Bees coming out of a wall

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Types of bees

When you think of a bee, a small yellow and black insect that occasionally stings probably comes to mind. Unlike their more aggressive counterparts, wasps and hornets, bees are fairly docile. In most cases, they provide a valuable service to the environment by helping to pollinate plants and flowers and are good for your garden, crops, and honey production.

There are many different types of bees in the United States and they can be categorized as either social or solitary. Social bees form large colonies and their hives contain many bees crawling over each other, creating combs, feeding their larvae and creating honey. Unlike social bees, solitary bees prefer to operate on their own or in very small colonies. They have very small nests, fly alone, and make just enough food to feed their own larvae.

Below is a list of common bees found in the Eastern United States. Proper identification of bees is important because you could be harming a bee that is essential to the environment. Make sure if you see any of these bees in your yard to contact us before trying to get rid of them on your own.

Not sure what type of bee you're seeing? We can help.

Africanized honey bees

Africanized honey bees, also known as “killer bees,” are a hybrid of Africanized and European bee subspecies. Originating in Brazil in the 1950s, they eventually made their way to the U.S. where they now reside in warmer states such as Florida, Texas, California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Infamous for their aggressive behavior, they will attack anything that threatens their nest.

Although it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between an Africanized honey bee and a European honey bee based on their appearance alone, there are some behavioral indicators that may help to identify this more aggressive species of bee.

An image of an Africanized honey bee

Overview

  • Size:  1/2" long. Queen can be 3/4" long

  • Color: Yellow and black

  • Type: Social

  • Risk of sting: Aggressive

Habitat and nests

Africanized honey bees prefer warmer climates and are located in southern and western states that are warm year-round. Because they do not store honey like the European honey bees, they cannot survive colder climates.

Africanized honey bees tend to build their waxy-comb hives in the open and if their hive is disturbed, they will abandon it and swarm. However, sometimes their nests can be found in small, sheltered locations such as meter boxes, grills, or cement blocks.

Behaviors and damage

Africanized honey bees are a lot more aggressive than standard bees. They will attack in huge swarms around threats with the intent of stinging until it is no longer a threat. They will also chase after a perceived threat for much longer distances than the average honey bee. Africanized honey bees will defend their nests viciously and guard a territory much wider than your average honey bee. If a person or animal wanders into that area, drones will alert the colony to “attack.”

Prevention and control

If you find yourself attacked by Africanized honey bees, be sure to:

  • Run and seek a stable shelter such as a home, shed, or something sturdy.
  • Do not jump in the water as bees will wait for you to come up for air.
  • Make sure that the stingers are removed as quickly as possible because they will continue to pump venom.
  • Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Because it is difficult to differentiate Africanized honey bees from European honey bees, it is best to stay away from any hive and contact an Ehrlich bee specialist who can determine what species of bee you are dealing with.

Not sure what type of bee you're seeing? We can help.

Bumble bees

Bumble bees look a lot like carpenter bees, but are usually smaller and appear to have fine hairs all over their bodies. Bumble bees are pollinators and will not bore into wood or cause damage to your home or wooden structures around the property.

An image of a bumblebee

Overview

  • Size: 3/4" - 1" long

  • Color: Yellow and black

  • Type: Social

  • Risk of sting: Typically not aggressive

Behaviors and damage

Bumble bees are fairly passive and have little interest in stinging people unless they feel threatened or are mishandled in any way. When a nest is disturbed or threatened, the colony will emit a very loud, angry, buzzing sound.

Female bumble bees have stingers and may use them if provoked. They are usually only a concern if they set up their nest in a high-traffic area near a home or business. Male bumble bees do not have stingers.

The only way a bumble bee nest poses a threat to a business or homeowner is if someone is allergic to their sting.

Habitat and nests

Bumble bees make their nests in the ground. They will sometimes use abandoned rodent burrows and areas beneath paved patios, compost piles, woodpiles, and even in very long grass. As social insects, their nest consists of a queen, workers, and drones.

Prevention and control

Our treatment approach begins with understanding the species of bumble bee and its habitat. Our bee specialists are local to the communities they service and are familiar with the specific species of bees that can threaten residents and businesses.

You can also make your property less appealing to bumble bees by removing or filling preferred nesting sites, such as wood piles, abandoned rodent burrows, voids under patio pavers, and long grasses.

Not sure what type of bee you're seeing? We can help.

Carpenter bees

Unlike other bees that live in colonies, carpenter bees are mainly solitary. They are pollinators, foraging for pollen to feed to their young. While some species prefer to build their nests in natural structures such as trees, others will target man-made structures such as decking, fencing, and siding which can become an issue for home and business owners.

An image of a carpenter bee

Overview

  • Size: 3/4" - 1" long

  • Color: Varies by species. Females are usually black. Male valley carpenter bees are bright yellow.

  • Type: Solitary

  • Risk of sting: Typically not aggressive

Behaviors and damage

Carpenter bees are fairly docile and one of the least aggressive stinging insects. Only female carpenter bees can sting, but all carpenter bees will fly around to try and intimidate any threat. The males, which exhibit more aggressive and territorial behavior, do not have stingers.

Carpenter bees bore into wood to lay eggs, leaving large oval holes. They can do damage to homes and wooden structures around your property. Although one hole may seem insignificant, carpenter bee broods tend to return to the same nesting location, where they’ll drill new holes. When generations of carpenter bees continue to tunnel into the same wood and surrounding wooden structures, it can lead to more significant structural damage.

Not only can holes in structures expose the wood to moisture and rot, but the larvae developing in the holes may also attract woodpeckers, creating an even larger opening and more damage. If you notice carpenter bee activity around your home or business, contact us today to set up an initial carpenter bee inspection.

Prevention and control

An initial inspection of your property can determine if there are any contributing factors that make your home or business a more attractive nesting site for carpenter bees. Untreated or unpainted wood surfaces are more susceptible, as are prior carpenter bee nesting sites. Additionally, your property’s proximity to a carpenter bee's natural habitat may also increase the likelihood of it becoming a nesting site.

If there is an active carpenter bee nest on your property, Ehrlich is here to help. Call to schedule an appointment with one of our carpenter bee specialists.

Habitat and nests

Female carpenter bees make their nests by boring holes into wood. A nest entrance will exhibit a perfectly round hole and a small pile of sawdust. In the spring, females will search for nests left by earlier generations or excavate new ones, preferably in soft, untreated wood. The tunnels they excavate provide shelter for their eggs and larvae and may include several brood chambers. A new generation of adults will emerge in late summer.

Not sure what type of bee you're seeing? We can help.

Honey bees

Honey bees are one of the most common types of bees that people encounter in their daily life. They are yellow and black with slender bodies and often are mistaken for hornets or wasps. Honey bees are not usually aggressive, but they have been known to swarm around perceived threats to their nests and will sting to fend them off. Honey bees will also swarm in order to establish a new colony.

Known for living in hives and having a very ordered society, honey bees are pretty social insects and are essential to the environment as pollinators. However, when honey bees build their nests in or around homes and businesses, they can become a potential health risk - especially to people who are allergic or are perceived to be a threat to the colony.

An image of a honey bees

Overview

  • Size: 1/2" long. Queen can be 3/4" long

  • Color: Yellowish-orange and black

  • Type: Social

  • Risk of sting: Typically not aggressive

Habitat and nests

Honey bees make their nests out of a kind of wax they secrete from their own bodies. They prefer to find hidden locations in order to keep the nest and hive protected. Most of the time, honey bees in the wild prefer to find hollow logs, hollowed-out trees, or other sheltered places for their nests.

Honey bees will create honey within their nests. Worker honey bees on their own will rarely sting, but if they feel the nest is threatened, they will send out pheromones indicating the hive is under attack. This will cause the other workers to attack and sting.

Behaviors and damage

Honey bees are docile and prefer to be left alone. If the bee feels that there is a threat to their hive, they will alert the rest of the hive, and anywhere from dozens to hundreds of bees may come out and sting the potential threat.

Honey bees are beneficial to the environment. Known as pollinators, they seek nectar from flowers and plants. Their legs pick up the pollen those flowers and plants need to reproduce and then spread the pollen around the species of plant.

If you are allergic to bee stings, honey bees are a serious health risk. For those who are not allergic to bees, honey bees only pose a stinging risk and will typically not affect your health beyond the initial pain of the sting and possible swelling.

Prevention and control

With a thorough inspection of your home or business, our bee control specialists can pinpoint any potential entry points where honey bees may access. Holes that are a quarter of an inch or larger should be sealed and inspections should be done prior to swarming season to avoid the establishment of a colony. If you do have a swarm outside your home or business, contact us to have it removed safely.

If you’ve had honey bees in the past, especially in areas that were not easily accessible, ensuring all the honeycomb has been removed will help to prevent future infestations. Pheromones left on the honeycomb may attract future swarms.


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