Ants, Bees, and Wasps (Order Hymenoptera)

Pest Management In and Around Structures June 04, 2014 Print Friendly and PDF
Management of Pest Insects

in and Around the Home


Ants, Bees, and Wasps (Order Hymenoptera)

This group of insects contains some of the most beneficial insects known. Besides the honey bee, the Hymenoptera also contains many species that are parasites and predators of highly destructive insect pests. However, there are also Hymenoptera that are considered pests. Some sting and can create a life-threatening medical condition called anaphylaxis in people allergic to that particular venom. Generally, all mature, adult members of this Order have four membranous wings, with the hind wings
smaller than the front wings.

Ants

All ants belong to the family Formicidae. It is important to correctly identify the type of ant involved in an infestation because of the diversity of lifestyles represented by this group of insects. Interventions that include insecticidal baits are most effective against ants because of their social nature (no one has trouble with an ant, but with many ants), so the main target of an ant management program should be the nest. Ant social structure involves sharing food so it is often simplest to feed ants insecticidal bait and let them carry it back to the nest rather than spending time trying to locate the nest(s).

Acrobat ants (Crematogaster spp.): All worker ants in colony same size and about 1/8 to 3/16 inch, shiny black to brown. Abdomen distinctively heart shaped. Ants often walk with abdomen projected into air at 45 degree angle.

Habits: Acrobat ants commonly trail onto buildings from trees via branches and overhead power and telephone cables that touch the building. Ants commonly nest in foam board insulation, leaving insulation dust on areas directly below the nest site and which reappears after it is cleaned up. Debris from acrobat ant nest sites often contains bits and pieces of uneaten insects that have been only partly consumed, dead acrobat ants from the colony, and pieces of sawdust and/or insulation the ants have chewed.

Interventions: Cut limbs away from structure. Bait (liquid and/or gel bait) where ants are found foraging. If baiting is not successful, apply a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray where ants are found (outdoors only), especially on tree trunks and limbs. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants.

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile): All worker ants in colony the same size and about 1/8 inch, light brown. Fast-crawling. Habits: Primary nuisance ant pest in Georgia. Long, well-established trails visible during Summer. Colonies large, containing tens of thousands of ants. Nest mainly outdoors, in mulch and leaf litter, while foraging into the canopy of trees. Can be difficult to control in Winter, as it moves indoors to escape cold temperatures. Not native to the U.S. Sometimes referred to as sugar ants. Interventions: Bait (liquid and/or gel bait and/or bait stations) both indoors and outdoors at the same time if ants are found in both areas. Place baits where ants are found foraging. In addition to baiting, reduce mulch and extensive ground covers and vegetation around the foundation. Follow recommendations under section Proactive Pest Management. If baiting and cultural practices do not provide relief, apply a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray around windows,
doors, and nest sites where ants are found. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #926, Argentine Ants, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, especially the odorous house ant.

Black Pyramid ants (Dorymyrmex smithi): Dull black, 3/16 inch, slender, very fast moving ant with a pyramid-shaped projection on its thorax. All worker ants in colony are the same size. Crawling behavior characterized as fast, erratic, and seemingly random. Habits: Found outside mainly in sandy, well-drained, dry habitats. When present, ants can be so numerous that they are seemingly everywhere. Do not bite or sting, but may quickly overcome any item, animate or inanimate, placed on the ground. Reach peak population size in July and August in Georgia. Entrances to nest sites are single holes in the ground at the bottom of a funnel-shaped depression in the typical sand habitat. Interventions: If desired, apply a perimeter treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray around the foundation of the structure. Treat grassy areas around entire perimeter of structure. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, such as fire ants and Argentine ants.

Black Carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus): Worker ants from the same colony vary in size (1/4 to 1/2 inch) and are dull black with small gold hairs on the abdomen. The largest of Georgia’s pest ants. Habits: Carpenter ants live primarily in knotholes in large hardwood trees. They are nocturnal, and forage along permanent trails from nest sites to feeding sites. Indoors, found in dishwashers, under insulation, and sometimes in moisture-laden wood. Interventions: At night, when ants are most active, provide them bait, especially gel bait. Do not use bait stations. Apply bait on active trails, or in a location where ants are found. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #929, Carpenter Ants, and bulletin #1225, Biology and Management of Carpenter Ants, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, such as mound ants.

Red Imported Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta): Reddish-brown workers vary in size (1/8 to 3/16 inch) in a single colony. Habits: Inflicts painful sting. Builds easily distinguishable mounds in sunny, often disturbed habitats (yards, pastures, right-ofways, parks, playgrounds, etc.). Not native to the U.S. Interventions: Spring through Fall, spread bait granules in late afternoon (when temperatures are warm and the ground is dry) to entire yard or sprinkle one handful of bait around (never on top of ) the perimeter of each active mound. Never disturb mound prior to applying bait. 10-14 days after bait application, if active mounds remain, treat them by applying an appropriately labeled liquid insecticide (at least 1 gallon of diluted material – the volume is important to reach the deepest part of the nest under the mound) directly to the top of each active mound. For more information see University of Georgia Extension bulletin #1191, Managing Imported Fire Ants in Urban Areas, and circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, especially pyramid ants.

Mound ants (Formica spp.): Ants in a single colony are different sizes and about 1/4 to 5/16 inch. Reddish brown head and thorax and shiny black abdomen. Habits: Colonies are often very large, encompassing acres of land. Ants make permanent foraging trails in grass and sandy areas where they live (commonly oak forest with open understory). Ants commonly pile large quantities of leaf litter and debris around nest sites. These ants do not sting, but are aggressive and will bite while releasing copious quantities of pungent formic acid. In Georgia, generally restricted to the northwest.

Interventions: Apply bait that these ants will take. Because ant colonies are large, a large quantity of bait may be needed. If desired, apply a perimeter treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray next to the structure. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, such as carpenter ants.

Odorous House ants (Tapinoma sessile): All worker ants in colony are black and the same size (about 1/8 inch). When crushed, these ants have a pungent odor somewhat like sun tan lotion. Habits: A moderate to major nuisance ant pest, more moisture dependent than most other ant pests. This ant nests mainly outdoors, in areas where moisture is abundant (heavy ground cover, mulch, ivy, etc.). Interventions: Bait (liquid and/or gel bait and/or bait stations) both indoors and outdoors at the same time if ants are found in both areas. Place baits where ants are found foraging. In addition to baiting, reduce mulch and extensive ground covers and vegetation around the foundation. Follow recommendations under section Proactive Pest Management. If baiting and cultural practices do not provide relief, apply a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray around windows, doors, and to nest sites where ants are found. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, such as Argentine ants.

Dark Rover ants (Brachymyrmex patagonicus): Black or dark brown ants with round abdomen. Workers from the same colony are all the same size (1/16 inch). This ant is one of the smallest of the pest ants in Georgia. Habits: Feeds on honeydew in the canopy of trees. Not native to the U.S. Interventions: Bait (liquid and/or gel bait and/or bait stations) both indoors and outdoors at the same time if ants are found in both areas. Place baits where ants are found foraging. In addition to baiting, reduce mulch and extensive ground covers and vegetation around the foundation. Follow recommendations under section Proactive Pest Management. If baiting and cultural practices do not provide relief, apply a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray around windows, doors, and to nest sites where ants are found. Might Be Confused With: other, similarly-sized ants, such as fire ants, odorous house ants, and Argentine ants.

Bees and Wasps

Several groups are represented including honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, yellow jackets, paper wasps, hornets, and various other commonly encountered bees and wasps.

Bumble bees (Apidae: Bombus spp.): Large, black bees (3/4 inch) with bright yellow hairs on the thorax and/or abdomen. Bees from the same colony are different sizes. Habits: Bumble bees are common inhabitants of gardens, where they are most commonly found visiting and pollinating flowers. Highly beneficial. Bumble bees are social, and live in a colony with nest mates. Like yellow jackets, colonies nest in the ground. When their nest is threatened, bumble bees can be aggressive and may sting.

Interventions: If the nest is not a threat to the health and welfare of humans, leave it alone as bumble bees are excellent pollinators. If the nest must be eliminated, find the entrance and treat with a labeled insecticide formulated as an insecticidal dust or one of the various wasp and hornet aerosol sprays that shoot their contents up to 20 feet. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might be Confused With: carpenter bees, digger bees, yellow jackets.

Large Carpenter bees (Apidae: Xylocopa virginica): Large, black bees (3/4 inch). Appearance similar to bumble bees but with naked, hairless abdomen. Abdomen black to blackish blue. Habits: In Georgia, March-May this bee can be found chewing dimesized holes in wood boards, logs, etc. It does not eat wood, but chews galleries to create a nest site where eggs are laid. Some bees (males) appear aggressive. Cedar boards are particularly susceptible to extensive damage by carpenter bees.

Interventions: Apply an appropriately labeled dust, liquid spray, or jet aerosol directly into carpenter bee holes while bees are active. Begin treatment when bees are first found, and re-treat as needed. In late Summer, when all bees have left their nest sites, fill holes with wood filler, sand, and paint (or apply a quality wood finish). Might Be Confused With: bumble bees.

Cicada Killers (Sphecidae: Sphecius speciosus): Large (1 to 1.5 inches), fast-flying, yellow and black-striped, solitary wasp with large eyes. Habits: Although they appear intimidating, wasps are not aggressive. Most active in mid- to late-Summer when adults can be found digging holes 1/2 to 3/4 inch diameter in loose soil. Like carpenter bees, patrolling wasps are males (and cannot sting), while females actively search for their cicada prey. Female wasps can sometimes be seen dragging their cicada prey into a hole, on which larval wasps feed. Often moderate to large numbers of wasps aggregate at one site at the same time for the purpose of mating and reproduction. Interventions: The use of mulch (or other ground covers) or improving turf growth and vigor may discourage cicada killers from nesting in these sites in subsequent years. Because these wasps are not aggressive, killing them is not advisable. If desired, apply a spot treatment with an appropriately labeled residual spray or dust formulation into each hole at night when the wasps are resting in the nest. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: hornets, yellow jackets.

Digger bees (Apidae: Anthophora spp.): One common species is a gray-colored bee closely resembling the honey bee, 1/2 to 5/8 inch. Females slightly larger than males.

Habits: In the Spring (March and April), this otherwise solitary bee aggregates, often in large numbers, for the purpose of mating and reproduction. Typical aggregation/nest sites are barren, grassless ground. When numerous, dozens to hundreds (even thousands) of bees can be seen flying in an erratic fashion approximately one foot above the ground. Bees are beneficial pollinators, and not aggressive even at their nest site. Interventions: Digger bees are harmless, and killing them is not recommended. To discourage future nest-site aggregations, barren areas should be covered with mulch or new turfgrass should be planted. Irrigating the area on successive days may cause bees to abandon the location. If desired, apply a spot treatment to aggregation sites with an appropriately labeled residual spray. Might Be Confused With: honey bees.

Giant Resin bees (Megachilidae: Megachile sculpturalis): A solitary bee introduced into the southeastern U.S. from Asia. Adult bees large and impressive by their size, 1/2 to almost 1 inch; larger than most native bees in North America. Belonging to a family called leaf-cutter bees. Somewhat resembles carpenter bees. Habits: These bees, generally found around buildings and wooden decks, are opportunistic by nesting in existing wooden cavities. In late Summer, sometimes seen entering and occupying vacant carpenter bee tunnels. They do not chew, eat, or otherwise damage wood.

Interventions: None needed. Might Be Confused With: carpenter bees.

Honey bees (including Africanized honey bee) (Apidae: Apis mellifera): Caramel-colored, 1/2 to 5/8 inch, hairy bee sometimes with large accumulations of yellow pollen on their hind legs. Commonly found in gardens visiting flowers while collecting nectar. Africanized honey bees can be differentiated from non-Africanized honey bees only by a professional entomologist. Habits: Honey bees are one of the
best known, most recognized and beneficial of all insects. They pollinate billions of dollars worth of crops each year. The Africanized honey bee, a more aggressive and potentially dangerous honey bee, was found in Georgia in 2010. Interventions:  The most common problem associated with honey bees is that they sometimes nest inside walls of structures. Do not kill these nests, but call a professional beekeeper
or pest management specialist because the bees and honeycomb must be completely removed. Find a beekeeper to remove the bees, then hire someone to remove the honeycomb and replace the wall. All honey bee material and honeycomb residue must be completely removed or secondary pest problems may arise. A carpenter’s skills are often needed. For more detailed information see University of Georgia
Extension circulars #824, Honey Bee Swarms and Bees in Walls, and #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: yellow jackets, digger bees.

Hornets (Vespidae: Vespa spp.): The European hornet, Vespa crabro, was accidentally introduced into North America about the middle of the 19th century. It is a large eusocial wasp with the wings reddish orange and the petiolate abdomen brown and yellow striped. There are no native hornets in the U.S. Habits: European hornets build large, above-ground nests, usually in trees. Similar to yellow jackets and
paper wasps, European hornets build a new nest each year. Each Fall all hornets die, with the exception of several queens, which overwinter. The following Spring these overwintered, mated queens initiate the construction of a new nest. European hornets are attracted to lights at night. They are not attracted to human foods and food wastes, as are yellow jackets, but they can damage fruits, such as apples, while the fruit is still on the tree. Interventions: If European hornets are found around the house at night, because these wasps will forage after dark and are attracted to lights, examine and change the lighting regime. Do not attempt to remove or treat a nest; call a pest management professional to remove nests near areas of human habitation or activity. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: cicada killers, yellow jackets.

Mud Daubers (Sphecidae and Crabronidae: many species): Long, slender, solitary wasps 1 to 1.5 inches, with long, slender waists. Commonly glossy black or blue, some species with yellow highlights. Habits: Builds series of four- to six-inch long vertical mud tubes on walls in areas protected from rain and adverse weather. Commonly found under eaves, decks, etc. Each tube comprised of individual cells housing a
single larva and spider prey that wasp larvae feed on. Interventions: Knock down dry mud nests with a broom and wash mud from wall with soap and water. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: paper wasps, potter
wasps.

Paper wasps (Vespidae: Polistes spp.): Large (1 inch), aggressive wasps when at their nest. Various species, but all build paper-like, multi-celled, inverted umbrella nests under rain- and wind-protected eaves where wasps can enter and exit easily. Habits: Each Fall all wasps die, with the exception of several queens, which overwinter in an inactive form in a well-protected, secluded environment such as under and in fallen logs and other ground debris. The following Spring, queens initiate and build a small paper nest where they lay eggs. Paper wasps build a new nest each year. Colonies grow and reach peak size in the Fall, at which time the cycle repeats. Like other social bees and wasps, paper wasps are aggressive when protecting their nest, and may inflict a painful sting in its defense. Adult wasps are excellent predators in vegetable gardens, and are more docile when not protecting their nest. Interventions: If nests are out of the way, leave wasps alone as they are highly beneficial predators. If desired, spray
nest and wasps directly with an aerosol jet spray, or early in the year, before the nest contains too many adult wasps consider knocking down the nest with a long stick
but be prepared – and able – to quickly flee the area as the nest is dislodged. Make certain no one in the area is allergic to wasp venom (stings). For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: mud daubers.

Potter wasps (Vespidae, but sometimes recognized as Eumenidae: many species): Also referred to as mason wasps. Common species dark blue or black with yellow or white highlights on abdomen and/or thorax. Solitary. Common species 3/4 to 1 inch. Strongly sclerotized. Habits: This wasp builds characteristic, oval-shaped (1/2 to 5/8 inch diameter) nests that appear pot-like with a knob-like handle. Pots are ornate and constructed of mud, as if built by a mason. Interventions: Knock down ‘mud pot’ nests with a broom and wash mud from wall with soap and water. Might Be Confused With: mud daubers.

Velvet Ants (Mutillidae): Also referred to as cow killer. Black and red, velvety, 1 inch, appears ant-like, is fast-crawling, and is rarely at rest. Females wingless, males with black wings. Other species 1/4 inch and orange to red/orange. Habits: Velvet Ants are not ants. They are solitary, wingless, parasitic wasps, and may inflict a painful sting if handled. Never handle or pick up a velvet ant. They commonly parasitize the larvae of other solitary wasps, such as cicada killers. Interventions: Usually these wasps are not so common that extensive chemical control is required. If desired, crush individual wasps or directly spray them with an appropriately labeled aerosol insecticide. Wide scale insecticide treatments are unnecessary. Might Be Confused With: large ants.

Yellow Jackets (Vespidae: Vespula squamosa [the Southern Yellow Jacket] and Vespula maculifrons [the Eastern Yellow Jacket]): Fast-flying, 1/2 inch, black and yellow striped, social predators living in colonies containing workers (hundreds to thousands), queens, and males. The Southern and Eastern yellow jackets are the two most common yellow jackets in Georgia. Habits: Yellow jackets nest in the ground
and will sting en masse when their nest is threatened. Colony threat typically occurs at nest entrance, where guards are posted, signaling an alarm to all the yellow jackets in the nest (away from the nest, individual yellow jackets are rarely aggressive). Nests are often found by accident as a result of some disturbance near the nest entrance—e.g., while operating a chainsaw, mower, or weed-eater near the nest entrance. Each Fall all yellow jackets die, with the exception of several queens, which overwinter under and in fallen logs and other ground debris. The following Spring these overwintered, mated
queens initiate the construction of a new nest where they lay eggs. Yellow jackets build a new nest each year. Colonies grow through the Summer and reach peak population size in the Fall, at which time the cycle repeats. Colonies often remain active well into November in Georgia. Interventions: If nests are out of the way, leave yellow jackets alone as they are highly beneficial predators. If desired, treat nest entrance (the hole in the ground) with an appropriately labeled jet-stream aerosol insecticide or insecticidal dust at night when all these day-active insects are in the nest. Make certain no one in the area is allergic to venom (stings). Alternatively, seek help from a pest management professional to remove nests near areas of human habitation or activity. NOTE: A mistake during treatment can result in hospitalization or even death from excessive stings. For more information see University of Georgia Extension circular #782, Stinging and Biting Pests, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be Confused With: European hornets, paper wasps, honey bees.

 

 

Connect with us

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

Welcome

This is where you can find research-based information from America's land-grant universities enabled by eXtension.org

LOCATE

USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.