the
shaft and fly off contented with having executed a nasty attack on the hapless
victem. On the other hand the poor old bee ends up having his entire stinging
apparatus, poison sac and all, wrenched out of its abdomen. The bee will
later die due to the damage caused.
HORNETS, WASPS, AND YELLOWJACKETS