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This bee behavior intrigues me. Any comment?

 
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First off, I did not take close notice of the bee. I will look closer next time I see it, and see if I can identify which kind of bee it is.
I was cleaning up some debris (sticks, a log, grass clippings, and the like) that had accumulated in a pile in my garden. (I was going to make a hugelculture, and changed my mind.) I threw it in a pail. And then I heard a loud noise from the pail! Startled me. When I realized it was a bee, I quickly dug out the stuff in the pail, and the bee flew free. Whew. I continued to clean up. Then I noticed that the bee was continuing to fly around that area.

First I thought I had disturbed a hive. I could not find a hive, and I had distributed all the grass and other compostables all throughout the garden.
Then I thought, maybe a solitary bee, had made a nest. I know some bees nest in rotting logs.
I returned the rotting logs to the area.

So, a week or ten days later, the bee is still buzzing in that area. Course I don't know if it is the same bee, but I assume it is, bec. there are no flowers there.
Is the bee hanging around, looking for its lost home?
I feel bad about that, but surely he/she could make a new home....

Any thoughts?
 
pollinator
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The bee's home may not be lost -- it's possible you disturbed a ground-nesting bee and it has a nest in the ground near the spot where you originally piled the debris. It may only be buzzing around on its usual business and not at all concerned with the clippings and logs you removed. Here is an informative article on ground-nesting bees that you might want to check out. See if any of these look familiar. Also, some people use the word "bee" rather loosely to include anything that flies and has a stinger, so you could also have seen a wasp. Quite a few predatory wasps make holes in the ground to lay their eggs, then fill them with spiders or caterpillars for their young to eat after hatching. In both cases, you will find a very round hole in the soil where the entrance is. The bees will have conical piles of dirt around them while most wasps will temporarily place a small pebble, leaf or a bit of loose dirt over their entrance to hide it until they have finished stocking the larder for their offspring. (After that, they fill in the hole for protection and the young dig their way out.) I wouldn't worry too much.
 
ellen rosner
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thank you very much!
I will check out the article you link to. I have been talking about this to people and learning a lot about bees and flying insects. Fascinating.
 
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Is it possible someone dropped some beeswax there? Honey bees will gather that up if they find it. Usually in groups.
 
ellen rosner
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Update:
So after one month, the bees was still coming over to the spot every time I came to the garden.

but,
yesterday when I got there there were TWO bees, (before had only been one- course I don't know if it was always the same one, but seems likely).
and they both kept buzzing around me,

and one stung me - altho no stinger in me, but a pinch on my arm and a red mark,
and they kept buzzing around me whenever I came near that spot.
seemed they want to drive me out!

I have never seen behavior like this, and altho I usually have LOTS of bees in my garden, I've never been stung, except once, when I grabbed something, not knowing I was grabbing the bee too.

I don't know what kind of bee it is, I try to see it but cannot see what kind.

any thoughts?
I am now a little concerned about going to my garden...
I know bees are in grave danger, but also - I don't want to get stung....

thanks
 
Deb Stephens
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ellen rosner wrote:Update:
So after one month, the bees was still coming over to the spot every time I came to the garden.

but,
yesterday when I got there there were TWO bees, (before had only been one- course I don't know if it was always the same one, but seems likely).
and they both kept buzzing around me,

and one stung me - altho no stinger in me, but a pinch on my arm and a red mark,
and they kept buzzing around me whenever I came near that spot.
seemed they want to drive me out!

I have never seen behavior like this, and altho I usually have LOTS of bees in my garden, I've never been stung, except once, when I grabbed something, not knowing I was grabbing the bee too.

I don't know what kind of bee it is, I try to see it but cannot see what kind.

any thoughts?
I am now a little concerned about going to my garden...
I know bees are in grave danger, but also - I don't want to get stung....

thanks



Ellen,
As I mentioned before, although people tend to use the terms interchangeably, there is a great deal of difference between bees and wasps. What you have sounds a lot more like wasps to me. Bees die when they sting, so they don't particularly want to use that option unless forced to it. It generally takes a lot to make a honeybee sting and even more to get a bumblebee or carpenter bee to sting. However, wasps can be fairly aggressive -- particularly when defending a nest -- because they do NOT die when they sting and can afford to do it as often as necessary to ward off an enemy (which is what they think you are when you approach their nest). If the insect you are having problems with is a ground-nesting wasp, it is probably a yellowjacket (Vespula spp. ). If it looks like this, that is my best guess for ID without more specific information.


If you do have yellowjackets, you should know that they can build rather large underground nests and are arguably the most aggressive of the common wasp species in this country. The females are not shy about stinging and can (and often do) sting repeatedly. That is the bad news. The good news is that they are great predators of garden pests, so they can actually be beneficial in the right place. And therein lies the key to your continued enjoyment of your garden. It is clear that they see you as an interloper when you get near their nest site. They think you are trying to damage their nest and endanger their offspring, so naturally, they defend themselves. They don't understand that you are not threatening them because your very presence so close to their nest is an implied threat to them. So ... what to do?

My advice is that you should simply avoid that part of the garden until the nesting season for yellowjackets is over -- usually in the autumn. While they are active, the early offspring that reach adulthood underground will emerge and act as guards over the nest until the others hatch and grow. Only the female queen survives the winter, while all the others die off when it gets cold. (Before they die is when they are great at helping control garden pests.) However, depending upon the species, you may have a perennial problem with that spot. One species, Vespula squamata, can build huge colonies underground (with several queens and thousands of larvae overwintering to carry on the family lineage in the following year!) If that happens, you may find that you are living on top of a wasp city -- eventually, with multiple entrances. If that's the case, you are going to have to take drastic measures.

I have elaborated a bit on one non-toxic possibility I have heard about (to avoid poisons around your garden -- and for humane reasons): Do this at night when the wasps are sleeping, if possible.

Place a large (gallon size is perfect) jar with a quarter-sized hole in the lid upside down and with the lid hole directly over the nest-opening in the ground. As the wasps emerge, they will be trapped in the jar as they won't understand how to get out. You can put a bit of food in the jar if you want to keep them fed until releasing them -- it also acts as bait to lure them out of the hole. Try some stinky meat or a bit of mashed fruit (or both). Wait until night to take the jar somewhere far away (like miles!) to release them. You will want to slide a piece of cardboard under the lid while it is still upside down over the nest -- to block the lid-hole -- just in case one should crawl out. Immediately poke a rag or something into the opening in the lid until you get where you're going. Then, when you get to the release site, attach a long string (like 50') to your piece of cardboard (which should be large enough to more than completely cover the opening in the jar, by the way); set the jar down right-side up and carefully unscrew the lid without actually lifting it off.  Slide the cardboard over the lid area and slide the lid off -- replacing it with the cardboard so the wasps are still trapped. Play out the string as far away as possible from the jar (and preferably get behind a tree or something so they can't see you). When you are safely distanced from the jar, simply pull on the string to pull off the cardboard "lid" so the wasps can fly out. Be patient because they may take awhile to get oriented. Once they have left the jar and gone their separate ways, you can retrieve the jar, etc. NOTE: If you are super far away from the jar when you release them, I suggest carrying a pair of binoculars to check on their progress.

I would repeat that process for several nights until you are sure no more wasps are in the nest. Good Luck!

 
ellen rosner
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Hmmm.. well I am much fonder of bees than I am of wasps.
I will try to get someone to get a better look at it, as my eyes are not that good - since I should identify it before knowing what to do.

It is concerning your post re a wasp city - oh no!
but you give me a strategy, so thanks....

I can actually stay away from that area without too much trouble, as it is the place where I keep my garden equipment, so can just move that, and let the bees or wasps be.

we definitely do have wasps in the garden as they nest in the tool shed.
I shall look and see if there are any holes in the ground too.

thanks.
 
ellen rosner
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Deb,
is there a time of day when they are more active or less active?
I had a reaction to the sting, so I am going to ask someone to look for the nesting hole.

thanks
 
Deb Stephens
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Ellen,
The sources I've looked at say that night is the best time to do anything around the nest area because they will either be asleep or calmer then. And they are most active during the months of August and September when most of the brood has reached adulthood and is out flying around looking for food. So ... the sooner you deal with them the better. However, my advice is that if they are truly in an out-of-the-way spot in the garden, you should just follow the rule of "live and let live" unless they become too problematic. After all, they are working with you to eliminate insect pests from your garden and we should respect our allies, right?

I did find some good resources for you though. Read these to learn more about them before you do anything, then, if necessary, each article offers tips and ideas for getting rid of them -- some more drastic and less environmentally responsible than others. (I would avoid those for sure.) Here goes ...

How to Humanely Deal with Yellow Jackets Nest

Social Stingers Why are hornets and yellow jackets so aggressive this time of year?

Yellow jacket traps and time of the day they are most active
 
ellen rosner
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Hi Deb,
thanks for these links.
I will check out.

unfortunately it is no longer live and let live. since I got stung, and had a more than usual reaction, and am told the next time expect even more of a reaction-- they have to go.

either that or i abandon my garden which is not going to happen.
 
ellen rosner
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some of the articles say that in winter they will die never to return.

others say in winter, all will die, except the queen, who will continue.

do you know which is correct?
 
Deb Stephens
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ellen rosner wrote:some of the articles say that in winter they will die never to return.

others say in winter, all will die, except the queen, who will continue.

do you know which is correct?



I think you may have it a bit confused ... unless she has been killed, the queen always overwinters so that she can lay eggs and start the new colony in the spring. If they all died each year "never to be seen again" they would become extinct. As for getting rid of them, they can still be safely relocated, so they don't have to die. Now is the best time to do that because there are not many hatched out yet. Later in the summer, it could turn into a very large hive. If you think you may be allergic or sensitive to the stings though, you should definitely get someone else to do it for you.

I'm curious about your reaction to the sting. What were your symptoms, etc.? (Just asking because I know there is a wide range of reactions -- including the very serious anaphylaxis.) I'm wondering why the doctor thinks your next sting is likely to be worse. I've not heard that before.

 
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Sounds like a hornet nest in the ground, if it's that bright yellow and black insect.  As the summer progresses their attitude will get worse and worse.  They will start protecting that opening in the ground even if you are 20-30 feet away, and can come after you.   The nests tend to be approx. 20-30 feet from a water source, even a dripping hose.   Where I live skunks and raccoons will dig up ground nests in the late summer, and that will be the end of that.  

I had a hive come after me, with 10 on each ankle, going up inside my pants, and another 50 or so chasing me.  I ran to the car and jumped in, still had to deal with the ones on me, while the rest swarmed the car.  When they sting they let out a pheromone that the others smell and can follow.  I smacked them down with the gloves I was wearing.

Hornet and wasp queens overwinter in cracks and crevices and piles of things.  I always check shed door frames, stacks of tile, stacks of plant pots, some squeeze into phone connection boxes and electrical boxes.  I've found them behind window trim, just anywhere they can squeeze into something and be protected.   Queens that are hibernating "wake up" very slowly and are not aggressive.  I removed one from some window trim I replaced and put it about 100 feet away from where I was.  In a half an hour it came right back to where I was.  Not aggressive, but it knew where it should be.

My rule of thumb for hornets and wasps, the most aggressive critters, is if I see one I can coexist. They tend to forage by themselves.   If I see two near each other hopefully they are interested in flowers or berries, and won't be too aggressive.  If I see three, it's best to stop and see what they are interested in.  Could be dead meat, could be a nest.   If I see four, back away and look for a nest.  In the case of hornets and wasps in the ground there will be two brightly colored guards right at the opening, and insects coming and going from the hole maybe every 15-30 seconds if it's a mature hive.   My lawn mower is really good at finding these holes!!  *L*

Honey bees and bumblebees are not as much of a worry if you are not allergic.  They'd rather be on their way, unless you are aggressive around their hives.
 
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One thing I just learned about the paper wasp nests, the ones that look like giant head-sized turbans on the eaves of a shed or house, Blue Jays, Scrub Jays, etc., tear these apart.   I thought I was going to lose a whole summer of needing to do work on the pond, when a giant nest showed up on a tree nearby.  I couldn't get to it, the opening was on the water side.  About a week later the Jays had it torn to shreds!  Don't know how they could do it in the daylight.  They don't fly at night, that I know of, unless it's emergency hornet elimination flying!  Great guys!!
 
ellen rosner
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About 7-8 hours after sting, I had a bad case of the chills. It was 90 degrees outside, 78 in my apartment, and I had the heat on, and in winter clothes, wrapped in a blanket. It lasted several hours before I fell asleep and woke up next day, feeling ok, except shaky from not eating since lunch the day before.
Weird.
I didn't go to a doctor. No need.
My comment about the next sting based on, among some other comments, my friend who's been a beekeeper for 20+ years. That is her understanding.
True or not, I don't intend to find out.


Deb Stephens wrote:
I'm curious about your reaction to the sting. What were your symptoms, etc.? (Just asking because I know there is a wide range of reactions -- including the very serious anaphylaxis.) I'm wondering why the doctor thinks your next sting is likely to be worse. I've not heard that before.

 
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Concerning the allergic reaction: The first time the body is exposed to the allergen, it has not yet produced any antibodies or other specific immune response. The second time, it is prepared. Which would be a good thing if the allergen would actually be a pathogen (like a virus or bacteria), but leads to a much quicker and stronger allergic reaction with allergens.
Concerning wasp nests: The wasps in my region tend to build a new nest every year. The queen survives the winter and starts a new nest in the spring. I have never seen wasps using their nest a second season. Of course, european wasps might be completely different to yours.
 
Deb Stephens
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ellen rosner wrote:About 7-8 hours after sting, I had a bad case of the chills. It was 90 degrees outside, 78 in my apartment, and I had the heat on, and in winter clothes, wrapped in a blanket. It lasted several hours before I fell asleep and woke up next day, feeling ok, except shaky from not eating since lunch the day before.
Weird.
I didn't go to a doctor. No need.
My comment about the next sting based on, among some other comments, my friend who's been a beekeeper for 20+ years. That is her understanding.
True or not, I don't intend to find out.



I've been researching allergic reactions lately (ever since I discovered last summer that I am severely allergic to duck eggs, and because I was curious about how the body deals with envenomation in particular since my husband has a bad habit of getting bitten by copperheads lately -- 3 so far!), so I wondered what a severe allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting would be like. After looking at multiple reputable sites -- including the Mayo Clinic, what you describe doesn't sound at all like a reaction to a bee or wasp sting.

Most reactions are localized around the sting area itself (things like burning, swelling, redness or itchiness) or extend to nearby areas (like swelling to the entire arm from a sting on the wrist, for example) or, in the case of a severe reaction, you would have immediate symptoms like those I already mentioned that involve the site of the sting plus possible dizziness, difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat and tongue, fever, loss of consciousness, rapid, weak pulse and so on. Nothing at all about chills -- especially not that far removed in time from the actual sting. My guess is that the two are not related. You may have had chills from some other minor illness that went away very quickly.

I'm not suggesting that you experiment by getting stung again to see what happens but you may feel better knowing that you probably aren't allergic to bee/wasps.

Here is the Mayo Clinic article I mentioned. Bee Stings


 
Deb Stephens
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Philipp Mueller wrote:The wasps in my region tend to build a new nest every year. The queen survives the winter and starts a new nest in the spring. I have never seen wasps using their nest a second season. Of course, european wasps might be completely different to yours.



Wasps exhibit a wide range of behaviors depending upon the species. Those commonly called yellow jackets, for example, are made up of two genera having multiple species within each genus. Even in that small select group, they can be either ground-nesters or paper-nest builders. You are right in saying that most species that make paper nests rebuild in a different location every year, but that is not usually the case with ground-nesting wasps, whether European or American.
 
Deb Stephens
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Cristo Balete wrote:One thing I just learned about the paper wasp nests, the ones that look like giant head-sized turbans on the eaves of a shed or house, Blue Jays, Scrub Jays, etc., tear these apart.   I thought I was going to lose a whole summer of needing to do work on the pond, when a giant nest showed up on a tree nearby.  I couldn't get to it, the opening was on the water side.  About a week later the Jays had it torn to shreds!  Don't know how they could do it in the daylight.  They don't fly at night, that I know of, unless it's emergency hornet elimination flying!  Great guys!!



That is interesting. Recently, I learned that the unassuming little Phobe is a bee-eater. We have a pair that nest under the eaves of our house every year. I figure that may explain why we seem to have fewer bees in our garden these days!  
 
Mike Barkley
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I agree it sounds more like wasps than bees.

Somewhat off topic but relevant ... a speech I watched on video the other day ... given by Michael Palmer. Arguably the best beekeeper in this hemisphere. He was telling the story of when his young daughter got stung & had an extreme reaction. Rushed to hospital & ultimately lives (Yay) The doc told him that roughly 1% of the general population has extreme reactions to bee stings. BUT roughly 10% of beekeepers & their families do. Due to more contact with bee proteins, etc but nothing to work with to build immunity. The recommendation was to get stung about once a month to build up immunity. When I first started beekeeping 5 or 6 years ago it didn't take long before one got me. Hadn't been stung in 20-40 years so it swelled up good & itched like crazy for days. Since then I get a sting or two every now & then. But it's much less of a reaction now. If a couple get me at once I take benadryl just to minimize any effects. Bee, wasp, & hornet use essentially the same poison. Some are just more aggressive &/or have more poison is the main difference from a pain perspective.


 
ellen rosner
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Update on my wasp situation.

The last 3 days I haven't seen the wasps.
The thing about going on the internet for info is that sometimes one gets the worst case scenario: a wasp city of 100,000 wasps, 100 wasps chasing me for 2 miles...
ACK.
Not saying this is not factual info, but in my case, (fingers crossed) does not seem to be the case.
I guess there were just a couple of wasps that got upset with me, or whatever.

I borrowed a bee suit from a beekeeper friend, was going to look for the nest,.. as it turned out on the hottest day in the history of the world!
by 5 pm it was heat index of 105, and I thot I would die in the suit.
so come this week-end, when we have a "cold front" - highs in the high 80's - I will borrow the bees suit and look around.
But today I was at the space where I thot the nest would be, poked around, covered with plastic, and wood chips-
and didn't see any wasps.
So I think there is no nest there.  whew.

Want to thank everyone who shared their knowledge! I learned a lot.
 
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