How to identify a wasp & a bee?

Common to all areas of the UK, many people live in fear of the warmer weather knowing it will bring with it wasps and bees. With people fearful of the sting they can deliver, it pays to know about these insects and their habits so that you can avoid this painful occurrence. The wasp and bee identification guide below can also help you diagnose if you have a problem with wasps or bees.

Wasps

Many people believe that wasps play no part in ecology but this is doing them a slight disservice. Compared to bees, wasps play a smaller part but it is an invaluable one nevertheless; if you are a keen gardener, you will know the damage that smaller insects such as aphids can cause to crops and plants. Wasps feed on these smaller insects, making them, to a certain extent, a gardener’s friend. It is their nasty stinging habit and their late summer aggression that make wasps unpopular.

Are wasps all the same?

As you chase a wasp around your living room attempting to swot it, you have probably given little thought which species of wasp it actually is. In the UK, there are 7 species of wasp, all similar looking, but differing in size and pattern. Essentially, their body shape is the same: wasps have a tapered abdomen, a defined waist and are coloured yellow and black. The hornet is the largest wasp but no mater what species they are, they can all deliver a nasty and unwelcome sting. Wasps, unlike the bee can delivery many stings and are not limited to one.

Life cycle

Wasps do not live forever; in fact their life cycle is quite short. The mated queen hibernates through the colder winter months, emerging into the warm sunshine of April and begins her mission to find a place to nest.

Have you noticed ‘shredding’ on cardboard and other ‘soft’ items in outbuildings at this time? This could be the queen as she finds suitable material from which to build her nest. Once she is comfortable in her new home, she starts the process of laying eggs, feeding the emerging larvae on insects (hence crops and plants in the vicinity will be insect-free!). Once the first workers emerge they take over all aspects of building and maintaining the nest, including finding food, while the queen rests and lays more eggs.

Colony size

Here in lies the problem – not only is hosting a wasp nest or colony in your home, garden or outbuilding an unwelcome prospect for many people, it can be the sheer size of the colony that causes the main issue.

It can soon swell in size, with 20,000 wasps buzzing in an out their nest, all looking for a local and reliable food source or building materials. If there are not too many insects left around, they look for sugary food. Anything that smells or tastes sweet is welcome, hence fruit, sweet drinks like soda and squash, rubbish bins, etc… our food becomes their target. This is when they can become a nuisance, buzzing into the home. Being worker wasps they tell their colleagues, who then visit the same area to take as much of the food source as possible.

Keep wasps at bay!

Sometime, our habits can encourage wasps to seek food in and around our homes. Make sure waste food is either composted or binned if rotting and that food is covered or put away.

Bins lids should fit firmly, as with compost heaps if they are close to the home. Do NOT attempt to handle the wasp nest!

Are they a threat?

Many people fear them but, if left alone, the wasp nest can be left for the summer, vacated in the autumn and then simply removed but this rarely happens.  It would also mean that you place yourself and family at risk of stings, so is not advised.

Wasps do not like to be disturbed, taking an aggressive stance if they think their nest is under threat of attack. Any perceived threat is met with determination and force from the wasps and it is this that many of us fear.

A single wasp can sting many times but, the consequence is that their internal organs are destroyed and they die within minutes of delivering their final sting. They also will attack in swarms, so upsetting one wasp can lead to being stung several times by several wasps.

How to stay safe around a wasp nest

Wasps are aggressive and do not like their nest being disturbed; if you suspect you have a wasp nest, call us today for a professional wasp nest removal service.

Bees

People tend to have a more favourable viewpoint of bees, even though they can still deliver a nasty sting, although they rarely do so. Over the years, ecologists and environmental campaigners have highlighted the plight of the bee. Insecticides used to increased crop yields have had a detrimental effect on the number of bees. Being efficient pollinators, their declining numbers has led some people to be concerned about how we can produce crops and food in the future.

There are…

24 species of bumblebees, 225 species of the solitary bee and just one type of honeybee

Bumblebee Conservation Society

The ecological importance of the bee

It is estimated that third of the food we eat depends on pollination and with bees far outnumbering other pollinators around the globe, their importance is obvious. Not only do bees pollinate our food crops, they also pollinate food fed to cattle and sheep.

The bumblebee – the perfect pollinator

In recent years, the bumblebee has been used commercially in the UK as a pollinator of crops, the bumblebee is the insect people assume lives in beehives.

Queen bumblebees hibernate separately during winter, much like the queen wasp, emerging in the early spring, flying around looking for suitable nesting sites. Rarely do they encroach into our homes, preferring instead the warmth and ready food supply in the compost bin or disused birds nests etc. Rearing small offspring initially, they become social from this point forth with the second batch of offspring are much larger. From this point on, these gentle creatures spend their days, flying clumsily around the British countryside, pollinating crops with their vibrating bodies.

Delightfully rotund and furry, they are the gardeners and farmers’ friends.

The honey bee

Honeybee’s are the bees that can alarm people the most as they live in groups, a solitary honey bee will not last long on its own. They prefer old, decayed trees, hedges, roofs, soffits and facias and chimneys as their nesting sites and they have the ability to swarm.

Despite the noise, the swarm is magnificent in display, but stay away and call SOS Pest Control to asses a bee removal service. Depending on the type of bee and location of the nest bee’s will normally be relocated and not destroyed as they are of such high importance to our ecology.

Many people mistake them for wasps but honeybees have light tan coloured bandings to their abdomens and live in large colonies. These are the insets you will see visiting flowers for the sweet, sugary nectar. They convert this nectar to honey, so that the colony can survive the winter.

Honey is not the only product these bees make; beeswax is also a product we use as polish, as well as in cosmetics and the food industry. Tradition was that church candles were always made from beeswax.

However, honeybees do sting; after all, they have a large colony to protect. If disturbed, they will sting so take care approaching the hive and give us a call to discuss.

What causes a swarm?

As the colony numbers swell, the queen must alleviate the overcrowding. To do this, she flies out of the hive, taking some worker bees with her to start another hive somewhere else.

The solitary bee

With over 250 species in the UK of this type of bee, it can be nigh on impossible to identify which one you are looking at!

Some types exhibit different habits; for example, some tunnel into sandy soil or into the soft mortar on buildings, whilst other seek out existing holes ad gaps in buildings, trees etc.

However their life cycle will all follow a similar pattern…

They lay their eggs, covering it in a ‘cell’, with pollen. The larvae, on hatching from the egg has the pollen as its only food supply and from this, it pupates and emerges the following year. The males appear first, waiting to mate with the females who appear some time later. The females, once mated, carry on this act of crating cells but the males, now they have served their purpose, die within a few weeks.

Looking similar to honey bees, the solitary bee tends to nest near other bees, in what are known as ‘villages’. They can arrive in places in clusters and many pest controllers, like us, receive calls of bee swarms, only to find these solitary bee clusters.

Like other bees, they are invaluable pollinators but can sting if handled roughly.

Both bees and wasps have their part to play in ecology, although we assume that bees play a more important role. Either way, having them nest near or in your home or workplace is no laughing matter. Never attempt to handle or remove a nest or hive yourself; the consequences can be painful at best, fatal at worst.

If you suspect you have a bee or wasp problem please give us a call today as we can help provide expert and friendly advice on treating the problem.

 

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