A "Stink Bug-pocalypse?"
All signs and news stories like this one are pointing to a stink bug plague of "biblical proportions" this year. Is this overly dramatic? Perhaps. But when your home -- your sanctuary -- is threatened by these smelly pests, it doesn't take that many to make you pull your hair out.
Some readers have said they are killing 40-50 a day in their homes. This gentleman claims to have killed over 12,000 of them in his Maryland farmhouse.
What about you? We want to hear more about your stink bug situation where you live. Please share with us below... or better yet, on our Facebook page, where we occasionally post contests and give away prizes!
Is Pittsburgh the epicenter of the stink bug invasion?
What's happening in Pittsburgh to make stink bugs such a hot topic? Looks like a warming trend where daytime temps reached the 60s this past week is playing a role in stirring up these stinky specimens. The adult bugs are getting restless inside the houses where they found shelter when the weather turned colder last fall.
Thanks to this Post-Gazette blog post, this Post-Gazette article, this WPXI-TV news story, and this one on KDKA-TV, we're getting an extraordinary response from western Pennsylvania for our Stink Bug Trap. Retailers in the area are on it, too, letting us know they're hot to get the product on their shelves!
We know that inside the house, stink bugs respond to light and seek moisture. When they are disturbed or threatened, they emit a chemical defensive secretion. In lay terms, they stink!
Whether it's flushing them down the toilet, vacuuming them (which causes that chemical defense) or dunking them in a water/dish soap mixture, people are getting by with home remedies for now because there is no effective extermination method.
The good news is that these overwintering adults will start to leave the house when spring's warmer temperatures hit.
We wish it were sooner, folks, but help is on the way... Hang on for the RESCUE! Stink Bug Trap, coming July 2011!
More about the RESCUE! Stink Bug Trap
A comment on our last blog post brought up some good points and questions about the product that we want to answer here.
Q: Will the Stink Bug Trap attract more stink bugs onto your property that wouldn't ordinarily be there?
A: No. The RESCUE! Stink Bug Trap will catch stink bugs within a 20-foot radius. It will attract the bugs that are already in your yard and prevent them from damaging your garden or getting in your house. All of our RESCUE! traps work this way, in fact -- it's a misconception to believe that they lure insects from all over the neighborhood.
Q: Will the trap work indoors?
A: No, the trap is intended for use outdoors to prevent the stink bugs from doing damage in your garden or getting inside your house. Once stink bugs are inside your house, they do not respond to the pheromone lures. If our testing leads us to a solution for catching stink bugs indoors, we will most certainly share that.
Q: Some stink bugs are beneficial. Will the trap catch them along with the pests?
A: We recognize that some stink bugs, like the Spined Soldier Bug, are beneficial. The RESCUE! Stink Bug Trap will catch the stink bugs that are pests and leave the beneficial insects alone.
Keep your questions coming!
To the manner born? How a wasp becomes a queen.
How does an ordinary paper wasp become a queen? Does she have royal bloodlines? Is she born with a silver spoon in her mandibles? To answer these burning questions, a group of scientists recently conducted a study of young paper wasp larvae. These scientists learned that social status in the wasp 'queendom' is decided before they become adults.
The secret to which of the little larvae were destined to ascend to the throne, and which would toil as workers? Protein. According to lead researcher James Hunt, the larvae that become queens have high levels of a group of proteins that enable them to survive the winter and reproduce next year, whereas the ones that become workers have low levels of these proteins.
So, the protein-pumped paper wasps become young queens that don't work and eventually leave the nest to reproduce and rule colonies of their own. Those with lower levels of protein forego reproduction and spend the season defending the nest (i.e. stinging) and raising their siblings... not quite as glamorous a calling.
It's a bug-eat-bug world in our new interactive game
We've been quiet lately, but it's not for lack of something exciting to share with you.
We have a new product... and it's a departure from our insect traps and attractants. It's a way you can play with bugs and get your hands dirty -- virtually speaking -- no matter what season it is or what the weather is like outside.
At RESCUE!, we know that not all bugs are "icky", or pestiferous, or dangerous. Some insects can actually be our allies. This is one of the inherent messages of BugfarmTM, our new interactive DVD-ROM game for ages 7+. It's designed to be a true-to-life simulation of both real vegetable gardening and the use of beneficial insects.
BugfarmTM teaches children about science and nature in a format that sustains their attention. The game is a great introduction to entomology, and our hope is that it could also spark interest in growing a real vegetable garden.
In the game, players are able to:
- Choose vegetable crops to plant in their virtual garden
- Raise their own army of beneficial Spined Soldier Bugs in a virtual bug farm
- Deploy Soldier Bugs to protect their garden
- Play the role of a Soldier Bug in a 3D garden environment and hunt down pests
- Maintain their plants with nutrients, water and fertilizer to help them grow
- Learn about the effects of both pest damage and pesticide use on plants
- Earn blue ribbons for their prizewinning vegetables
Experiments and informative videos are included on the DVD to round out the educational experience.
BugfarmTM features groundbreaking graphics and animation. You can see each vein on a tomato plant leaf, each stripe on a cabbage looper, and each eye on a potato. The bugs can walk on the underside of a leaf, just like they do in real life. You can watch a demo here on our website.
BugfarmTM is available online from us for only $24.95, and provides many opportunities for different levels of games and different players. In fact, a single copy of BugfarmTM allows an entire classroom of students to each play their own game and compete against each other.
You can go to www.bugfarm.com to learn more about this new educational game. Hmmm... Christmas is coming... perhaps a child you know would like to receive this as a gift? (Hint! Hint!)
Video of the Week: The Hornet Hunter
The subject of this week's featured video is our kind of guy: entomologist Dr. Masato Ono of Tamagawa University in Japan.
As a child, he was attacked by a nest of Japanese Giant Hornets... the species with the 3-inch wingspan and the 1/4-inch stinger. Rather than being frightened, he developed a desire to study hornets, wasps and bees (and eat them as well, as you'll see later in the video). He's now on a mission to find the key to diffusing the giant hornet's painful sting.
W*H*Y Wednesday: We catch another wasp!
Just when we thought we knew the 20 species caught in the W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets, we learned this week that we catch another species of Paper Wasp -- bringing the total wasp species to 7 and the entire species count to 21!
Thanks to some data gained in testing in the southern U.S., we've determined that our trap catches Polistes exclamans, also known as the Common Paper Wasp.
This species is 5/8 inches long and displays extensive red coloration on the head, thorax and abdomen. The abdomen has bands of red, black and yellow and one large red and black band toward the top. Queens and female workers have a predominantly red thorax, while males are mostly black. Antenna will be red with a prominent black midsection.
Common Paper Wasps hunt caterpillars to feed nest larvae and feed on sugars and flower nectar. Workers will rest on the nest at night and during periods of cooler weather.
Common Paper Wasps are not typically aggressive, but will sting if provoked or if they feel their nest is threatened. Males also exhibit territorial behavior, which is unusual for Paper Wasp species.
The Common Paper Wasp is found in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida; as far north as New Jersey, Indiana and Illinois; and west to Nebraska and Colorado. It is considered an introduced (non-native) species in southern California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Hawaii.
Common Paper Wasp nests resemble the upside-down umbrella shape and open-honeycomb design of other paper wasp species, and are usually found in sheltered locations near human activity-- most commonly in roof eaves and trees.
Good news if you have this species in your back yard: The W*H*Y Trap from RESCUE! will catch the Common Paper Wasp!
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Western Yellowjacket
Today's post closes out the W*H*Y Wednesday series we started in Fall 2008 that focused on each of the 20 species caught in the W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets.
Last, but certainly not least, is Vespula pensylvanica, the Western Yellowjacket.
Western Yellowjackets are most easily identified by the yellow ring surrounding the upper portion of the eye, commonly called an “eye loop”. Their abdominal markings closely resemble that of the German Yellowjacket, marked with a black diamond on the uppermost segment. Roughly a half inch in length, like other yellowjacket species, they will have stout bodies, black antennae and yellow legs.
The Western Yellowjacket is found not only in the Western U.S., but also the Upper Midwest, as illustrated in the map below:
Western Yellowjackets will scavenge for protein and sugar, becoming "picnic pests". This species is known to create severe problems for loggers, fruit growers and those engaged in outdoor activities.
The majority of Western Yellowjacket nests are found in abandoned rodent burrows, but they've also been found in attics and building walls. Colonies range from 1000 to 5000 workers at peak size. In warmer climates, entire colonies can overwinter -- not just the queen.
Western Yellowjackets may be a hazard if agitated while scavenging. They are also a stinging hazard if the nest is disturbed. Western Yellowjackets can be very annoying to humans, since they are likely to be found near human activity.
Here's a video we shot of a Western Yellowjacket nest, located under the front steps of a house:
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Transition Yellowjacket
Today's featured species is Vespula flavopilosa, the Transition Yellowjacket.
If insects could experience human emotions, V. flavopilosa would probably have an identity crisis. This species (sometimes called a Hybrid Yellowjacket) is so named because it's thought to be a cross between the Eastern and German Yellowjacket, and possibly related to the Common and Western Yellowjacket. Like these other species, Transition Yellowjackets have yellow and black coloration and a stout body, and are roughly 1/2 inch in length.
V. flavopilosa is also occasionally called the "Downy Yellowjacket" or "Yellow-haired Yellowjacket" because of the fine yellow hairs all over its body -- as shown in the top photo on this site.
This species is found in the Northeastern U.S., as illustrated on the map below:
Transition Yellowjackets will scavenge for protein, are attracted to meats and sugary foods, and may be pests around trash cans and picnics. They are less likely to be near human dwellings than other species such as the German Yellowjacket and Eastern Yellowjacket. This species is a stinging hazard if agitated while scavenging or if the nest is disturbed.
Their nests are subterranean, carton-shaped and tan-colored with 500-1,000 workers. Common nest sites are in yards, along roadsides and sometimes within structures.
Good news if you have this species in your back yard: The W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch Transition Yellowjackets!
W*H*Y Wednesday: the Southern Yellowjacket
Today's featured species is Vespula squamosa, known as the Southern Yellowjacket.
This yellowjacket has been a thorn (sting?) in the side of people who live in warmer climates, because its colonies can survive the winter and grow to become massive. Monster yellowjacket nests like this one in Florida and this one in Georgia (100,000 yellowjackets in the cab of a truck) are most likely built by V. squamosa.
The Southern Yellowjacket can be distinguished from other yellowjackets in the southern U.S. by two long, yellow stripes on the thorax. Its stout body is about 5/8 inches long, which is larger than average for most yellowjackets. The Southern Yellowjacket queen is distinguished by an orange abdomen with very few black bands.
Southern Yellowjackets will scavenge for protein and are attracted to meats and sugary foods, and may be pests around trash cans and picnics. In warm climates, some Southern Yellowjacket colonies can overwinter, lasting longer than a year. This species is considered a social parasite to other yellowjackets, usually taking over Eastern Yellowjacket nests.
Southern Yellowjackets inhabit the southern and eastern U.S., as far north as PA and MI, and as far west as TX. Their "footprint" is shown in the highlighted portion of the map below:
Southern Yellowjacket nests are likely to be found in urban and suburban areas, such as yards, parks and roadsides. Most nests are subterranean, but Southern Yellowjacket nests have been reported in aerial locations and house wall voids. Peak population usually ranges between 500 and 4000 workers. Entire colonies -- not just the queen -- can overwinter in warmer climates.
Colonies are typically large, so disturbing a nest can result in swarming. Since nests are usually found in urban and recreational areas, there is a greater risk of stings and surprise encounters.
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Prairie Yellowjacket
This species has been observed with two different marking patterns on the abdomen, one of which closely resembles the Forest Yellowjacket. However, the abdominal markings most commonly seen have mostly yellow coloration, thin black bands with center points and black dots.
The Prairie Yellowjacket is found in the highlighted areas in the map below:
Prairie Yellowjackets are predators of only live prey such as spiders, flies, caterpillars and hemipterans. They are not known to hunt other wasp, hornet or yellowjacket species.
This species is abundant in prairie and open forest areas, but are also known to nest in lawns, pastures and golf courses. Most nests are subterranean, but some have been found in wall cavities. Their nests are typically smaller colonies with less than 500 workers.
Prairie Yellowjackets are not a serious stinging hazard unless the nest is disturbed. Because they frequently nest in lawns, this species and its nests are more likely to be found near human activity.
Here is more information about the Prairie Yellowjacket.
Good news if you have this species in your area: The new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch Prairie Yellowjackets!
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Northeastern Yellowjacket
This week's featured species is the Northeastern Yellowjacket (Vespula vidua), found in the highlighted portion of the map below. It's a safe bet that most members of this species are quiet right now, with the frigid temps in that part of the U.S. But as with other yellowjackets, the queens will emerge in early spring to look for new nest sites.
Like some Forest Yellowjackets, the Northeastern Yellowjacket is most easily recognized by the thick black band across the upper portion of its abdomen. However, the Northeastern Yellowjacket will never have the two extra spots through the black band, which are present on many Forest Yellowjackets. This species is often called a ground hornet, most likely due to its larger than average size, roughly 5/8 inches long.
Northeastern Yellowjackets commonly make subterranean nests in high traffic areas such as yards and pastures, as well as some forested areas. However, their nests can also be found in logs and manmade structures. Colonies last one year and rarely grow beyond 500 adult workers. Adults feed on sugary foods and forage for live insects to feed larvae.
Northeastern Yellowjackets are not a serious stinging hazard unless the nest is disturbed. However, due to nesting habits in areas of human traffic, the chances of human interaction are increased.
Good news if you have this species in your back yard: The W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch Northeastern Yellowjackets!
W*H*Y Wednesday: The German Yellowjacket
Today's featured species is Vespula germanica: The German Yellowjacket.
Like most yellowjackets, the German Yellowjacket is roughly a half-inch long with yellow and black coloration. It possesses an arrow shape at the top of the abdomen, much like the Eastern or Transition Yellowjacket, but this marking on the German Yellowjacket is usually narrower than that of other species.
Introduced to the U.S. from Europe, the German Yellowjacket is found primarily in the Northeast. This species is rapidly expanding and now found in limited areas in the Western states of Washington and California. The highlighted areas in the map below show the German Yellowjacket's footprint.
German Yellowjackets are “picnic pests”, frequently scavenging for meats and sugary foods and hovering around trash cans and barbecues. They are a hazard if agitated while scavenging.
Their nests are primarily found in wall voids and structures, but may be subterranean as well. The photos below show a subterranean nest which our scientists excavated several years ago.
Insects as weapons of terror?
Have you ever felt like insects were terrorizing you?
The fear that insects invoke, not to mention the disease they can transmit, has led some to consider their use as weapons -- including Jeffrey Lockwood, professor of entomology at Wyoming University and author of Six-Legged Soldiers: Using Insects as Weapons of War.
"Six-Legged Soldiers describes many potential or actual uses of insects as offensive weapons during the past 100,000 years, with an emphasis on the past 300 years. Entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood describes how stinging and highly toxic insects and other arthropods have been used to cause pain and suffering to foes — from the use of bees and hornets by early humans to attack enemies, to the assassin bugs used by an Uzbek emir for torture in the early 1800s."
Lockwood's book discusses the possibility of an insect-borne plague unleashed offensively, but insects have long been a threat to the military by their naturally-occurring presence where the wars are fought.
The U.S. Army has a Medical Entomology division, which got its start when Maj. Walter Reed discovered that mosquitoes transmitted yellow fever -- which, along with other diseases degraded the military's ability to fight. In World War II, the Army recognized the importance of controlling vector-borne diseases and began commissioning entomologists. (For more on the history of entomology and the U.S. military, visit this link.)
And speaking of the military, our company actually has a role in the pest management efforts of the U.S. military, with our current research into a personal mosquito repellent device under a Department of Defense grant.
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Forest Yellowjacket
Today's featured species, as we close out 2008, is the Forest Yellowjacket, Vespula acadica.
This species is known to have three different marking patterns. Many will resemble the Northeastern Yellowjacket with a solid black band across the upper portion of the abdomen; though the majority will have two yellow or brown spots on this black band. Most rarely observed are the specimens without the black band and more yellow coloration on the abdomen. Their stout bodies measure roughly a half-inch in length like most other yellowjacket species.
The Forest Yellowjackets' habitat is, naturally, in heavily forested areas. The highlighted portion of the map below shows where they are found in the U.S.:
Forest Yellowjacket colonies last for one year. They are predators of live prey only, such as flies, caterpillars, hemipterans and aphids.
Forest Yellowjackets typically build aerial nests, but subterranean nests in logs are not uncommon. This species usually has smaller colonies, with fewer than 500 workers.
Nature toward humans: Because this species is primarily found in more heavily forested areas, the Forest Yellowjacket has limited contact with humans. If the nest is disturbed, Forest Yellowjackets will sting aggressively and persistently.
Good news if you have this species in your back yard: the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets from RESCUE! will catch Forest Yellowjackets! And even more good news: We shipped our first truckload of W*H*Y Traps yesterday, and more are on the way in coming weeks. Thanks for following us, and Happy New Year, readers!
Good news if you have this species in your back yard: the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets from RESCUE! will catch Forest Yellowjackets!
And even more good news: We shipped our first truckload of W*H*Y Traps yesterday, and more are on the way in coming weeks.
Thanks for following us, and Happy New Year, readers!
W*H*Y Wednesday: the Eastern Yellowjacket
Today's featured species is Vespula maculifrons, or the Eastern Yellowjacket. This species can be distinguished from other yellowjackets by the wide arrow shape at the top of its abdomen. Eastern Yellowjackets carry all the typical yellowjacket physical characteristics, such as a half-inch long stout body, yellow and black coloration, yellow legs and black antennae.
The Eastern Yellowjacket is found in a large section of the U.S. east of the Rockies, as shown in the highlighted portion of the map below:
Eastern Yellowjacket colonies are often found in yards, golf courses, recreational areas and manmade structures. They will scavenge for human food, and therefore are considered "picnic pests".
Eastern Yellowjackets typically build subterranean nests in yards, along roadsides, hardwood forests and creek banks, and in urban areas such as attics and manmade structures. Nests range from 4-12 inches in diameter and are tannish-brown in color, with larger colonies consisting of 3000-5000 workers. Entire colonies -- not just the queen -- can overwinter in warmer climates.
Again, Eastern Yellowjackets are "picnic pests" and can be dangerous if agitated while they are scavenging. They are also a stinging hazard if the nest is disturbed. Since this species is more likely to be found around human activity, Eastern Yellowjackets present more of a stinging hazard than other species.
Good news if you have this species in your backyard: The new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch Eastern Yellowjackets!
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Common Yellowjacket
Today's featured species is Vespula Vulgaris -- the Common Yellowjacket.
As its name suggests, the Common Yellowjacket possesses all the most common features of yellowjackets: stout body, roughly 1/2 inch in length, yellow and black coloration, yellow legs and black antennae.
As for their habits, Common Yellowjackets will scavenge for protein and are attracted to meats and sugary foods. They are often pests around trash cans and picnics. Colonies will last for one year.
The highlighted portion of the map below shows where Common Yellowjackets are found in the U.S.:
Common Yellowjacket nests are typically constructed in logs, rotting stumps, and in the soil. They are alos commonly found in between the walls of structures. Nests are very brittle and are red to tannish-brown in color.
Nature toward humans: Common Yellowjackets are "picnic pests" and quite annoying to humans. They are also a stinging hazard if agitated while they are scavenging, or if the nest is disturbed.
Good news if you have this species in your backyard: The new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets from RESCUE! will catch the Common Yellowjacket!
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Blackjacket
When is a yellowjacket not a yellow jacket? When it's a Blackjacket! Today's featured species, Vespula consobrina, falls under the "yellowjacket" category but is commonly known as a Blackjacket.
Unique to most species of yellowjackets, Blackjackets have a black and white coloration. The queens are often confused with Bald-faced Hornets due to their larger size and similar coloration. The difference is that Blackjackets have a white band across the upper abdomen. Workers of this species can also be distinguished from the Bald-faced Hornet by their smaller size. As with other yellowjacket species, its stout body measures roughly one-half inch in length.
Blackjackets are primarily located in more heavily forested areas. Adults are attracted to sugary secretions and collect protein for the larvae. Blackjackets are predators of live prey like spiders and phalangids ("Daddy Longlegs"). Colonies last for one year.
The highlighted portion of the map below shows where Blackjackets are found in the U.S.
Blackjacket nests are typically in subterranean rodent burrows, but they also may be found in logs or rock cavities and buildings. Their colony size is small -- usually less than 100 workers.
Aggressiveness is often dependent on colony size, with larger colonies being more easily agitated. Blackjackets are not usually in contact with humans, so there is less possibility of stinging incidents... although they have reportedly been a problem for loggers.
W*H*Y Wednesday: Aerial Yellowjackets
Like most yellowjacket species, Aerial Yellowjackets have the typical stout bodies with yellow and black coloration. They have been observed by our RESCUE!® field scientists as having even more plump abdomens than what is common to yellowjackets. This species measures about a half inch long.
Aerial Yellowjackets are found in the West, Upper Midwest and Northeast United States, as illustrated in the highlighted portion of the map below:
Aerial Yellowjackets are not typically "picnic pests", but they may be attracted to sugary foods such as fruit and soft drinks. They also have been known to follow humans around, though not with the intent to sting. This species will forage for only live prey such as grasshoppers, leafhoppers, tree crickets, flies and spiders.
Aerial Yellowjacket nests are usually constructed above ground. They are commonly found on structures such as houses, sheds and garages, and also in the tops of trees. Their nests look similar to the nests of Bald-faced Hornets.
We have two photos of Aerial Yellowjacket nests which we personally encountered about six years ago. The first one was built inside the wall void of a pool house and spilled out as it grew late in the season:
And this one was under the eave of a two-story residence:
Stings are most common when Aerial Yellowjackets build nests on human structures (as above), or when hidden nests are accidentally disturbed.
Good news for those who have this species in their backyard: the new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch Aerial Yellowjackets!
W*H*Y Wednesday: European Hornet
Today's featured species is Vespa crabro, known commonly as the European Hornet -- or sometimes as a Giant Hornet.
European Hornets are easily recognized by their large size and black, yellow and rusty red coloration. About an inch long with a plump body shape, the European Hornet can appear rather intimidating. Their heads are yellow and red and thorax is black with red markings. The abdomen starts out red and continues with bands of yellow and black.
The European Hornet is found in the U.S. mainly East of the Mississippi and also in Minnesota, as illustrated in the highlighted portion of the map below.
Although typically active during the daytime, European Hornet workers may fly at night in humid, windless conditions and are attracted to external lighting and windowpanes. European Hornets have an exceptionally long seasonal cycle, reproducing from late August through November. Workers prey on a variety of insects -- including grasshoppers, flies, honeybees and yellowjackets -- to feed their larvae. Hornets can also "girdle" a variety of trees for sap, including ash, lilac, horse chestnut, dogwood, dahlia, rhododendron, boxwood and birch. This often results in the death of the tree.
European Hornet nests are typically built in hollow trees, but can also be found in barns, sheds, attics and wall voids in buildings. Frequently, the nests are built in the openings of protected cavities. Nests built in wall voids can emit a stench. Mature nests usually have 300-500 workers, but they sometimes can number up to 1,000. Colonies last for one year and only the queen survives the winter.
Nature toward humans: European Hornets are not typically aggressive unless handled, or the colony is threatened. Though the European Hornet prefers forested areas to urban settings, many suburban homes in the U.S. are located near these wooded habitats, which increases the likelihood of human contact.
Good news for those who have this species in their backyard: The new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch European Hornets!
And if you have encountered European Hornets, we want to hear from you -- either with a comment here on our blog, or by sharing your story on our web site.
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Bald-faced Hornet
Today's featured insect is the big, bad, bold Bald-faced Hornet.
First off, we will note that the Bald-faced Hornet is not a true hornet, but rather is closely related to the genus Vespula (yellowjackets).
Bald-faced Hornets are named for their white face coloration. On the rest of their bodies, they are mostly black with white markings on the thorax and lower half of the abdomen. Compared to yellowjackets, they are quite large and plump, at 3/4 inch long.
For some amazing close-up photos showing the coloration more clearly, follow this link.
Bald-faced Hornets are common to both wooded and urban areas. They typically only forage for live prey but occasionally will scavenge for sugars. This species primarily preys on flies and other yellowjackets for protein... which is why we sometimes see them hanging around our RESCUE! Fly Trap or Disposable Yellowjacket Trap.
Bald-faced Hornets are found in many places throughout the U.S., as illustrated in the highlighted portion of this map:
Bald-faced Hornets build nests that are at least the size of a basketball, and sometimes larger. The nests are grayish and round or pear-shaped, typically in higher aerial locations such as in trees or on buildings. Bald-faced Hornet nests are much stronger, flexible, and resistant to water damage than the nests of other species. The thick paper of the nest conceals two to six horizontally arranged combs. Peak nest populations are 400 or more workers.
Use caution when you see one of these. Bald-faced Hornets can be extremely aggressive when the nest is disturbed, and it is reported that they will go for the facial area when they attack humans.
Here's a video we shot two years ago of a Bald-faced Hornet nest hidden in some shrubbery next to a garbage container:
Good news if you have Bald-faced Hornets in your backyard: The W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch them!
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Red Wasp, Part 2
Yes, we missed our post yesterday and it's actually Thursday, but we like alliteration here at the BugBlog.
Like the P. carolina Red Wasp, P. Perplexus is known for its overall ferruginous (rusty red) coloration, but with more black markings on the thorax. At nearly 1 inch in length, it's large in comparison to other Paper Wasps.
As for where P. perplexus is found, I can't resist linking it to the recent election. This Red Wasp is found in many of the Southeastern "Red" states that John McCain won... plus the surrounding "Blue" states of Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Illinois... okay, so it's not a perfect analogy. Here's the map with the highlighted Red Wasp states:
Habits: Red Wasp adult workers will feed on sugary nectar and collect live prey to feed nest larvae. Caterpillars appear to be a preferred food source. Red wasps have also been known to attack cicadas.
Red Wasp nests: Red Wasps create nests from chewed-up wood and live plant fibers. Their nests are large compared to other Paper Wasps, resembling an upside-down umbrella with exposed octagonal cells. P. perplexus is more likely to nest in sheltered natural settings such as hollow trees and wooden structures. These Red Wasps are also known to build nests inside warehouses.
Nature toward humans: Like many Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps are typically docile, but will become aggressive when provoked or when the nest is disturbed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Red Wasp stings feel more painful than stings from other Paper Wasp species.
W*H*Y Wednesday: The Red Wasp, Part 1
Red Wasps are named for their overall rusty red coloration. They are rather large, at around 1 inch in length.
P. carolina Red Wasps are found primarily in the Southeastern part of the United States, as highlighted on this map illustration:
Habits: Red Wasp adult workers feed on sugary nectar and collect live prey to feed nest larvae. Caterpillars appear to be a preferred food source. Red Wasps have also been known to attack cicadas.
Red Wasp Nests: Red Wasp species are known to have some of the largest nests among Paper Wasps. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Like other Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps create nests resembling an upside-down umbrella and exposed octagonal cells.
The P. carolina Red Wasp usually chooses exposed habitats for nesting, especially under roof eaves and in old tires.
Nature toward humans: Like many Paper Wasp species, Red Wasps are typically docile, but will become aggressive when provoked or when the nest is disturbed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that Red Wasp stings feel more painful than stings from other Paper Wasp species.
Good news, men!
In case you were wondering... Swiss scientists have found that wasp stings do not cause male infertility.
W*H*Y Wednesday: Yet another Paper Wasp
This Wednesday's featured insect is yet another Paper Wasp species: Polistes metricus.
This wasp's appearance is a deep reddish-brown with black lines on the thorax, a darker brownish-black on the abdomen, and golden legs. Females have a reddish-brown face, while males have a golden yellow face.
Paper Wasp Habits: P. metricus workers can be seen foraging for protein -- most often caterpillars -- to feed nest larvae. In addition to protein, Paper Wasps will seek nectar and other sweet liquids for their own sustenance.
Habitat: P. metricus Paper Wasps are found in the highlighted area of the map below:
Paper Wasp Nests: Known to nest in both exposed and sheltered settings, P. metricus Paper Wasp nests are usually found under roof eaves and inside shrubs and trees. Like most species of Paper Wasps, P. metricus creates a nest in the shape of an upside-down umbrella with exposed octagonal brood cells.
Nature toward humans: Unless disturbed or agitated, P. metricus Paper Wasps will not exhibit aggressive behavior toward humans. However, caution should be used around nest sites.
On a personal note, I think this is the type of wasp that flew in my ear when I was 7 -- a terrifying episode in my young life. I remember that its coloration was dark brown, and I lived in a location (Pennsylvania) where these wasps were found. The wasp never did sting me... it just hung out in my ear canal long enough that we had to go to the hospital, where they simply flushed it out with water.
W*H*Y Wednesday: Golden or Northern Paper Wasp
This week's focus is on the Paper Wasp, Polistes fuscatus. This species is sometimes referred to as a Golden Paper Wasp or a Northern Paper Wasp.
P. fuscatus wasps are a dark reddish-brown color, with yellow bands across the body. They are distinguished from yellowjackets not only by their coloration but also by their pointed heads. Males of this species have curved antennae and more yellow on the front of the head.
Paper Wasp habits: P. fuscatus wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adults feed on sugar and nectar-like food. They also prey on caterpillars, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, using these protein sources to feed the larvae in the nest.
P. fuscatus is one of the most common wasps in North America. Even though this wasp is sometimes called the Northern Paper Wasp, it is found throughout the Eastern half of the United States and also in Montana, as illustrated by the highlighted portion of this map:
Paper Wasp nests: The native Paper Wasp tends to nest in woodlands and savannas, and can be found around manmade structures where exposed wood is available to be used for nest materials. Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. Nests are a single paper-like comb of open hexagonal cells. The nests are oriented downwards and can contain up to 200 cells, with 20-30 adult wasps. They are relatively small in size and typically found in sheltered areas above or near ground level, such as eaves and roofs or even under rocks.
Nature toward humans: Paper Wasps are not terribly aggressive, but due to the proximity of the wasps to humans and their habitations in houses and other buildings, they can be dangerous. The females of these wasps have a venomous sting. Humans and domestic animals are at risk of aggravating Paper Wasps and suffering from stings.
This link on the University of Michigan site has more information on the P. fuscatus Paper Wasp.
Good news for those who have the P. fuscatus Paper Wasp in their backyard: The W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will capture these wasps!
Fall is the time for flies
This time of year, the common house fly has an additional place to breed beyond the usual manure, compost piles, dumpsters, etc.... and that is turned-over tomato fields and vegetable gardens.
This article from TheHorse.com explains more.
Most notable quote:
"Calculated over an entire summer season, a pair of house flies could produce 191 quintillion flies, enough to cover the earth 47 feet deep, if all their progeny were to survive."
Wow. Good thing we have the RESCUE! Fly Trap to catch that progeny.
W*H*Y Wednesday: Golden Paper Wasp
As its common name suggests, the Golden Paper Wasp (Polistes aurifer) is distinguished by its golden yellow color, primarily on the head, abdomen, antennae, legs and wings. It commonly will have black markings on the head and abdomen and often rust-colored markings as well. As with other paper wasp species, the long back legs dangle down when a Golden Paper Wasp is flying.
Two links we found from different photographers in Arizona show different coloration for this wasp. The first shows an all-over golden yellow color (which could be a queen), and the second shows significant rust-colored markings for this species.
The highlighted portion of this graphic shows that this Golden Paper Wasp is found mainly in the Western half of the U.S. and Hawaii:
Habits: Golden Paper Wasps are active during the day and rest on the nest at night. Adult Golden Paper Wasps feed on sugar and nectar-like food. Larvae eat protein that is gathered and chewed by adult wasps that prey mostly on caterpillars. Colonies last one year, with new queens overwintering to make new nests the following spring.
Golden Paper Wasp nests: Queens begin forming nests from wood and live plant fibers in the spring. As with most species of paper wasp, the nests are a single paper-like comb of open hexagonal cells. Nests are oriented downwards and can contain up to 200 cells, with 20-30 adult wasps. They are relatively small in size and typically found in higher, sheltered locations.
Nature toward humans: Golden Paper Wasps are not aggressive, so there is little threat of swarming. Wasps will sting if handled or if the nest is disturbed. It is important to note that nests can often be found in areas of human traffic, substantially increasing the chances of accidentally disturbing hidden nests.
Video of the Week: Paper Wasps have tiny brains but big memories
Our Video of the Week dovetails off yesterday's blog post regarding paper wasps' capacity to remember social encounters. A recent study by the University of Michigan found that a paper wasp, specifically the species Polistes fuscatus, can remember an individual wasp counterpart for at least a week.
Here's a video that describes the findings of the study.
Paper Wasps never forget a face
Remembrance Of Tussles Past: Paper Wasps Show Surprisingly Strong Memory For Previous Encounters
ScienceDaily (2008-09-22) -- With brains less than a millionth the size of humans', paper wasps hardly seem like mental giants. But new research shows that these insects can remember individuals for at least a week, even after meeting and interacting with many other wasps in the meantime. ... > read full article