Bees are an integral part of many ecosystems, helping pollinate plants so they can grow. They usually begin to show up in springtime, making nests and colonies in many different places that are sheltered from the weather. The most common types of bees in the United States are honey bees and bumblebees, and it can be difficult to tell which is which. They can also be hazardous due to their ability to sting, but due to their impact on the ecosystem, should not be eradicated in the same way as other pests. Here’s what you need to know about these insects.
As their name suggests, honey bees are insects that eat the pollen and nectar of flowers and many different kinds of plants. They then regurgitate it to create honey, which they store in their hives. Honey bees pollinate over a hundred different crops throughout the United States, though many varieties are endangered or threatened. This is why, in spite of the potential danger they can pose to humans, it’s essential that they are protected.
Honey bees are generally yellow and black in color, with six legs and light-colored hairs covering their entire bodies. They also have distinctive brown/black and yellow colored bands on the backsides of their abdomens, and they can be ½ to ⅝ inch long. The two main kinds of honey bees are Western or European honey bees and Africanized honey bees. European honey bees are larger and more docile while Africanized honey bees are smaller but more aggressive in protecting their nests and young.
Honey bees are social insects that live in colonies with caste systems made up of queens, drones, and worker bees. Drones are male, while queens and worker bees are female. Only queen honey bees and worker honey bees have stingers, but they are barbed and will come off the bee if it does sting. If you get a honey bee sting, it’s important to remove the stinger as quickly as possible to avoid any further injury or effects from the bee’s venom. It’s best to remove a stinger with tweezers to ensure you are able to remove the entire stinger, as infections and other irritations can occur if the stinger is not fully or correctly extracted.
Bumblebees are remarkably similar to honey bees except for a few key differences. Bumblebees are usually larger, and have stubby wings, though they look similar in terms of coloring. They also play an important role in pollination, and draw nectar from plants to make honey. However, they don’t make as much honey as honey bees do. Bumblebees have the same kind of social hierarchy as honey bees, and only female bumblebees have stingers. Unlike honey bees, though, bumblebee stingers remain attached to them when they sting, meaning they can sting more than once.
Other Common Types of Bees
Two other common types of bees that you may see around your property include:
- Carpenter bees, which carve nests and tunnels out of wood and are similar to honeybees in that they won’t sting unless directly threatened.
- Mason bees, which are blue and black in color. These bees build nests inside already existing cavities and holes in trees and other outdoor locations, and seal them off after laying their eggs.
- Other types of stinging insects like wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets may also live on your property. They’re typically shaped much differently, and are easier to distinguish from helpful bees.
Bee Habitats and Behaviors
Both honey bees and bumblebees build nests in various places that are sheltered from the elements, whether close to the ground or elevated. They may live in overturned plant pots, in openings in trees and anywhere else they can find a secluded spot. Unfortunately, this means they may also find places around your home to build nests, such as in attics, ceilings, open garages, sheds and crawl spaces.
Bees are attracted to nectar and pollen from many different plants, but some of the most common ones that they are attracted to include:
- Lamb’s ear
- Bells or Phacelia
- Black-eyed Susan
Avoiding Bee Problems
For people interested in keeping bees away from their homes and children, it’s a good idea to take steps to remove potentially attractive plants from close to your home, and let bees settle elsewhere. Keep gardening areas and other plants that you take care of outdoors in safe, designated locations away from children. If you find that bees are gathering near your home in large numbers, don’t try to handle the situation yourself. Contact a pest control company to remove them for you, as removing a bee nest can be highly dangerous to anyone besides a professional. At Dodson Pest Control, we provide free inspections, so you can rest assured that we will take care of your bee problem quickly and efficiently. Contact us today!