Bees are best known for pollinating flowers and for their ability to sting. However, the world of bees is so much more complex than that description suggests. There are about 20,000 recognized species of bees, and bees have been found on all continents except Antarctica.
Thankfully, there are only a few types you may see in your yard on a regular basis. It's important to know the differences between them so you can act appropriately according to the type of bee you see.
There are actually seven species of honey bee, but all are very similar. These bees create elaborate hives in structures like hollow trees and rock crevices, and they live in large and intricately structured social groups called colonies. Honey bees are about 1/2 inch long with smooth black heads and bodies that feature alternating bands of black and amber.
Honey bees are very gentle and will not sting unless aggressively provoked. They do die when they sting a victim, and stinging requires that they leave behind their stinger and venom sac.
It is actually a good thing if you see the occasional honey bee in your yard, as these important pollinators are declining in number. If honey bees have built a hive in an inconvenient space on your property, your best bet is to have a bee specialist relocate the hive rather than having them exterminate these endangered insects.
Bumble bees are fuzzy-looking bees that are named after the buzzing noise they make while flying. They can measure up to one inch in length when mature. Bumble bees are usually black with yellow markings, and while the top surfaces of their bodies are hairy, the undersides are smooth.
Bumble bees are not normally aggressive, but they can sting when threatened - and, unlike honey bees, they do not die after stinging. While bumble bees are beneficial insects because they pollinate plants, they often build nests in spaces like sheds, wood piles and fences. Pest control experts can use insecticides to kill all bees in a nest and then remove the nest once it is free of bees.
You can make your yard less attractive to bumble bees by filling any holes in your sheds' exteriors. Keep all fences in good repair, and do not leave piles of leaves or grass clippings sitting around for more than a few days.
Carpenter bees are large, furry bees that appear similar to bumble bees. However, unlike bumble bees, carpenter bees have hair on the undersides of their abdomens as well as on the top. They also lack yellow stripes - their bodies are amber brown and their legs and head are black.
Carpenter bees rarely sting, but because they burrow large holes into wooden structures in order to lay their eggs, they can cause serious structural damage to buildings and fences.
Carpenter bees are solitary insects; they do not live in colonies. However, even a single bee can do serious damage, so it's important to have a pest control expert come eradicate the bees as soon as you spot one. Fill in the holes left in wooden structures to keep these bees from coming back.
Mason bees are small, fuzzy bees with black heads, amber hairs on their midsection and red-brown back ends. They are named for their tendency to build tunnels and nests in mortar. Like carpenter bees, mason bees are solitary insects - each builds its own nest.
Mason bees are very gentle and don't typically sting. They are important pollinators, so you should not worry if you see one buzzing around your flowers or vegetables. However, these bees can cause damage to brick structures, so you should call a pest control company if you think one is nesting in your mortar.
Seeing the occasional bee of any type is not a cause for concern. But if you think bees are nesting on your property, give the experts at Pest Control Services, Inc., a call to take care of the problem.