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Wasps

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Brucey
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Re: Wasps

Post by Brucey » Sat Nov 02, 2019 2:53 pm

In the UK anyway, most bumble bee species are endangered, relatively harmless (they are not aggressive by nature) and furthermore only form small colonies; typically a couple of hundred bees.

The usual recommendation is that (if you possibly can) you may was well leave them be; the colony will only be very active in the height of summer and if there is any significant deterrent they won't build a fresh colony the following year. If you destroy a bumble bee colony then the remnants can rot or you can be troubled by other bees and wasps robbing it out.

cheers
~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

bpoliakoff
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Re: Wasps

Post by bpoliakoff » Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:10 pm

Well taken, but I have a unique situation being in AZ where we literally have warm weather all year round. I came home one afternoon to find my house in an uproar as an 8X10" wall in my family room was solid black with bees. I called the exterminator who explained they had come down the fireplace chimney and were scouts looking for a new place to settle. He squirted the crap out of them with who knows what and 2 hours later they were gone never to return
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bpoliakoff
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Re: Wasps

Post by bpoliakoff » Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:14 pm

I will have to agree with that. Even though we have warm weather all year round in AZ, it is not until the warmer part of spring when the plants start to bloom am I aware of both bee and wasp activity. I actually never gave it a thought until Brucey just brought it up. So even though we don't have cold winters, the little buggers must have some king of internal time clock that tells them when to get started
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Brucey
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Re: Wasps

Post by Brucey » Sun Nov 03, 2019 1:01 am

If you suddenly find that many bees then ( in most places, AZ may be different *) they would be honey bees. The bees are just doing what comes naturally; for the species to survive one colony has to be able to turn into several (in any one year any given colony might fail and die out so maintaining the status quo is not good enough) and swarming is the method that honey bees use. Wasps generate new colonies by having solitary mated queens overwinter, each of which is then capable of starting a new colony in the spring. Honey bees are different; the queen cannot survive in isolation, she at least needs a retinue of worker bees. So honey bees overwinter as a colony, and they simply divide the colony, typically in late spring/early summer; typically the old queen departs in a swarm with about half the worker bees and half the honey from the hive.

If you keep bees, swarming is bad news, because you lose a good part of your honey crop. The remaining part of the old colony will nearly always have young queen bees that hatch out soon after the swarm has departed, but they fight amongst themselves until there is one left, that remaining queen then takes several weeks to mate and then start laying fresh eggs, so for weeks after a swarm has gone, the colony will be weak and unproductive.

A swarm may contain 20000 or 30000 bees and they do indeed look for a new home; they may spend several days looking for somewhere that suits them, sending scouts out until one comes back with a really strong signal that it has found somewhere nice. When the swarm first emerges the bees are full of honey, are fairly quiescent, and are unlikely to sting. However if the swarm has been out for several days and hasn't yet settled, and/or the weather is bad, the bees can be a bit more fractious, because they are not foraging and they will be getting hungry. In a swarm, the bees emit a strong pheromone that keeps the bees in the swarm docile and wanting to cling together. Unusually this pheromone is so powerful that you can often smell it in a swarm; it smells of peardrops. You can use a synthesised version of the chemical to cause bees to adopt swarming behaviour; this is how folk do the 'beard of bees' trick.

If you find a swarm you can call an exterminator of course but in many places (e.g. most of the UK) there is an alternative; many beekeeping associations offer a (usually free) swarm collection service. If you find a swarm hanging from the branch of a tree then simply placing a container above them (such as an inverted cardboard box, set over a broomhandle or something) will usually be enough to cause the bees to climb upwards instinctively. If the broomhandle is placed vertically within the swarm, the bees will simply use it like a ladder. Often they will just climb into the box of their own accord over a period of twenty minutes or so. If you tap or vibrate the broomhandle this seems to give the bees a bit of a hurry-up. When the bees have climbed inside the box can then be closed and the swarm taken away, where it can be used to bolster an existing colony or start a new one.

(*) Honey bees are having a hard time the world over; they are under pressure from disease, crop pesticides seem to harm them in ways that are not fully understood, and in some places (eg south/central america and the southern parts of the USA) wild bees are hybridising with Africanised, or so -called 'killer bees'. Some nutcase let African bees out into the wild in Brazil several decades ago; they have been spreading northwards ever since, and are able to breed with the normal type of honey bees. It is thought that their northern limit is set by the severity of winter frosts; Africanised bees don't build their colony inside a structure; their habit is to build a single large honeycomb outdoors and this means fully africanised bees can't survive any severe winter weather. These bees are however more agressive than usual honey bees; they need to be to defend their (relatively exposed) colony from attack. So normal honey bees, once riled, may follow you for fifty or a hundred yards or so, and most folk manage to run away before they are very badly stung, but africanised bees may follow for ten or twenty times the distance and this can be fatal.

So with the caveat that in some places they just might be Africanised bees, it is usually not only possible but also preferable to get a swarm removed rather than exterminated. It is thought that honey bees help to pollinate a good portion of the world's food crops and from this POV helping to keep a healthy bee population can only be a good thing.

cheers
~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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