Wasps, Hornets and Bees in Ontario

Wasps, hornets and bees are all arthropods belonging to the order called Hymenoptera.  Bees are beneficial to humans because they pollinate plants, whereas wasps and hornets help by eating other insects and are only minimally effective pollinators.  All three can be dangerous especially to children and those who are allergic.  The venoms of bees and wasps are different, so having a severe reaction to a wasp sting does not mean a person will have the same reaction to a bee sting.

These insects all possess a modified ovipositor that protrudes from the back of the abdomen and acts like a hypodermic needle, injecting a type of protein venom. Stings can be dangerous to those allergic to their venom – although these insects will only sting if they feel they or their nests are in danger.  Bees die after they sting.  Unlike bees, wasp and hornets will not die after they sting.

Wasps and Hornets

Wasps are about 1/3 inch to 1 inch long.
Hornets are 3/4 to 2 inches long and are black with white/yellow rings.

There are many different species of hornets and wasps, with new species seemingly arriving every few years.  Wasps and hornets have similar hairless bodies.  The major difference between wasps and hornets is size and colour. Wasps are about 1/3 inch to one inch long.  Hornets are 3/4 inch to 2 inches in length.  Wasps have black and yellow rings, while hornets have black and white/yellow rings.

Depending on the genera, hornets may live in either the ground or an aerial nest whereas wasps generally build aerial nests.

Aerial Wasps nest

There are various degrees of aggression exhibited by the many different species; Mud Daubers and Poliste wasps are rather docile whereas the Bald-Faced hornet (which is actually a wasp) will chase an “intruder” relatively long distances, stinging repeatedly.

Wasps and Hornets do not die after stinging because they do not lose their stinger. Hornets can sting multiple times.

Bees

Honeybees are rarely problematic for homeowners.

Bees are fuzzy, flying insects with yellow and black stripes. The fuzzy or “hairy” aspect of their bodies facilitates the pollination of many different plants and trees. There are two types of bees common in Ontario: the honeybee and the bumblebee. The bumblebee is approximately 1 inch to 1 ½ inches long, while a honeybee is about ½ inch long. The queen honeybee can be 1 to 1¼ inch long.

Bumblebees help to pollinate flowering plants and are typically ground dwellers.

Bumblebees help to pollinate flowering plants and are typically ground dwellers.

Honeybees  are rarely problematic for homeowners; they can sting if significantly provoked.  If agitated, both bumblebees and honeybees will sting.  The barbed stinger detaches and the bee dies.  Honeybees are very social insects due to their hierarchy of queens, reproductive males, and male and female worker bees.  They are particularly important in both the natural ecosystem and agricultural sectors as pollinators and of course honeybees are known for their production of honey.

Possible Prevention Ideas for Your Home

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot a homeowner can do to deter these pests; if Mother Nature decides your home looks inviting, she just lets herself in.

Wasps, hornets and bees are attracted to sweet liquids so hummingbird feeders and other feeders (such as the Baltimore Oriole feeder) should be placed away from areas where people frequently gather like decks, gazebos, pool areas, etc.

Here are a few other ideas: most people are not aware of this, but some plants can actually repel pests. Plants such as citronella, thyme and eucalyptus naturally deter insects like wasps and hornets. Growing these plants in your backyard will not only help to keep away the wasp and hornets, they add beauty to your garden.

Wasp traps can be purchased from local garden centres or hardware stores to address foraging wasps.  A sugar solution is used in the trap to attract them and the trap is constructed in a way that does not allow them to escape.  This method deters nest building but, unfortunately, does not eliminate an established wasp nest.  Another product that homeowners can implement around their home is “the fake wasp nest.” It is recommended people put them up in the Spring or early summer because they too will deter nest building but are ineffective if a nest has already been constructed.

Fake Wasp Nests will deter wasps from building new nests, but will not affect an established one.

If these stinging pests become problematic, call a licensed exterminator;  may we recommend

Enviro-Guard Plus?

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