Bees

Bee Pest Control: Facts, Identification, & Prevention

Bee Facts

Scientific Classification:

Class Order Superfamily
Insecta Hymenoptera Apoidea

Description

The Mid-Atlantic region of the United States is home to many types of bees. The insects remain largely responsible for cross-pollination among a variety of plants. Two types of native species that people within the region encounter most frequently include bumble and carpenter bees. These pollinating insects can sometimes venture too close to the human population, causing damage to property and plants in addition to presenting health emergencies for people with allergies.

Appearance

What do bees look like?

Bees have six legs, four wings and two antennae. Females have stingers. Regularly confused with wasps, bees are typically distinguished by the presence of feather-like body hair in contrast to the smooth bodies of their stinging counterparts. Another distinction is the broad, hairy legs of bees which are often laden with pollen. Bumble bees, sometimes wrongly confused with carpenter bees, usually reach 3/4″ to 1″ in length and exhibit black, hairy abdomens with yellow or white bands of color. The carpenter varieties are differentiated by a lack of hair around the abdomen and display colors of blue, black, green or purple. Honey bees, generally ranging in length from about 1/3″ to 3/4″, carry pollen on the abdomen and are usually black with yellow hairs.

Habitat / Geographic Range

Bees begin pollinating in early spring and remain active during the summer months before completely subsiding in fall for the winter. Bumble bees normally build nests underground out of wax cells, although certain varieties of bees can sometimes be found in wall voids and under various types of manmade coverings. Often to the dismay of homeowners, the solitary carpenter bee burrows into dead or dying trees as well as wooden structures.

Food

What do bees eat?

Like many members of the order Hymenoptera, bees repeatedly seek nectar from flowering plants. Along the way, pollen is also collected as a source of protein and in turn is distributed to inseminate other plants for reproduction.

Biology

With one queen per colony, bumble bees thrive as an annual social collective. Queens emerge in early spring to search for nesting sites. Once a proper home is chosen, a queen lays eggs to populate the new colony. Soon after, workers begin their summer duties. In contrast to the social tendencies of bumble and honey bees, carpenter bees lead solitary lives, as each female individually mates with a male to produce offspring. Formal colonies do not ensue, though at times the bees congregate due to the desirable nature of a particular nesting site.

Problems or Damage Caused by Bees

While bees remain a vital contributor to cross-pollination and honey production, they may present considerable problems for homeowners. Found throughout the Mid-Atlantic, the eastern carpenter bee is the most destructive with regards to common household wooden structures. With a lifespan as long as three years (but only about one year, on average), the eastern carpenter bee produces broods that return to the same nest location to begin additional nests, creating trouble for those with an infestation. Active carpenter bee nests may also attract unwanted attention from woodpeckers seeking food, causing further damage to the wood and creating unwanted noise.

Bee Stings

The most prevalent fear of bees is the sting. The sting can present minor problems for any person, however those who possess bee allergies would do particularly well to avoid the stinging insects to prevent a potential hospital trip. Severely allergic persons should always have an epinephrine auto-injector nearby to alleviate anaphylaxis. If an infestation is thought to exist near residents with bee allergies, pest removal should be completed by a professional.

Signs of a Bee Infestation

Bumble bees and carpenter bees sometimes cut small slits in the ovaries of flowers to attain nectar that their tongues cannot reach. Should an infestation seem apparent, checking flowers may betray the presence of either species. Additional signs of carpenter bees include sawdust accompanying small holes in wooden fences, wood on houses, decks and trees. These bees may also fly to and from the eaves of houses as the areas provide prime nesting locations.

Tips for Prevention

Few measures may completely stave off an infestation of bees, however those with a keen eye for gardening can attempt to combat invasions. When planted, certain flowers actually attract bees more than others. Avoid highly attractive plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons and zinnias. Flowers like tulips and roses remain unattractive to most bees, while certain fruits and vegetables attract species that specialize in specific nectar removal. Carpenter and bumble bees are considered generalists and frequent many types of plants. To limit the chances of a carpenter bee infestation, properly paint or stain any bare wood that may invite the insects to start a settlement. Although these prevention tips offer important information, the initiatives do not always effectively repel bees. The only sure way to take care of an infestation is to call a pest control professional.

Bee Control Program Overview

For some, bees are a backyard nuisance. For others, they can create a serious threat. Bee allergies are not life threatening for all, but a small percentage of the population risks shock and a potential life threatening reaction from exposure to bee venom. In cases like these, bee removal is critical when colonies are found.