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Pest Guide - Stinging Insects

Carpenter Bees

Carpenter bees are large, yellow and black (or blue-black) bees that become active in early spring. This bee is commonly 2/3 to 1 inch long, usually with a shiny abdomen and a yellow thorax. Although it is rare to be stung by one, their sheer size is scary and people generally stay clear of them.

Carpenter bees get their name from their ability to drill through wood and nest in the hole. Their drilling creates a near-perfect hole, approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. The hole is usually located on the underside of the wood surface; including siding, soffits, decks, overhangs, fence posts and window frames. Although the hole appears to be only an inch or two deep, it rarely ends there.

The female carpenter bee will turn 90 degrees and bore a channel from 6 inches to as long as 4 feet. This channel serves as a main corridor from which she will drill small chambers a few inches deep. These chambers become egg holders. She will deposit an egg, bring in a mass of pollen for the newly hatched larvae to feed on, and then seal it all off to ensure it's development before she repeats the process for the next egg.

The male spends most of his time flying around the nest playing guard. This is ironic as nature has left him ill prepared: he has no stinger! Only the female can sting. Simply killing the male will not solve your problem. You must treat the nest.

Honey Bees

Honeybees are social insects that live in hives. Like all insects, bees have six legs, a three-part body, a pair of antennae, compound eyes, jointed legs, and a hard exoskeleton. The three body parts are the head, thorax, and abdomen (the tail end).

Bees can fly about 15 mph (24 kph). They eat nectar (a sweet liquid made by flowers) which they turn into honey. In the process of going from flower to flower to collect nectar, pollen from many plants gets stuck on the bee's pollen baskets (hairs on the hind legs). Pollen is also rubbed off of flowers. This pollinates many flowers (fertilizing them and producing seeds).

All the members of the hive are related to each other. There are three types of honey bees:

  • the queen - lays the eggs
  • workers - females who gather food, make honey, build the six-sided honeycomb, tend eggs, and guard the hive
  • drones - males who mate with the queen

Bees undergo complete metamorphosis. The queen lays an egg in a cell in the wax comb. The egg hatches into a worm-like larva, which eventually pupates into an adult bee.

Yellow Jackets

All wasps will defend their nests, but the Yellow Jackets and hornets are the most aggressive. They can be distinguished from bees by their thin "waists." Bees are thick-wasted. They fold their wings lengthwise when at rest. Like all wasps, yellow jackets prey on a variety of insects and other arthropods. Yellow jackets will also forage on foods that people eat, especially sweets and meats.

They are considered beneficial insects, eating other insects. The yellow jacket colony will remain active for only one summer, after which the queens will fly away to start more colonies. The remaining ones, die at the end of the summer, the nest is not reused.

Size: 5/8 to 1 inch
Color: Black and yellow or black and white

Yellow jackets usually nest in the ground, but will nest also in railroad ties, wall voids, and other above ground locations. In the spring, most yellow jackets will feed on insects. Many homeowners see"bees" flying around their hedges. These "bees" are usually yellow jackets and are there to eat insects on the foliage.

In the fall, wasp colonies have come the largest size, and foraging workers may be a serious nuisance as they search for food people eat or discarded food.

If a colony is disturbed, they can become very aggressive and sting. For most a sting is temporary, but painful, but for allergic individuals as single sting may result in a serious reaction, requiring medical treatment.

Baldfaced Hornets

The Baldfaced hornet is sometimes called the white-faced hornet, but is actually a yellowjacket. It's easy to spot since it's our only black and white yellowjacket. Its nest is a gray "paper" envelope with several layers of combs inside. A mature nest is bigger than a basketball, but pear-shaped, with the larger end at the top and an entrance hole near the bottom.

A single, over wintering queen begins building the nest in the spring. She lays eggs and tends the first batch of larvae that develop into workers. These workers tend new larvae and expand the nest throughout the summer. A mature colony can have several hundred workers by the end of the summer. In fall, workers die and next year's queens find over wintering sites.

Baldfaced hornets are beneficial, capturing insects (often including other yellowjackets) to feed to their larvae. Though larger than other yellowjackets, Baldfaced hornets are generally more docile. But they can become aggressive and will sting when their nest is disturbed or threatened.

A Baldfaced nest is usually constructed high in a tree. In these cases the nest is best left alone.

Occasionally you will find a Baldfaced nest built on the side of a building, in low shrubbery, or even in an attic or shed. Nests in these sited will probably need to be eliminated.

Mud Daubers

Also known as Organpipe Mud Dauber, Black and Yellow Mud Dauber and Blue Mud Dauber

Mud daubers may become a nuisance when they construct nests of mud, especially on porches, decks, sheds, eaves, attics, ceilings, walls and under roof overhangs around homes and other structures where people live, work and play. They are considered nuisance pests since nests are not defended and stings are rare. In spite of their formidable appearance, these solitary wasps are not aggressive and controls are rarely needed.

Adult organpipe mud daubers are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, shiny, black, elongate and slender. The inner margins of the eyes are deeply emarginate, with hind leg segments white. Black and yellow mud daubers are about 1 to 1-1/4 inches long; black or brown with yellow markings (partially yellow legs) and thread-waisted. Blue mud daubers are about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long, metallic blue to blackish (with blue wings) and thread-waisted.

The mud dauber builds finger-like nests of mud attached to flat surfaces under roof overhangs, under eaves, etc. The nest is a series of parallel mud tubes of varying length. The black and yellow mud dauber is often seen around wet areas digging up balls of mud for its nest. The nest is placed on the undersides of boards, logs, rocks, etc. Nests may be a single cell or several cells placed side by side. The blue mud dauber does not make its own nest, but takes over the nest of the black and yellow mud dauber.

Cicada Killer Wasp

Also known as giant cicada killer and sand hornet

The cicada killer can be distinguished by its large size, a black body with yellow mark across the thorax and yellow stripes across the abdomen.

Their habitat is disturbed areas, lawns, forest edges, city parks, sandy lots; prefer little or no vegetation.

Cicada killers are solitary wasps. Males emerge from pupal cases in mid-July to early August, a few weeks before the females. The males tunnel out of the ground, leaving telltale holes, and select a territory that they actively defend. Upon capturing a cicada, the female stings it injecting venom. Then, she carries the cicada back to the burrow, where she lays an egg on its living, but paralyzed body. Within two weeks, the egg hatches into a larva, eats the cicada, and develops into a pre-pupa, the stage at which it will spend the winter. Cicada killers are active in late summer, the same time that cicadas are present. By September, most adults have died.

Although visually alarming, these wasps pose little threat. Females are not aggressive and rarely sting, unless excessively provoked. Males often display territorial behavior and will dive-bomb people's heads; however, they have no sting and pose no real threat. Cicada killers often nest in disturbed areas with sandy, open soils, such as lawns, golf courses, flowerbeds, volleyball courts and around swimming pools. A large population of wasps in one area can cause significant damage to lawns.