Behaviour and Biology
These insects are known for the nests they build and for their ability to sting people or animals, if provoked or not. There are various types of each, and it’s important to know what you’re dealing with in order to achieve effective control.
Wasps, like hornets, have a smooth body, and are yellow and black striped. The most common wasp you might notice is the yellowjacket, and like the hornet, is very aggressive. Nests can have between 1,000 to 4,000 workers at its peak, and anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 cells (each cell containing one egg).
In the case of bees, there are bumble (nests contain between 50-400 bees) and honey bees (mature colonies have 20,000 to 80,000 individuals in their hives), the latter being a beneficial insect that should be removed by a beekeeper. Bees are recognizable by their overall fuzzy appearance.
In the case of hornets, you’re most likely to encounter a baldfaced hornet, which are predominantly black, with white markings and a smooth body (i.e. not fuzzy like bees). Baldfaced hornets are larger than bees or wasps, are very aggressive, and nests can contain 100-400 workers, as well as 2,000 to 3,500 cells (each cell containing one egg).
Nests can be found almost anywhere, including in or on trees, underground, in barbeques, under soffits, roof gables, in garden sheds, playgrounds, vehicles, boats, etc.
The obvious threat of bees, hornets and wasps is the probability of getting stung. Bumble bees, hornets and wasps have the ability to sting multiple times, and will alert other members of the colony to attack if they’re threatened in any way. Many people and animals are highly sensitive to stings, and in some cases, they can be life threatening.
Most times, nests are discovered accidentally. Some typical examples of how nests are found include:
• children playing outside and finding a nest in the play park
• mowing the lawn and running over a ground nest
• painting your home and you rest your ladder on the nest itself; or over the hole in the siding they’re using as the nest entrance
• roofers replacing or repairing a roof and finding a nest.
Nests are discovered by family (including children and pets), contractors (eg. painters, window cleaners, postal workers, etc.) or friends coming over for a backyard barbeque. Nests are either visible or hidden (eg. behind a wall void, above a soffit or underground), making them very difficult to notice, until someone’s been stung.
If you’re brave enough to attempt treating a bee, hornet or wasp problem, we recommend only treating nests that are exposed and with an appropriately labelled product. Treatment should be done at dusk or early evening when the majority of the workers are in the nest. It is important to wear proper protective clothing, and shield all parts of your body including your head, face, neck and hands. If a ladder is required, be sure to follow all proper fall arrest procedures. When treating an exposed nest, it is advantageous to leave the nest up for at least a day, so as to allow any workers that are not in the nest at the time of treatment to come into contact with the residual once they fly back into the nest.
Nests that are hidden (which can be identified by the steady stream of traffic flying in and out of an opening on a structure), we recommend a professional treat as it can be very challenging successfully applying product into a nest. Professionals will have a wider selection of labelled products at their disposal as well as application and protective equipment and experience in how to deal with these situations.