Description: Paper wasps are 3/4 to 1 inch long, slender, narrow-waisted wasps with smoky black wings that are folded lengthwise when at rest. Body coloration varies with species: Polistes exclamans is brown with yellow markings on the head, thorax and bands on the abdomen; Polistes carolina is overall reddish-brown.

Paper wasps should not be confused with yellowjackets (Vespula squamosa Drury) and baldfaced hornets (Dolichovespa maculata (Linnaeus)). Paper wasp nests are open and cells are not covered with a cap (in an envelope).

Life Cycle: Paper wasps are semi-social insects and colonies contain three castes: workers, queens and males. Fertilized queens, which appear similar to workers, overwinter in protected habitats such as cracks and crevices in structures or under tree bark. In the spring they select a nesting site and begin to build a nest. Eggs are laid singly in cells and hatch into legless grub-like larvae that develop through several stages (instars) before pupating. Cells remain open until developing larvae pupate. Sterile worker wasps assist in building the nest, feeding young and defending the nest. A mature paper wasp nest may have 20 to 30 adults. In late summer, queens stop laying eggs and the colony soon begins to decline. In the fall, mated female offspring of the queen seek overwintering sites. The remainder of the colony does not survive the winter.

Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Mouthparts are for chewing. Nests are built from wood fiber collected from posts and occasionally from live plant stems, causing some plant damage. This fiber is chewed and formed into a single paper-like comb of hexagonal cells. Nests are oriented downward and are suspended by a single filament. Mature nests contain up to 200 cells. Paper wasps prey on insects such as caterpillars, flies and beetle larvae which they feed to larvae. They actively forage during the day and all colony members rest on the nest at night.

Wasps can be found on flowers, particularly from goldenrod in late fall. Paper wasp nests can be dislodged from eaves using sprays of high pressure water from a good distance, taking precautions not to allow wasps to attack nearby people or pets. Wasps will eventually abandon the nest.

Pest Status: Nests commonly occur around the home underneath eaves, in or on structures and plants; wasps attack when the nest is disturbed and each can sting repeatedly; stings typically cause localized pain and swelling, but in sensitive individuals or when many stings occur (as with most arthropod stings) whole body (systemic) effects can occur including allergic reactions that may result in death; males are incapable of stinging because the stinger on the females is a modified egg-laying structure (ovipositor) and it is not present in males; wasps feed on insects, including caterpillar pests, and thus are considered to be beneficial insects by many gardeners.
Bald-faced Hornet
Appearance

The bald-faced hornet belongs to the genus Dolichovespula. Bald-faced hornets are more closely related to yellow jackets than they are to hornets. The body of the bald-faced hornet is black in color, and its face is marked with white. Bald-faced hornets are larger than most yellow jackets, with workers ranging from 15 to 20 mm or more.
Behavior, Diet & Habits

Bald-faced hornets are most active during the day. They usually build aerial nests made of paper in trees or under overhangs. Adults consume liquids, usually sugars like juices or nectar, but will bring back solids such as insects or carrion for the larvae to consume.
Reproduction

The nest of the bald-faced hornet can be found hanging from trees, bushes and buildings. A colony begins in spring, when a queen lays a single egg inside each cell as she begins to build her nest. She puts insects and nectar into the cell with the egg. These eggs hatch into larvae, eventually becoming workers that help to further expand the nest.

A bald-faced hornet nest can grow to be as large as a basketball within a number of months. As many as 700 workers may live in the nest. Males appear late in the summer. The males fertilize some of the newly developed females. These fertilized females look for places to hibernate as cold weather approaches. They will be the next season’s queens. The remaining members of the nest perish in winter.
 Bumble Bees

Description: Bumble bees are easily recognized, being large (3/4 inch long) with black and yellow or orangish hair patterns on their abdomens. Queens and workers have pollen baskets on their hind legs. Bumble bees can be distinguished from carpenter bees because of the presence of orangeish or yellow hair patterns on the upper surface of the abdomen on the honey bee. Some members of bumble bees (Subfamily Bombinae) in the genus, Psithyrus, are parasites of bumble bees, feeding on larvae.

Life Cycle: Fertilized queens survive the winter, select an underground nesting site in the spring and construct a nest in which worker bees are raised. Queens lay eggs that hatch into larvae and develop through several stages (instars) before turning into a pupa. Male and female bees are produced later in the summer. In the fall, all members of the colony die except the fertilized queens.

Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Nesting sites include clumps of dry grass, old bird nests, abandoned rodent burrows, old mattresses, car cushions or even in or under old abandoned buildings. Most colonies contain a few hundred bees although thriving colonies can contain up to 2,000 bees. Nests may be up to 12 inches in diameter and may have several entrances. Foraging worker bees use long tongues to pollinate clovers and other flowers, collecting pollen and nectar that they bring back to the hive to feed to the colony . Honey is stored in the nest. Foraging activities occur only during the daylight hours.

Pest Status: Important pollinators; females are capable of stinging. They can be aggressive around nesting sites but they are rarely aggressive during foraging activities; occasionally a problem when their nest is located next to a building or walkway.
Yellow Jackets

Appearance

Yellow jackets, genera Dolichovespula and Vespula, get their name from their yellow and black bodies. They measure 10 to 16 mm in length. Most yellow jackets are black and yellow, although some may exhibit white and black coloration. In contrast to the bee, the yellow jacket’s waist is thinner and defined. Their elongated wings are as long as the body and fold laterally when at rest.

Yellow jackets are wasps that can be identified by their alternating black and yellow body segments and small size. They are often mistaken for bees, although their bodies lack the same amount of hair, rounded abdomen, and the expanded hind leg used for carrying pollen of the bee. These social wasps live in colonies that may contain thousands of insects at a time.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Yellow jackets are pollinators and may also be considered beneficial because they eat beetle grubs, flies and other harmful pests. However, they are also known scavengers who eat meat, fish and sugary substances, making them a nuisance near trash receptacles and picnics.

Many yellow jackets are ground-nesters. Their colonies can be found under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, around railroad ties or at the base of trees. Sometimes the queen uses a wall void of a building as a nesting place. Some yellow jackets build aerial nests in bushes or low-hanging branches or in the corners of buildings and other manmade structures.

Reproduction

A queen yellow jacket starts a new nest by building a small paper nest in which she lays the first batch of eggs. After hatching, these eggs are fed by the queen until they are ready to pupate and mature into adult yellow jackets. Adults live through one season and feed on caterpillars, grubs and other insects. They also enjoy nectar and sweet substances such as fruit and tree sap. Yellow jackets are attracted to garbage and other human foods, particularly meats and sweets.

A colony may contain 1,000 or more workers by fall. All of the workers are sterile females. In late summer males will begin to appear. When they become adults, they will mate with the females that will become the next year’s queens. The fertilized females will hibernate through the winter. The workers and the males will perish when the weather turns cold.











Signs of a Yellow Jacket Infestation

Yellow jackets usually are detected when workers are encountered. Nests, particularly the aerial nests, also may be a sign.
Honey Bees in or around your home?  Please contact a bee keeper before treating with any chemicals to see if they can be saved.

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