Pest Library: Bees & Wasp
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the European honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea and are presently considered a clade, called Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially; the decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees.
Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimetres (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.
Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, through all phases of art and literature, from ancient times to the present day, though primarily focused in the Northern Hemisphere, where beekeeping is far more common.
A wasp is any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. The Apocrita have a common evolutionary ancestor and form a clade; wasps as a group do not form a clade, but are paraphyletic with respect to bees and ants.
The most commonly known wasps, such as yellowjackets and hornets, are in the family Vespidae and are eusocial, living together in a nest with an egg-laying queen and non-reproducing workers. Eusociality is favoured by the unusual haplodiploid system of sex determination in Hymenoptera, as it makes sisters exceptionally closely related to each other. However, the majority of wasp species are solitary, with each adult female living and breeding independently. Many of the solitary wasps are parasitoidal, meaning that they raise their young by laying eggs on or in other insects (any life stage from egg to adult). Unlike true parasites, the wasp larvae eventually kill their hosts. Solitary wasps parasitize almost every pest insect, making wasps valuable in horticulture for biological pest control of species such as whitefly in tomatoes and other crops.
Wasps first appeared in the fossil record in the Jurassic, and diversified into many surviving superfamilies by the Cretaceous. They are a successful and diverse group of insects with tens of thousands of described species; wasps have spread to all parts of the world except for the polar regions. The largest social wasp is the Asian giant hornet, at up to 5 centimetres (2.0 in) in length; among the largest solitary wasps is a group of species known as tarantula hawks, along with the giant scoliid of Indonesia (Megascolia procer). The smallest wasps are solitary chalcid wasps in the family Mymaridae, including the world’s smallest known insect, with a body length of only 0.139 mm (0.0055 in), and the smallest known flying insect, only 0.15 mm (0.0059 in) long.
Social wasps are considered pests when they become excessively common, or nest close to buildings. People are most often stung in late summer, when wasp colonies stop breeding new workers; the existing workers search for sugary foods and are more likely to come into contact with humans; if people then respond aggressively, the wasps sting. Wasp nests made in or near houses, such as in roof spaces, can present a danger as the wasps may sting if people come close to them. Stings are usually painful rather than dangerous, but in rare cases, people may suffer life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
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Ants: Acrobat Ant, Allegheny Mound Ant, Argentine Ant, Big-headed Ant, Carpenter Ant, Citronella Ant, Crazy Ant, Field Ant, Fire Ant, Ghost Ant, Harvester Ant, Little Black Ant, Moisture Ant, Odorous House Ant, Pavement Ant, Pharaoh Ant, Texas Leaf Cutter Ant, Thief Ant, Velvety Tree Ant and White-footed Ant.
Cockroaches: American Cockroach, Asian Cockroach, Australian Cockroach, Brown Banded Cockroach, Cuban Cockroach, Florida Woods Cockroach, German Cockroach, Oriental Cockroach, Smoky Brown Cockroach, Surinam Cockroach and Woods Cockroach.
Spiders: Black Widow Spider , Brown Recluse Spider, Cellar Spider, Crab Spider, Domestic House Spider, Funnelweb Spider, Garden Spider, Ground Spider, Hobo Spider, House Spider, Jumping Spider, Spiny-backed Orb Weaver Spider, Tarantula, Wolf Spider and Yellow Sac Spider.
Stinging Pests: Africanized Honeybee, American Dog Tick, Bald-faced Hornet, Bed Bugs, Bird Lice, Bird Mite, Deer Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Bumblebee, Carpenter Bee, Cat Flea, European Hornet, Fire Ant, Honeybee, Human Head Lice, Kissing Bug, Lone Star Tick, Paper Wasp, Scorpion, Soft Tick, Thrips and Yellow Jacket.
Ticks and Mites: American Dog Tick, Bird Mite, Black-legged Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Clover Mite, Lone Star Tick and Soft Tick.
Other Pests: American Spider Beetle, Bean Weevil, Cigarette Beetle, Cowpea Weevil, Dried Fruit Beetle, Drugstore Beetle, Foreign Grain Beetles, Indian Meal Moth, Larder Beetle, Mediterranean Flour Moth, Red or Confused Flour Beetle, Rice & Granary Weevils, Sawtoothed & Merchant, Grain Beetles, Shiny Spider Beetle, Cabinet Beetles, Centipedes & Millipedes, Chinch Bugs and Earwigs.