By Hope Bowman
The summer months tend to bring everyone outside, including stinging pests. Wasps, bees, hornets, and yellow jackets are all stinging insects that you see more of once spring arrives – after all, we enjoy the same things – food, flowers, and warm weather.
Even though stinging insects can be a benefit to the environment, you may not want them swarming around your property all summer long. The stings from wasps, bees, hornets, or yellow jackets are not only painful, they can also cause more severe reactions and health issues like painful swelling, infections, nausea, and in rare cases even death. The last thing you want is a tenant with a severe stinging pest allergy having a reaction on your watch. Knowing what stinging pests can commonly be an issue and how you can locate their breeding places to have them safely removed will make for a more enjoyable summer for everyone.
Honey Bees: Honey bees may seem like a nuisance but are actually quite beneficial to the environment. These small, hairy, honeycolored insects pollinate more than half of all fruit and vegetable crops and prey on other pests that are harmful to those crops. They also provide greatly to our food supply.
Honey bees tend to be less aggressive than other stinging pests but can still sting if provoked. Once a bee stings, their poison sac is imbedded in the victim and the bee itself actually dies. Complaints of bee stings on your property could signal a larger bee issue – frequently once there is evidence of one, there are many more nearby. While generally beneficial, these bees can become an issue on your property. It’s possible for colonies to contain anywhere from 20,000 to 60,000 members at any given time. Since honey bees feed primarily on pollen and nectar from blooming flowers, one way to keep bees at bay on your property is to minimize the floral plants around buildings. Also consider keeping plants and flowers to a minimum in gathering areas such as the pool, playground, or park.
Honey bees can also cause damage to building structures themselves if they build nests in wall cavities, which can result in costly repairs.
Carpenter Bees: Like honey bees, carpenter bees tend to only sting when provoked; however only female carpenter bees have stingers.
While the threat of a sting from these bees is minimal, the damage to wooden parts of your buildings will not be. Carpenter bees differ from others in that they construct tunnels into wood for a nesting place (but they still feed on plant nectar and pollen). Properties with wood buildings, decks, and fences should monitor these areas during the summer months for signs of bee activity. Indicators of a carpenter bee infestation commonly include round entrance holes in unfinished wood and swarms of male bees aggressively flying or hovering around the nesting site.
The best thing a property manager can do to prevent a carpenter bee issue in the first place is make sure all wood surfaces are varnished, finished and painted. Unfinished surfaces are considered prime real estate for a carpenter bee.
Wasps: Yellow jackets are often confused with bees but are actually more aggressive and more frequent stingers. They feed on other insects and become most aggressive in late summer when their food sources typically begin to diminish. While bees are commonly found among flowers, you’ll more commonly spot wasps by trash cans, dumpsters, or open food (i.e. grills by the pool, picnics, etc.).
Wasp nests can often be found in trees or inside human-made structures. Carefully assess the property for any cracks or holes in buildings that can be repaired so wasps don’t make these spaces their home.
Treatment: Stinging pests do provide benefits to the environment but there may come a time when they are an issue and the negatives outweigh the positives. When this occurs, it is highly recommended that you work with a professional who ensures that removal is done in the most environmentally sensitive manner possible. Your pest control provider should work together with a professional bee keeper to ensure the bees are safely and effectively removed from your property.
In addition, you can implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, which uses a proactive approach to pest control. IPM focuses on reducing conducive conditions in an ongoing cycle of assessing the issues, implementing corrective actions and monitoring for improvements. Work closely with your pest control provider to implement an Integrated Pest Management program and determine potential issues before they turn into an infestation.
Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and Board Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets.