How to Bug Proof Your Home: Bees and Wasps

Pest Management In and Around Structures May 28, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF



Paper Wasp
Paper Wasp
Yellowjacket Wasp
Yellowjacket Wasp
Honey Bee
Honey Bee
Honey bees in an irrigation box
Honey bees in an irrigation box

Renowned for their painful sting, these insects often produce an unreasonable amount of fear. The sting venom can cause a violent histamine reaction, but only in a very small percentage of the population. Most bee and wasp species are actually quite docile and stinging usually occurs when their nest is disturbed.

One exception is the yellow jacket wasp; however, paper wasps can also be aggressive when their nest is disturbed. In the warmer summer months yellow jackets become more attracted to sweet food and meat products and can become troublesome, lingering around garbage cans and picnic tables. Bees and wasps are actually a highly beneficial group of insects. Bees pollinate food plants and provide us with honey, wax and other readily used substances.

Wasps can be helpful in removing other unwanted insects by parasitizing or hunting them. Unless an individual is allergic to bee or wasp stings, homeowners should not be concerned if they find one or two solitary bees or wasps nesting in their yards. A large population, however, or a colony of honeybees should be removed by a professional.

Contact a local beekeeper or a pest management professional for their services. Some companies remove bees using vacuums or soap so no chemical treatment is necessary.

Africanized Bees

It should be assumed that all bees are Africanized when encountering wild bees in the southern states. Early in the year, the largest swarms encountered are queens locating new nest sites. At this time, the swarms do not have brood to protect and are not generally aggressive. If you see a swarm around your home, it is highly likely that it will move on in a day or so without any intervention. If the swarm locates a suitable nesting site such as a hole in a block wall allowing the bees’ entrance to the wall void, they may move inside the wall. It is best to call a pest management professional to manage the bees at this point before they are established and have brood to protect. Make sure to fill in the hole, which allowed the bees to take up residence, once the bees have been removed.

Encountering Bees

If you encounter bees buzzing around your head, do the following:

  1. Stop.
  2. Place your hands over your face and look through your fingers.
  3. Look around for the hive.
  4. Run or walk briskly away from the hive. Do not flap or swat at the bees, this is the worst thing you can do!!!

If you are stung or the bees bump you, do the following:

  1. Cover your head and face with clothing or your hands.
  2. Run to a building or if out in the open run until the bees have abandoned you. Do not dive into natural water bodies or a swimming pool; the bees will wait for you longer than you can hold your breath!!!

Bee Prevention

  1. Discourage bees and wasps by eliminating favorable nest sites. Use an appropriate sealant to fill cracks and holes in walls and trees. Remove any trash or debris that might serve as a shelter, such as overturned clay pots. Ground- nesting insect scan be discouraged by allowing the soil to dry out completely, and by mulching or planting a ground cover over large patches of bare ground.
  2. Apply paint or varnish to outdoor wooden structures.
  3. Consider the water sources in your yard and eliminate the unnecessary ones. Put screens over rainspouts and water meter boxes. A few ounces of pine scented cleaner can be placed into evaporative coolers to discourage insects, and for pet water and birdbaths two tablespoons of vinegar per gallon is somewhat effective.
  4. Avoid home entrance by placing insulation around doorframes and sealing window frames.
  5. Cover food when eating outdoors.
  6. Gather up rotting fruit dropped from trees.
  7. Seal garbage cans.
  8. Do not aggravate bees or wasps by swatting at them. They can react defensively.
  9. Attic vents should be screened.

More Information

Please visit: General Household Pests: Africanized Bees

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