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Stinging Insects: Wasps, Yellow Jackets, Hornets and Bees

yellow and black wasp looking for something to eat









Some of the most prevalent and invasive flying and stinging insects around the home are the Wasp, Yellow Jacket, Hornet and Bee. The stings and venom from these insects can be brutally painful, if not altogether dangerous, and so are wisely avoided. The following information will describe the characteristics, life cycle, habitats and potential dangers of these creatures so they can be properly identified and dealt with.

There are over 100,000 different species of wasps. They are known as a parasitic insect with well-defined wings, a skinny, smooth body, a mouth that can bite, a menacing sting and a carnivorous appetite used to kill prey for its larvae. Wasps are further qualified by being either solitary or social, as some live alone and do not construct nests, while others live with thousands and do build nests. Most wasps live for one year or less; only the queen can survive the freezing temperatures of the winter. They mate with males at the end of summer, hide in discrete sites such as under tile or logs, in crevices or behind bark and then become dormant until spring. Favorite nesting sites include attics, under railings and mailboxes or underneath floors and eaves of houses.

Hornet's nest







Hornets are a type of social wasp found living in colonies that often measure 2-3cm in length. Their reputation for being angry little creatures is true to form as most homeowners find them to be the most aggressive flying insect that they encounter. Largely distributed over the Northern Hemisphere, the males of this species leave the nest during the middle of autumn, mate while in flight and then die shortly afterward. Only the fertilized queens make it through the winter. In spring she builds a nest by chewing on tree bark and constructing her new residence from the paper created through this process. The football-shaped home consists of up to 50 cells where she lays eggs, stores food, and hatches her young. Hornet stings are more painful than other wasp stings because of the large concentration of Acetylcholine in their venom.
wasp isolated










Yellow Jackets are specific types of wasps that are well-known for their yellow and black abdomens. They are social creatures and do not live alone, quickly zip from side to side in flight and are significant pest-predators despite otherwise being despised at summertime BBQ’s. They often build their nests in trees and bushes, under decks, high up under the eaves of your house or inside your home through cracks in the wall, so the nest may be invisible.

Yellow Jackets are sometimes mistaken for bees because they appear the same and both sting, yet they are actually wasps. Their barbs only occasionally come loose when they use them, so an attack by one can lead to multiple stings. The nest of a yellow jacket may reach the size of a basketball by the end of a season, and if able to survive a mild winter, can double or triple that size.

Honey bee on Knapweed









Finally, bees, while closely related to wasps, are a specialized insect of their own right as they are widely known for their role in pollinating plants and flowers, producing beeswax and honey, and inhabiting every continent except Antarctica. Their confusion with other flying insects is due to not only their appearance, but also their existence in every natural environment on the planet that bears flowering plants pollinated by insects. While there are over 20,000 known species of bees in the world, the best known is probably the Honey bee. They can live either alone or in groups, and their hives may be filled with up to 40,000 members in the peak of springtime.

little boy - dangerous stings from wasps near the eye

Given that the nature and behavior of a flying insect is so variable, it is best to let problems associated with these animals left to professionals. Do-It-Yourself (DIY) attempts can have dire consequences, ranging from minor or serious injury, to death. While things like aerosol sprays have been used by the public to treat problems, hiring a professional is much safer and more efficient.

DIY projects also risk harming plants, vegetation and painted areas. Minor (non-allergic) reactions to stings include sharp pain, welts, puncture marks from potential stingers and swelling around the skin. Larger local reactions may occur in a smaller number of people and include significant redness and swelling at the site that may enlarge over the course of the next day or two.

Call Sentry today, we can quickly and safely take care of your stinging insect problem.