Guide To Avoiding Stinging Pests

yellow jacket in nest

There are many stinging pests that make life miserable for DC residents during the summer. In a recent article, we covered prevention tips for stinging insects in DC. In this article, we're going to go more in depth about which stinging pests you can expect to see and what you need to know to avoid contact with them.

Yellow Jackets

Identification

There are few people who don't know what a yellow jacket is but, if you've been living under a rock (the way yellow jackets sometimes do) yellow jackets are yellow and black and have workers that are between ⅜ and ⅝ inches long, and are fat on both sides of their pinched waists.

Habits

Of all the stinging pests on our list, yellow jackets are the worst. This is because yellow jackets aren't just social wasps that protect their nest and gather into a swarm, they're also territorial. If they feel threatened, they will sting. And, like all wasps, they can sting multiple times without losing their stingers.

Habitat Preference

These pests build paper carton nests both high and low. They can establish themselves in the ground or on eaves. It is their ability to create ground nests that make them a danger to humans. We don't even have to go near a nest to have these insects swarm. All it takes is the vibration from a lawnmower.

European Paper Wasps

Identification

The most common wasps you're going to see establishing nests on your home is the European paper wasp. These wasps are brownish red with yellowish legs. They are ⅝ to ¾ of an inch long and have pointed and conical abdomens.

Habits

These are considered semi-social insects, which means offspring of one generation will leave the nest before the next generation hatches, and they will develop their own nests to produce their own offspring. Therefore, paper wasp nests are usually small and will be abandoned before winter.

Habitat Preference

These wasps will create their comb nests on the branches of trees, inside shrubs, on porch ceilings, and under soffits, eaves, joists, and rafters. You'll also find them on the tops of door and window frames. When they begin to build a nest, it will look like a half umbrella with hexagonal compartments in it. Once it is fully complete, it will look like a paper-mâché orb with a hole at the bottom.

Baldfaced Hornets

Identification

These hornets resemble yellow jackets, except they have a black and white color pattern and are quite a bit larger at ½ to ⅝ of an inch in length. A queen will be as long as ¾ of an inch.

Habits

These insects are not true hornets but were given the name partly because of their large size and the preference to build aerial nests. Baldfaced hornets are social insects that live in colonies of between 100 and 400 individuals. Being a social insect, they are aggressive and will swarm when threatened. They are particularly troublesome because they usually have two or three sentry wasps that keep watch outside of the nest and warn the others when they sense danger.

Habitat Preference

Baldfaced hornets usually build nests that are at least three feet above the ground. These may be in trees or shrubs when found in nature. On a home, they can be in a wide variety of places.

Carpenter Bees

Identification

Often, carpenter bees go under the radar, and most homeowners do not recognize these wood-destroying pests when they see them. This is because carpenter bees and bumblebees look a lot alike. These, ¼ to 1 inch, bees are a mix of yellow and black fur, just like bumblebees, but their abdomen is entirely black. Bumblebees have black and yellow fur on their abdomens.

Habits

Male carpenter bees, which are smaller than the females, are quite aggressive--especially if you go near their nest. Fortunately, male carpenter bees do not have a stinger and are unable to sting. But that doesn't make it any less disturbing when a big fuzzy bee starts darting toward you. Female carpenter bees are able to sting but rarely do so.

Habitat Preference

You're not going to see these stinging pests creating nests on your home. Females bore a circular tunnel up into wood and create their nests inside. They prefer to do this in untreated wood. This wood-boring habit is what makes carpenter bees a wood-destroying pest and a threat to the equity of a home.

Cicada Killer Wasps

Identification

You might mistake one of these wasps for a baldfaced hornet but the size should help you to quickly figure out which wasp you're looking at. Cicada killer wasps can be as long as 2 inches in length. No, that isn't a typo. These are big wasps! Fortunately, they aren't interested in stinging us.

Habits

These are probably the most unique of all the stinging insects on our list. Cicada killer wasps are more of a lawn pest than a stinging pest. These insects excavate large amounts of sand or soil to create their burrows. This can leave a lawn with mounds of dirt and holes everywhere. As a solitary wasp, they don't behave like the social wasps listed above. They aren't going to swarm you if you get near their nest.

Habitat Preference

As mentioned above, cicada killer wasps create ground burrows. If you have these pests in your yard, be careful to avoid walking around with bare feet. If you step on a cicada killer wasp it is likely to sting you, and that stinger is long!

Quick Recap

Knowing where these stinging pests establish their nests and how they behave is a key component to avoiding unwanted contact, and the stings that can result. As you venture out this summer, stay alert for signs of stinging pests. If you can't see a nest, the presence of a few stinging pests hovering around a hole, gap, or opening can give you the warning you need to prevent an encounter.


If you need assistance with nest removal or the establishment of a pest program to reduce the bugs that wasps feed on, reach out to American Pest. We offer industry-leading pest control solutions for DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

 
 

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