Wasps And Hornets
Bee and wasp stings
A bee or wasp sting results in local pain, swelling, redness and itching for most persons. To minimize the sting, a poultice of meat tenderizer or salt can be applied to the site as soon as possible after the incident and left on for about 30 minutes. Use about 0.5 teaspoon mixed with enough water to produce a paste. Commercial swabs are available that do about the same thing.
Some people may react violently if they are stung. Symptoms can include difficulty in breathing, dizziness and nausea, as well as the more common symptoms listed above. With severe reactions, medical attention is needed. Anyone with a history of hypersensitive reactions should have a sting emergency kit available and should wear a medical alert bracelet or other alert item. Consult your physician about desensitization treatments.
Yellowjackets are named after their yellow-and-black-striped body markings. Worker yellowjackets are about 0.5 inch long. Their nests consist of multilayered combs surrounded by a paper shell. The eastern yellowjacket and the southern yellowjacket usually build their nests in underground holes and only occasionally in aboveground cavities. The German yellowjacket almost always nests in aboveground cavities. A large nest usually is about the size of a basketball. In late summer, nests may contain up to 5,000 workers.
In late summer, colonies produce a group of new queens and males. After mating, these new queens go into hibernation and those surviving start new colonies the following spring. The rest of the colony does not survive the winter. Old nests are not reused.
All yellowjackets will aggressively defend their nests, but this aggressiveness increases in late summer and fall. Because yellowjackets forage for meats, sweets, ripe fruit and garbage, they pose a threat to humans even when they are not near their nests. They are usually a problem in picnic areas and orchards and around garbage containers.
Control of yellowjackets
Individual yellowjacket foragers are a difficult problem. A single wasp in an automobile can be gently pushed out an open window using an object such as a folded newspaper. A single yellowjacket on the lip of a soft drink container also should be gently coaxed away. Never swat a wasp, particularly while it is on your skin -- that may prompt a sting. Good sanitation practices in picnic areas are essential. All food garbage and empty beverage cans should be placed in containers with tight-fitting lids.
Bald Faced Hornets
The bald-faced hornet, is about 0.7 inch long and is black with whitish markings. It is technically a yellowjacket but builds a distinctive pear-shaped, basketball-sized nest covered with grayish paper like material.
It usually constructs its nest in a tree or shrub or under the eave of a building. Some people have tried to remove these nests by suddenly covering them with a plastic trash bag, tying it tightly to the branch, and then sawing the branch off. Don’t do it! Bald-faced hornets can escape from trash bags with ease.
Several species of paper wasps of the genus Polistes occur in Kansas All are about 0.7 to 1.0 inch long, slender and variously colored with brown, red and yellow. They build their single-comb unprotected nest from the eaves or porches of buildings or other sheltered locations. As with all the other wasps, only the female queen survives the winter to start new colonies in the spring.
Paper wasps are not as aggressive as yellowjackets or hornets in defense of their nest. These nests should be eliminated only if they are located near human activity. To do so, spray with a pressurized spray stream as described above for the bald-faced hornet. Return a few hours later and remove the nest to discourage others from nesting there.
Mud dauber wasps
Mud daubers are solitary wasps of the family Sphecidae. They vary in length
from 0.5 to 1.25 inches and are very slender with threadlike waists. They
build mud nests in sheltered areas. These nests are tube like cells often
positioned side by side.
The female wasp stocks the nest with insects or spiders that she has captured and stung into paralysis. After laying an egg on the prey, that cell is closed and she starts on the next cell.
Mud daubers overwinter as larvae in the mud nests. One of Kansas's most common species is the black and yellow Sceliphron caementarium. A related common species, Chalybion californicum, is metallic blue with bluish wings. It steals the nests of S. caementarium, replacing nest contents with its own spiders and eggs.
Mud daubers usually sting only when pinned against the skin. They are beneficial except for their unsightly mud nests, which often are placed around human habitation. Undesirable nests should be knocked down and the residual soil washed off with water and a brush. No insecticide treatments are necessary.
Cicada killer wasps
The cicada killer wasp is 1.5 to 2.0 inches long, and is brownish black with yellow markings on the abdomen and face. While their size is intimidating, cicada killers are not aggressive and will sting humans only if pinned against the skin.
The female digs a burrow in the soil. It captures cicadas, paralyzing them by stinging, and places them in the burrow. An egg is deposited on each cicada and that cell is closed off. Cicada killer wasps produce one generation per year, and the larvae spend the winter in the nest cell in the soil.
The only damage these wasps cause is the unsightly dirt piles dug out to create nests. The piles usually disappear with the first rain. Killing individual wasps is virtually impossible unless you spray them in the act of digging or soak the soil to kill developing larvae. Since cicada killers are so beneficial, control efforts are not recommended. If you feel control is necessary call Haley Pest Control.