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Proper identification of stinging insects is an important step in preventing stings because not all stinging insects are a threat to humans, and stinging insects don't make it easy for us to figure out if they are aggressive. While the cicada killer wasp can be an impressive 2 inches in length and has the word "killer" in its name, it is not likely to sting, even if you handle it. The honey bee, which is highly social and capable of swarming, has no interest in stinging humans. You can walk into a swarm of honey bees or wear them on your face, and not get stung--though we wouldn't recommend doing either of these things. So, we've broken our list down into two types of bees: aggressive and docile.
These are the stinging insects you hope to never meet in a dark alley or a remote rubbish pile.
Yellow jackets - Black and yellow with a shiny skin and no hair, these insects are hard to miss--and that is a good thing. Yellow jackets often build nests in the ground, and these nests can be disturbed by a lawn mower or some other ground vibration. If yellow jackets swarm, they can come in large numbers, chase after you, and even go around obstacles to get to you. These wasps also have the ability to sting multiple times without losing their stinger. That means even a small swarm of yellow jackets can be a big problem.
Africanized honey bees - Often called killer bees, the Africanized honey bee is a bee that belongs in horror movies. There are stories of these bees appearing in swarms of more than 100,000 individuals and their nightmarish attacks leading to the death of humans and animals. Since it is hard to distinguish Africanized bees from docile honey bees, it is vital to have a pest professional do an inspection.
Bald-faced hornets - These hornets, which are not actually hornets, share a lot in common with yellow jackets--even their visual appearance; but while yellow jackets are yellow and black, bald-faced hornets tend to be black and pale. Their most notable coloring being the white on the tip of their black abdomen. The reason they are given the name hornet is because of the large hornet-like aerial nests they construct. If you see one of these nests, be sure to steer clear of it.
These are the stinging insects that may be a "pain" to have around, but you don't have to worry about them swarming you in mass numbers or stinging you multiple times.
Carpenter bee - You don't have worry too much about being stung by these large bees. While these bees can look intimidating due to their large size and the fact that male carpenter bees are prone to dive bombing in a threatening manner, their bark is worse than their bite. In fact, male carpenter bees have no bite at all. They are not able to sting humans; and while female carpenter bees can sting, they are not likely to. But, that doesn't mean it is a good idea to have these bees around. Carpenter bees bore holes into wood. If left untreated, they will return year after year and expand on tunneling. This can lead to costly repairs and even accidents.
Cicada killer wasp - You would think that a 2-inch wasp would be the scariest thing to have flying around on your property, but as it turns out, it isn't. Cicada killer wasps are focused on paralyzing cicada bugs, dragging them back to their ground tunnels, and using them as food for their larvae. They have no interest in stinging humans, but they can sting if you sit on one or lay your back against one. These wasps are most recognizable by their large size; but they can also be distinguished by the yellow bands around the top of their abdomen, their predominately black coloring, and their rust-colored wings.
Bumble bee - While these large, fuzzy, black and yellow bees look like something that could be a threat, they are quite docile. They most often make their home in the tunnels of rodents and other animals and fly around pollinating flowers and other plants. You're not likely to have too much trouble from these stinging insects; but stings do happen. So, be careful.
If you need assistance identifying what insect you have, reach out to us for an evaluation. We can help you figure out what insects you have and, if you need, safely remove any nests we find.
While it is important to know if you have aggressive stinging insects or docile stinging insects, at the end of the day, it is best to have no stinging pests on your property. Call McCall and get 'em all.