Many people get a sinking pit in their stomach when they hear a buzzing sound near them. Before you go grabbing the Raid or calling an exterminator, take some time to figure out what kind of “buzzer” it is-odds are they are more beneficial than you think! Even if you do need them gone, proper identification of bees and wasps is crucial for pest management.
It’s a relatively well-known fact that bees – especially our native bees and honeybees – are crucial to the survival of the agriculture industry. They perform the vast majority of pollination required for the successful production of crops like blueberries, pumpkins, apples, cherries, and squash (among many others). What many people don’t realize, however, is that some wasp species also play an important role in our ecosystems through pollination.
So which are beneficial, and which are less favorable to have in your yard? Let’s go through them quickly.
Honeybees (with their fuzzy front half and bald abdomen) and bumblebees are well-known beneficial insects. But did you know that honeybees aren’t even native to North or South America? Many of our native bees look much different than the standard honeybee. They are small, and often look more like beetles. They’re also mostly solitary, and live in underground burrows. Native solitary bees are non-aggressive–since they live alone or in small numbers, they rarely defend their nests. Bumblebees, while more social, are also gentle in most circumstances. Honeybees can be protective of their nest if provoked, and the hybridized “killer bees” are known to be particularly aggressive. Though carpenter bees look big and scary, they’re actually quite gentle; having multiple nests can weaken structural wooden beams, however. Overall, your landscape can only benefit from the presence of bees. So long as no one in your family is allergic, it’s best to let them be and leave them to do their important pollinator work.
Wasps are excellent predators. They greatly benefit gardens by eating common pests like aphids and caterpillars. As we mentioned before, some are even pollinators–if you love figs, you have a wasp to thank! Fig trees have small, difficult-to-access flowers that only fig wasps can pollinate properly.
However, wasps are significantly more aggressive than bees. Paper wasps and the infamous yellow jackets in particular are quite protective of their nests and will attack repeatedly if disturbed. Paper wasps and yellow jackets create grey nests made of a thin, papery substance (hence the name) that is suspended from branches, eaves, or even the roofs of bird houses. If touched or hit, these wasps will protect their nest in full force. Some wasps are more difficult to spot–they nest in burrows in the ground, which are only identified by a conical pile of dirt on the ground. They can be especially problematic if you have children or work extensively in your yard.
The most environmentally-friendly way to tackle wasps (or any other beneficial insect) is to simply avoid the nest and leave them be. However, sometimes wasps build nests on or near our houses, which is a bit too close for comfort. If you need to get rid of a nest, wear the proper gear and research how to safely eliminate it.
If you are looking for pesticides to get rid of the more dangerous insects in your yard, shop Big Earth Landscape Supply. We have everything you need to cultivate a safe, beautiful and productive lawn and garden.