Five ways to tell the difference between honey bees and other stinging insects!
I get phone calls every year from people claiming they have a swarm of honeybees that they want me to come and get. I'd guess 90% of those calls are not honeybees. I've already received a call this year...it was not honey bees. But in the next few weeks, it's possible you will see a swarm of honeybees. They have a swarming season, and it's usually the end of April, or the month of May, in our area, depending on the weather. I would like to show you some ways to identify honey bees.
1) Honeybees do not make this kind of a mess in a home. If they get into a house, it's usually in the walls or the attic space and they will build wax comb, not this papery mess you see here.
2) This (below) is what we used to call paper wasps. I'm not sure if that is the official name, because I am not that knowledgeable when it comes to yellow jackets or wasps. I am not a keeper of yellow jackets or wasps!
Honeybees do not live here!
3) If you see something like this hanging on a tree, get the H out of there QUICK! This is probably a hornets nest. I did not get close enough to find out if it had a live nest in it!
Honeybees do not live here!
4) Honeybees do NOT live in the ground. I've had several people swear they have honey bees coming out of the ground, but they don't.
If you look at this picture I got off of the internet, you can see honey bees are a little more muted in color than wasps and yellow jackets and they are a little more fuzzy looking. I know you are thinking you won't get close enough to tell, right!
5) A honey bee will not sting you unless she has to defend herself or her hive, and once she stings you, she will die. Not so with a wasp or a yellow jacket. They can sting over and over again and they don't die from stinging you.
Most of the time honey bees will be on flowers, they only want nectar and pollen from plants. Yellow jackets and wasps are carnivores (and junkavores). They will eat your steak, your ice cream (they are the "crazy bees" that won't leave you alone in the fall) and they will even eat a honey bee!
Most honey bees are not found in the wild anymore. However......If you see something like this (picture below) hanging on a tree, call a beekeeper or your local extension office. They are honey bees and even though this is what a swarm usually looks like, it is not actually a swarm. This happened to be a bunch of honey bees that built a hive on the outside of a tree. They would never have lasted the winter.
This is a swarm and it's probably the biggest swarm I ever retrieved. Usually they are football in size or bigger, if they are worth getting.
Here I am holding it. Swarms are not mean. I did not get one sting getting this swarm. These honeybees are protecting their queen and looking for a new home. Look closely and you can see bees flying around all over the place. I was waiting for them to calm down, then I was going to put them in the cardboard nuc box until I got them safely home and into a hive that I had waiting for them.
This is another swarm. Sometimes they aren't that easy to see, but you might hear them. Or, if you're lucky, you'll see a "cloud" flying quickly across the sky and landing in a tree.
This is a horrible picture of me! I think I was painting when this guy called me to come and get this swarm. If you see a swarm, you have anywhere from three hours to three days to get a beekeeper to come and get the swarm. SO CALL SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY!
We were standing under she swarm. Which shows how docile they are when they are in swarm mode.
Here they are, hidden in the tree being all nice and quiet like.
If you are ever in a situation where you aren't sure, it's always best to call a beekeeper or your local extension office. It's a special day when you see a swarm because it doesn't happen often, and it's very special to watch a beekeeper capture one.
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