Wasps & Bees
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Common Types of Wasps and Bees in Missouri
The ability to sting, coupled with their great mobility, makes bees and wasps some of the most feared of all insects. Many species of bees and wasps are present in every geographic region of Missouri. These species vary in aggressiveness and other behaviors, however, and only a few need to be feared. Knowledge of their habits is the first step in reducing fear to a level of healthy respect and in deciding how to manage their presence around the home.
A bee or wasp sting results in local pain, swelling, redness and itching for most persons. To minimize the symptoms, apply a poultice of meat tenderizer or salt to the site as soon as possible after the incident, and leave it on for about 30 minutes. Use about half a teaspoon mixed with enough water to produce a paste. Commercial sting-swabs that do about the same thing are also available.
Some people may react violently if they are stung. Symptoms can include difficulty in breathing, dizziness and nausea, as well as the more common symptoms listed above. With severe reactions, medical attention is needed. Anyone with a history of hypersensitive reactions should have a sting emergency kit available and should wear a medical alert bracelet or other alert item. Consult your physician about desensitization treatments.
Two yellowjacket species occur throughout Missouri: the eastern yellowjacket and the southern yellowjacket . A third species called the German yellowjacket is common in the St. Louis area. All yellowjackets aggressively defend their nests and will be most aggressive in late summer and fall. Because yellowjackets forage for meats, sweets, ripe fruit and garbage, they pose a threat to humans even when they are not near their nests. They are usually a problem in picnic areas and orchards and around garbage containers.
The baldfaced hornet is about 0.7 inch long and is black with whitish markings. It builds a distinctive pear-shaped, basketball-sized nest covered with grayish paperlike material. It usually constructs this nest in a tree or shrub or under the eave of a building. As they usually do not threaten humans, it is best to leave them alone. If it is necessary to destroy a nest because of the threat of stings, spray after dark with a pressurized spray stream directed into the nest opening, which is usually near the bottom.
Paper wasps are about 0.7 to 1.0 inch long, slender and variously colored with brown, red and yellow. They build their single-comb unprotected nest from the eaves or porches of buildings or other sheltered locations. Paper wasps are not as aggressive as yellowjackets or hornets in defense of their nest. These nests should be eliminated only if they are located near human activity and pose a risk of stings.
Mud daubers are solitary wasps of the family Sphecidae. They vary in length from 0.5 to 1.25 inches and are very slender with threadlike waists. They build mud nests in sheltered areas. These nests are tubelike cells often positioned side by side. One of Missouri's most common species is the black-and-yellow Sceliphron caementarium. Mud daubers are not aggressive, don't defend their nests, and usually sting only when pinned against the skin. They are beneficial except for their unsightly mud nests, which often are placed around human habitation.
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are about 0.5 inch long with a fuzzy light brown to black appearance and a brown-and-black-striped abdomen. They are considered to be the most beneficial species of insect because they pollinate plants and produce honey and beeswax. However, because they sting in defense of their nest, honey bees may become a pest if nests are inside a building wall. Once a swarm establishes a nest inside a wall, the bees and the comb must be removed. The damage should be repaired to prevent another swarm attempting to establish their colony in the same location.
Found in Missouri , a large species also known from Florida north to Connecticut, and west to Illinois, Kansas and Texas. They are similar in size and appearance to bumble bees but with the top surface of the abdomen being black, almost entirely hairless, and shiny. Males have a white face, whereas the female’s face is black. They defend territories and may be aggressive, but they are unable to sting, so their aggression is just a show. Female carpenter bees do not actively defend nesting sites and are usually not aggressive, but females can sting if they are handled.
Bumble bees are robust and densely covered with black and yellow hairs called setae. They range in size from about 0.5 to 1 inch long. Bumble bees are social and nest in existing cavities, usually on or in the ground. They often use abandoned mouse or bird nests but will nest in anything containing cotton or other soft materials. Bumble bees seldom enter structures and do not behave very aggressively except in defense of their nest. Normally they are a nuisance only if they have built a nest close to human activity.