Bees and Wasps

June 1, 2013

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bee stinger

Introduction

TOM KRAEUTLER Welcome to the Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast presented by Orkin. I am Tom Kraeutler. Well summer is the season when we love to spend time enjoying the outdoors but it also means that we step into the world of insects that fly, sting, or bite. Bees and wasps are most active in the summer months and if you are unlucky enough to step barefoot onto a mound of Fire ants, well it is an experience that you will not soon forget.

Greg Baumann is the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin and he joins me now with tips on how to keep your summer sting free. Welcome Greg.

GREG BAUMANN Thank you very much Tom, pleased to be here.

TOM KRAEUTLER Coming up on this episode of the Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast, you are going to learn which flying insects send a half million people to hospitals every single year. Also you will find out why killing just a single bee can signal many more to attack and you are going to learn which kind of stinging insect is most likely to build a nest inside the walls of your house.

So Greg, it seems that everyone has to deal with bees and wasps at some point in their yard, so let’s start there. They can be more than just kind of a pain to a lot of people, right?

GREG BAUMANN Oh absolutely, they can be life threatening. In fact, we know that about a half a million people go to the Emergency Room every year due to stinging insect stings.

TOM KRAEUTLER So that is an allergic reaction that affects many of the population.

GREG BAUMANN Yes it about one percent of the people that apparently are highly allergic to stings.

TOM KRAEUTLER Wow. And so one thing though that we know about flying insects is that they need both heat and light. Why is that?

GREG BAUMANN Well they need the heat to keep moving. These are cold-blooded animals therefore the heat actually allows their muscles to move and they are attracted to light because that is how they orient their navigation.

TOM KRAEUTLER So that is one of the reasons that they become more active as the weather actually gets warmer.

GREG BAUMANN That is exactly right.

TOM KRAEUTLER So what kinds of things can do, I mean obviously, there are things that professionals can do, but bees and wasps, they are going to show up anytime, anywhere. Whether you are sitting on the patio drinking a soda, you find one inside the can or they have decided to build a nest in your house or in a wall. What are some of the things that we can do to try to make our homes less attractive to bees and wasps?

GREG BAUMANN Well they like to live where we live and so you are right, we are hosts. They might be a stinging insect, nest in the attic. There might be a bee’s nest in the wall, and there might be a hornet’s nest actually out on a tree somewhere and they need food. And we can provide the food sometimes and so we have to make sure that we keep our garbage covered, we do not want to leave it sitting out after a picnic.

If you have sugary, drinks they like to have the sweets because it gives them the energy, so you do not want to have cans of soda or any other sugary drinks sitting out. After your event, make sure that you recycle these materials in recycle bins. If you are going to use recycle bins wash out the cans and the bottles, otherwise you are going to have a lot of bees or stinging insects around.

TOM KRAEUTLER Yes, and I tell you what, those recycle bins, you just reminded me of a painful experience that I had picking one up. They love to nest right under that lip of the bin where it surrounds the top of the can and there is sort of a lip where you can grab the can. Boy, that is a place where you could put your hand right into a nest.

GREG BAUMANN Insects are opportunistic; they want to be near the food. Why would they want to be far, far away if you have a nice common food source there, might as well nest right there, right?

TOM KRAEUTLER Good point, now one of the most common flying insects in the country is actually the Yellow Jacket and they are pretty social insects aren’t they?

GREG BAUMANN Yes, they actually live in a colony and the colony could be inside our house. One of the dangerous things about Yellow Jackets and they are probably the most common types of stings you see, is that they can sting repeatedly. Some times of the year, they are going to want the sugary drinks because they need that energy. Other times they are going to want proteins and so they are going to look at pet food as well.

TOM KRAEUTLER Yes, they also have a very unique trick if you happen to kill one. They send a little message out to their friends.

GREG BAUMANN Well because it is a social insect, they have the ability to communicate via chemicals. They have chemicals that say there is food over this way. They have chemicals that say that there is a problem with the colony and it is at risk, and so if you do kill one it will put out a panic pheromone or a panic chemical, it really gets the rest of the colony united, and they will be ready to attack.

TOM KRAEUTLER [laughs] Wow, so you have to be very careful if you do run across these insects and if you do happen to get one there is obviously going to be more that are going to come looking for you as a result of that potentially.

GREG BAUMANN That is right.

TOM KRAEUTLER If you see a big nest and you want to call a pest professional, what is the approach that you guys take to try to eliminate these nests?

GREG BAUMANN The approach that we take is we want to study the situation. We want to properly identify it because there are so many flying insects out there. Some of them look like wasps, some of them look dangerous, but they might be beneficial. So we are only going to go after the ones that are going to be threatening humans and so we would examine the type of species. We are also going to take a look at where they are  nesting and we will do a targeted approach if it is appropriate that we can control a colony and that means that we are not just going to apply a product everywhere. We are going to go right to the source.

TOM KRAEUTLER Now it is interesting, some of these bees will nest inside the walls of homes. I have been involved in renovations where we have taken walls apart and found massive nests. Fortunately, they were not active at the time but I remember seeing one that was about four feet square.

GREG BAUMANN Oh absolutely, especially Yellow Jackets. Sometimes they will nest in an attic in-between the floor joist and it could be four feet by four feet. I have seen huge nests that way, thousands and thousands of them.

TOM KRAEUTLER So that is a situation where you definitely do not want to try to handle it yourself. If you do have a situation where you see bees, or wasps that are going in and out of a hole in your house so to speak, a little crack or crevice. How do you attack those? How do you treat for those? Even if you have an insecticide you cannot get it into that place and certainly you cannot get it there safely.

GREG BAUMANN Well it depends on the type of insect. So many of them are going to be back in the colony at night and that is one of the better times to control it. After they have returned to the colony after being out and about. You have a better chance of control that way, and also if it is a honey bee it is concerning because you want to try and save the honey bees. You know honeybees are under a lot of pressure regardless and so many times people will try to control a honeybee nest and then other bees will come in called Robber bees and they will take over that same hive. And so you are back into an infestation in just a matter of weeks. So we are very careful, proper identification, pinpoint control, it can be done and only when necessary.

TOM KRAEUTLER Speaking of proper identification, you cannot start to control insects unless you understand exactly what you are dealing with. You mentioned that there are man species of bees, what about wasps, and hornets? Those names are often used interchangeably but they are actually different insects aren’t they?

GREG BAUMANN Yes, when people talk about wasps and hornets, a hornet conjures up a vision of a very large and aggressive and that is pretty much typical.

TOM KRAEUTLER Right.

GREG BAUMANN The European Hornet is probably the most common hornet that we would have in the United States. Very aggressive, likes to nest in shrubbery right near the front door it seems.

TOM KRAEUTLER Greg, I want to ask you about the bee colonies that seem to form overnight. I have seen them, I have heard about them, my listeners have asked me about them. You have got a tree next to your house, one day, the next day that tree has a massive nest that forms seemingly in a number of hours. What kind of infestation is that? What kind of bees are they and how do you transfer that nest away? Especially if it a honeybee and you do not want to kill them?

GREG BAUMANN Well you know Yellow Jackets as an example have a queen, it is a slow growing colony, it gets really large numbers by the end of the summer. But honeybees, as an example, they swarm. They actually move from one area to another area, all of the workers do not die off in the wintertime like the Yellow Jackets do. So they have a population already and when they find a suitable spot, it is time to move and they all just literally pick-up and move overnight to another spot, and that is what you see.

TOM KRAEUTLER Wow. When that happens, can you successfully transfer that next to say, a beekeeper? If you do not want to destroy it?

GREG BAUMANN We do everything we possibly can to try to have a beekeeper come out and take the honeybees. One problem right now though is that they are concerned about diseases. So sometimes, if they are asked to take a new colony, they want to be really sure that there are no mites that are going to wipe out their domestic population.

TOM KRAEUTLER Wow. So they almost have to give the bees a health check.

GREG BAUMANN Almost, yes.

TOM KRAEUTLER That makes sense, before they bring them in to mix with the other honeybees that they are keeping.

GREG BAUMANN Sure.

TOM KRAEUTLER Good point. We are talking to Greg Baumann; he is the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin, about flying and stinging insects that are so prevalent in the summer. So let’s talk about stinging insects that do not fly but are very, very painful, Fire ants. They are pretty prevalent, not in every state but where they exist they can be quite dangerous. Especially in the summer when people are walking around with slippers or sandals or even bare feet. Talk to me about what a Fire ant is as compared to say a pavement ant. Like how would you know the difference and how do you control them?

GREG BAUMANN Well you know most of the Fire ants that we deal with are found in the South and they are imported. In fact, most common is the Red Imported Fire ant and humans have really helped spread insects around. In this case, not a good insect.

TOM KRAEUTLER Right.

GREG BAUMANN So most of the southern states are dealing with Red Imported Fire ants, they do have a stinger, and they certainly can put out a painful sting, and if multiple stings occur on somebody who’s immune system is compromised, like the elderly it can be fatal.

TOM KRAEUTLER Wow.

GREG BAUMANN So these are very, very dangerous insects. They have been known to kill cattle believe it or not.

TOM KRAEUTLER So how do you spot them? What is does a Fire ant look like?

GREG BAUMANN Most of the Fire ants you are not really going to notice on the ground itself because they are relatively small but you are going to see mounds. Most of the Fire ants are going to mounds and the Fire ants will be able to go in and out of the top of the mound. I actually found a Fire ant colony inside a garage right next to the garage door, between the garage door and the outside wall. That little void there had about a two-foot tall Fire ant colony.

TOM KRAEUTLER Wow, two-feet tall?

GREG BAUMANN Yes, it was amazing.

TOM KRAEUTLER It must have been going for an awfully long time.

GREG BAUMANN I think so, yes. But you know one of things that is interesting is that people think it is just associated with the south. Believe it or not there is a European Fire ant that is found in Maritime Canada and off the coast of Maine at this point.

TOM KRAEUTLER Wow, and Fire ant colonies can reproduce pretty quickly because they have multiple queens, correct? Now the average insect colony has one queen for one colony, right? But these guys actually have lots of leaders.

GREG BAUMANN Yes, many insects are going to have a single queen and so you are only going to reproduce as quickly as the queen can reproduce. By having multiple queens like this, ants can produce rather quickly, they are fast moving as well, and they will actually relocate to another area if they have to.

TOM KRAEUTLER We are speaking with Greg Baumann, he is the Vice President of Training and Technical Services for Orkin, about flying and stinging insects that come out in your yard in summer months. So Greg, there are a lot of insects out there that are beneficial, there are a lot of insects out there that can hurt. We are talking about insects that really hurt. We are talking about insects that really hurt so what kinds of advice do you have for folks to just kind of wrap this up to try to keep them as safe as possible this summer season?

GREG BAUMANN I think the most important thing is do not panic. Just because there is a large insect with a loud noise does not mean it is going to hurt you. So just stay calm, if you see this type of insect a lot, or you see it going in and out of your house, call Orkin. We will come out, take a look at it, identify it, and determine whether or not anything has to be done.

TOM KRAEUTLER Good advice. Greg Baumann, from Orkin. Thanks so much for being a part of the Money Pit Pest Prevention Podcast.

GREG BAUMANN Thank you.

TOM KRAEUTLER And if you would like to learn more about how to identify and prevent pest problems in your home, visit Orkin.com. The Orkin.com site is full of useful information to help identify and eliminate insect problems in and around your home, including a pest library where you will be able to look-up any pest you come across. As well as find a local Orkin Pest Control pro to help eliminate those pests. It is all online at Orkin.com, Orkin pest control, down to a science. I am Tom Kraeutler, thanks for listening.