Below are pictures and descriptions of the most common bees or wasps you may encounter around your home or office, here in the Tampa bay area. Click any picture to enlarge. You’ll find a DO-IT-YOURSELF self help section at the end of each description. CAUTION: This entire section should be read carefully before considering any Do-it-yourself, control. Many stinging insects have similar behaviors. If you have any doubt, call an expert!
Bumble Bees are common in our area. They are social pests that generally nest underground. An average adult is 3/4″ in length. They will sting in self defense and are rarely a threat. Compared to Carpenter bees, Bumble bees are much fuzzier. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. If their underground burrow is too close for comfort, treat them with nearly any aerosol bug spray with pyrethin or wasp spray. Determine where you will treat during the day and treat them at night. They cannot see in the dark and all bees will be present and sleeping.
European Honey Bee
The European Honey Bee is very common in our area. They are crucial to the balance of life as they are the primary means of pollenation. They sting only when provoked or when they sense danger. They are about 1/2″ in length. Colonies can grow to 50,000 bees. They are very social and require their society for survival. Many of the calls we receive require no treatment. Bees move their colonies when their old location is disturbed or feels threatened. They may rest in trees during nest relocation. To confirm this, most of the time, the bees will be gone in 24 hours. If they hang for longer, they are establishing a nest. DO-IT-YOURSELF: CAUTION: Bees are beneficial. Leave them alone. Bees will attack individually and socially as well. Call a bee keeper to relocate them. But, if you must, determine the hole they enter and exit during the day. Return at night with a wasp stream like pesticide. Note: Do not use a flashlight as the light will wake them up and they may attack you. Be sure to hit the hole and empty the entire can as you are killing thousands. Bees cannot see in the dark and will all be in the nest at night, sleeping.
Honey Bee Hive
This is a picture of a honey bee hive in an attic. Controlling the bees is the first step, but a bigger problem remains. The bees, when alive, fan the wax and create an air-conditioning affect. Once they are gone, the heat melts the wax and the honey is released. Not only is it a big mess, you’ll have a bigger problem on your hands since every sweet feeding insect in the neighborhood will show up to help you clean it up. DO-IT-YOURSELF. Leave it up to the professionals. Call a bee keeper, they will remove the hive and give you the honey.
African Honey Bee Hive
Africanized Honey Bees have made a lot of news lately. They are also know as killer bees. They are currently only in the southern states from Florida to California and south. If cllimate changes continue their trend, the species will continue to press further north. They are a hybrid, as the name implies “Africanized”. They look nearly identical to the more docile european variety. They get their reputation from their aggressive behavior. Not only will they attack from 100 feet away or more, they tend to recruit more bees and continue to attack for longer periods of time compared to the european variety. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Leave them alone and get professional help. The two species are so close in appearance, we can’t tell the two apart without DNA sampling.
Carpenter Bees are very common in our area and though they have a stinger, they are nearly never a threat. They look very similar to the Bumble Bee except they have less yellow coloring and less hair. Their abdomen is nearly hairless and look shiny as compared to the fuzzy Bumble Bee. Carpenter bees are quite large, around 1″ in length. The name comes from their nesting. They tunnel into wood and lay their eggs in chambers. The eggs are laid on a bed of pollen. The female backs out of the chamber and closes it with wood chips. The entry/exit hole is usually easy to find. It is so perfect it looks like it was done with a 1/2″ drill bit, except fecel matter is splattered below the opening. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Find the hole by watching them flying around. The hole can be somewhat hidden behind a gutter. I’ve only seen the opening on a vertical surface, like facia or siding. Wait for the bee to enter the hole. Shoot a pesticide, like wasp spray directly into the hole. The bee will usually fall out in about a minute. Then block the hole with caulk or wood filler as this species is generational and offspring could return to the same opening.
Hornets are one of the most universally recognized and feared wasps. They are found in our area, but rarely. They are more common in rural areas than urban areas. They are recognized by the large paper ball like carton they build in trees and bushes. It houses several tiers of carton cells. They build the nests from a paper like substance they make by mixiing saliva and dried leaves or pieces of wood. Colonies can be large. Up to several hundred. If encountered and provoked, they can be a threat. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Locate the nest by watching them during the day. Return at night to treat as they cannot see in the dark. Note: A flashlight produces light. They will attack it and you when provoked. Shoot a wasp pesticide directly at the carton. The liquid stream will penetrate the sides and kill the sleeping wasps.
Mud Dauber Nest
The Mud Dauber is a very common pest in our area. They leave their mud marks everwhere. Their are several species. Some leave long tunnel like structures while others build stacked short tunnels. They are not agressive but do have a stinger and will sting you if you provoke them. The mud structure is for egg laying. The adult will construct the nest from available local mud. Gather up a few spiders or caterpillars. Place them inside and seal them in with the egg. As the larvae emerge, this becomes their food supply. Upon completion of the metamorphosis to adult, they tunnel out and the cycle begins again. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Sweep the nest down and scrub the mud mark off. We have found no product to prevent their return. Reducing available resources “mud” is the best long term solution.
Cicada Killer Wasp
Cicada Killer Wasps are common in our area only when the Cicadas emerge. First lets cover the Cicada which is also known as the 17 year locust. They emerge every year in the summer. They are a very large fly like insect. They are heard each evening in the late summer up in the trees making a loud buzzing sound. The Cicada killer is a very large wasp. Up to 2′ in length. It is yellow and black. They lay their eggs in the ground. Each year we receive calls for large dirt mounds or for Hornets in the ground. Chances are this is the Cicada Killer. They burrow in the ground to lay their eggs. They paralyze a Cicada, spider or caterpillar and place it with the eggs for food. The only threat this wasp can present is stepping on one barefooted and getting stung. DO-IT-YOURSELF: When you see the dirt mound forming, treat the soil with a pyrethroid pesticide. This will stop the pest from nesting in that area.
Paper Wasps are very common in our area. Their are several species ranging in size from 1/2″ to 1″ in length. They are known as a paper wasp for their paper like carton. Unlike Hornets or Yellowjackets, their carton is open and a single stack. They nest usually under horizontal protected surfaces like soffit areas but we find them in other areas like under the arms of outdoor chairs and above door frames, putting them very close to humans. If the wasp feels threatened, they will strike. Unlike bees, wasps can sting several times. What I am going to say next, will defy natural instinct. If you are being attacked, the best defense is to be still. The wasp will sense you are no longer a threat and leave. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Locate the nest during the day and return to treat it at night. Wasps cannot see in the dark and all will be present, sleeping. Treat directly at the nest with a wasp pesticide. Note: Flashlights give off light and will attract the wasp when provoked. You and the light will be attacked.
The Potters Wasp is very common in our area and are in the same family as mud daubers. They are small, about 1/2″ in length. They get their name from the little pot looking nest they make from mud. We find them mostly around windows and door frames. The wasp constructs the tiny pot like structure. Places an egg with a spider or caterpillar for the young to feed on and seals the flutted opening with mud. The adult emerges and the cycle begins again. They, like all mud daubers are not much of a threat, but do have a stinger and can sting. DO-IT-YOURSELF: Knock down the nest and clean the mud stain. We have not found any product to prevent them. The best advice is to reduce the availability of construction materials, mud.
Yellow Jacket Wasp
The Yellowjacket is well known in our area and greatly feared. This tiny yellow and black wasp is fatter than most wasps and more bee like in structure except unlike bees, they have no visible hair. They are up to 5/8″ in length. The nests are most commonly found in attics, wall voids, in tree holes or around the base of a plant or tree. We’ve also found them in fire wood stacks, under debris in yards, in a dryer vent pipe and just in a hole in the ground. The colonies can be very large with several thousand workers. They are very social. When one feels threatened, they attack by the hundreds and will chase you for up to 50 feet. They can fly faster than you can run. DO-IT-YOURSELF: This pest is very aggressive. We recommend you call for expert help. But, if you must, locate the nest during the day. Be aware there may be more than one opening, so use caution when approaching the nest that you don’t step on the back door. Return at night to treat. As with all the wasps, they cannot see at night and they will all be present and sleeping. Treat directly into the carton with a wasp stream pesticide. Note: Flashlights give off light. The provoked wasp will attack you and the light.
Yellow Jacket Wasp Nest
This Yellowjacket nest gives you a better understanding of the construction and complexity of their nest. It is constructed of a paper like substance the wasp makes by mixing saliva and pieces of wood or leaves.