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Stinging Insects in Kansas

Bald Faced Hornet on tree

Bald-Faced Hornet

The bald-faced hornet belongs to the genus
Dolichovespula. Bald-faced hornets are more closely related to yellow jackets than they are to hornets. The body of the bald-faced hornet is black in color, and its face is marked with white. Bald-faced hornets are larger than most yellow jackets, with workers ranging from 15 to 20 mm or more.

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Behavior, Diet & Habits
Bald-faced hornets are most active during the day. They usually build aerial nests made of paper in trees or under overhangs. Adults consume liquids, usually sugars like juices or nectar, but will bring back solids such as insects or carrion for the larvae to consume.

Signs of a Bald-Faced Hornet Infestation
The large paper nest and the workers are the signs of bald-faced hornet activity.

Bumble Bee on pink flower

Bumble Bees

Bumblebees are large, fuzzy, very hairy insects that are black and yellow colored or in some species orange or red. Size varies by species but adults may be up to a little over one inch long. They differ from carpenter bees, which have a solid black, shiny and hairless abdomen. Bumblebees have a large structure on their hind legs known as a pollen basket that is often loaded with pollen collected by foraging adults. Female bumblebees have a stinger and a pointed abdomen, while males do not have a stinger and have a rounded abdomen.

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Behavior, Diet & Habits
While various bumblebee species may choose different nest sites, they usually build their nest in dry, protected and hidden cavities either below ground, on the ground or close to the ground level. Typical places for bumblebee nests are abandoned rodent tunnels, behind structure siding where gaps and cracks allow entrance, under piles of wood on the ground, under piles of dead leaves and compost piles or even abandoned birds’ nests. The bumblebee queen that has overwintered in a protected location constructs the nest in the early spring and begins the new bumblebee colony.

Bumblebee nests typically contain far fewer members than honeybee nests and usually number from 50 to about 400 individuals.The population size varies by the bumblebee species and environmental conditions. Bumblebee workers only live for about a month and spend most of their time foraging for plant nectar and pollen – their main source of food and the source of nutrition for immature members of the nest. Unlike carpenter bees, a species that property owners often confuse with bumblebees, they do not damage wood or other structural components.

Signs of bumblebee presence
The presence of bumblebees usually involves actually seeing adults foraging for pollen and nectar among flowering plants on the property. Also, one might see bumblebee workers coming and going around the entrance into the nest site while sometimes gardeners who are working in the soil in late winter or very early spring may uncover overwintering queens

Two Cicada Killers up close

Cicada Killers

Adults are very large, approximately 2 inches long. The abdomen, the portion of the body immediately behind the insect’s “thread-waist,” is black with yellow markings on three segments. Their six legs are pale red to orange and the wings are a shaded- brown color. Male cicada killer wasps are two times smaller than females. People often mistake European hornets for cicada killers.

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Behavior, Diet & Habits
Since cicada killers don’t live in colonies and they build their nests underground, they are considered solitary wasps. The cicada killer’s life cycle begins as a grub-like larva that has spent the winter in the protection of the burrow dug by the female wasp the previous year. In the spring, the grub changes into the pupal stage, which is then followed by the emergence of adults in the early summer or late spring.

After adult emergence, the female feeds, mates and sets out making burrows to house her offspring. Some of the likely burrowing sites are lawns; edges of concrete slabs; sparsely vegetated slopes and sandy areas around playground equipment; and golf course sand traps. The burrow may seem pretty simple on the surface, but there is a lot of construction done below ground. The burrow is dug about a foot deep with cells for the eggs that will become the next generation of cicada killers.

Other than seeing a cicada killer, the presence of excavated soil in the shape of a “U” at the burrow entrance means a cicada killer construction project is in progress. Upon completion of the cells, the female begins hunting for cicadas or other insects that will become food for the larva in each cell. Once she finds the prey, she stings and paralyzes it, flies back to the burrow and lays one egg on the prey insect. After egg laying, the female pushes the prey into each egg chamber and seals the chamber. In about 2-4 days the egg hatches and the newly hatched larva feeds on the prey for about 1-2 weeks. After feeding is completed, the larva builds a silk cocoon and prepares to overwinter. There is only one generation of cicada killers each year. After mating, the males die. The females die after completing their work laying eggs and providing food for the eggs that will hatch into larvae. While alive, adults will feed on flower nectar and more commonly on fermented sap from trees and other large plants in their habitat.

Signs of Infestation
Male cicada killers do not sting. While the females can sting, they are not aggressive and sting only in very rare instances by injecting very mild venom that is far less painful than the sting of many social wasps, like yellow jackets. The perceived danger of the cicada killers, while exaggerated, is a real issue that homeowners and managers of public places must consider. These insects look vicious and dangerous, so people will describe seeing a cicada killer in terms like, “the biggest yellow jacket I’ve ever seen in my life!” Therefore, control is sometimes necessary.

Honey Bee on daisy

Honey Bees

Honey bees measure about 15 mm long and are light brown in color. Honey bees are usually oval-shaped creatures with golden-yellow colors and brown bands. Although the body color of honey bees varies between species and some honey bees have predominantly black bodies, almost all honey bees have varying dark-to-light striations. These light and dark stripes serve a purpose for the survival of the honey bee: unlike other species that hide when they sense predators close by, the brightly colored bodies of the honey bee act as a warning to predators or honey robbers of the honey bees’ ability to sting.

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The body of the honey bee is segmented: stinger, legs, antenna, three segments of thorax and six visible segments of abdomen.

The head of the honey bee consists of the eyes, antennae and feeding structures. The eyes include the compound eye and the simple eye: the compound eye helps bees understand color, light and directional information from the sun’s UV rays, while the function of the simple eye, also called ocelli, helps in determining the amount of light present. The antennas’ function is to smell and detect odors and to measure flight speed. The mandible is the bee’s jaw, which is used in eating pollen, cutting and shaping wax, feeding larvae and the queen, cleaning the hive, grooming and fighting.

The thorax of the bee consists of the wings, legs and the muscles that control their movement. The forewing, which is typically larger than the hind wing, is used for flight and as a cooling mechanism, while the latter is used to fan away heat and cool the hive.

Lastly, the abdomen’s six segments include female reproductive organs in the queen, male reproductive organs in the drone and the stinger in both workers and queen.

Behavior, Diet & Habits
In the wild, honey bee hives are often located in the holes of trees and on rock crevices. The hive is made from wax from the special abdominal glands of worker honey bees. Workers sweep up a few flakes of wax from their abdomens and chew these flakes until the wax becomes soft. Workers then mold the wax and use it in making cells to form the hive. Unlike other bee species, honey bees do not hibernate during cold periods. Instead, they remain inside the nests huddled closely together, sharing body heat and feeding on stored food supplies.

Honey bees are social creatures and live in colonies. However, they do display some aggressive behavior within colonies: drones are ejected from their nests during cold weather, and a queen will sometimes sting other queens during mating fights for dominance. Although honey bees serve a significant role in pollination and ecology, measures should be taken to ensure that hives do not exist in close proximity to your home, due to the possibility of getting stung. Always contact Betts Pest Control before attempting to address an infestation.

Honey bee facts: Like some other bee species, honey bees are social and live in colonies numbering in the thousands. Three types of adult honey bees reside in one colony: the queen, male drones and infertile female workers.

In each colony, there is only one egg-laying queen, but there are thousands of workers. The queen honey bees mate with drones, establish new colonies and lay eggs. Queen bees lay eggs in the cells of the nest, and when they hatch, they become larvae. Each colony contains only one queen, who is capable of producing 2,000 eggs a day.

Adult workers tend the larvae inside the cells and feed them with pollen and honey for approximately three weeks, at which point they become adults. Mature bees chew themselves out of the sealed cells to emerge.

Drones, or male bees, are the minority in a colony and serve only one purpose: to mate with virgin honey bee queens. Soon after mating, drones die.

Although infertile worker females usually do not produce their own eggs nor establish new colonies, they perform several important tasks. Young honey bee workers tend to larvae by secreting liquid from their abdominal glands. As workers mature, they become responsible for carrying and storing food gathered by foragers. As strong adults, they forage for food until they die.

Honey bees species are found worldwide and can be seen in many different locations, including Europe and the United States. They are most visible in summer and late spring, when new queens leave their old colonies along with thousands of workers to build new nests. At this time, large groups of bees can be seen swarming together to find a new nesting place. It takes a swarm approximately 24 hours to locate a new nesting site. While most swarms are harmless, certain species of bees are extremely aggressive and may attack unprovoked.

Because honey bees are found worldwide, their nature and behavior can vary. For instance, while Italian honey bees are usually more docile, German and African honey bees can display extremely defensive behavior. However, all honey bees can become defensive when provoked and can chase humans or animals hundreds of feet.

For millions of years honey bees have been major pollinators of flowers and, therefore, the plants producing the flowers have relied on the bees. The goal of the plant is reproduction. The bees help accomplish this by unwittingly transferring pollen, a plant’s male sperm cells, from one flower to another. Without pollination, many plants would not be able to procreate and eventually would die out.

Humans benefit from this relationship though crop and honey production. Many of the crops people consume are pollinated by honey bees. Many growers maintain honey bee colonies for this very reason. Without pollination, the plants would not produce fruits and vegetables. Besides pollination, honey bees extract nectar along with the pollen from the flowers. The nectar is transported back to the nest where, through a process, it is converted into honey.

Honey Bee Dance
There are two major theories on how honey bee foragers communicate with other workers about a new food source: the honey bee dance and the odor plume. Although there is evidence to support each claim, the honey bee dance is more widely accepted. The dance language combines dancing and odor as a bee’s means of communication, while the odor plume theory claims that honey bee recruitment relies solely on floral odor. The honey bee dance plays an important role in the survival of the species: it has been a part of colonies for years and has remained one of the most important methods used in foraging for food.

The honey bee dance is a way for bees to communicate with one another. A honey bee that discovers a new food source will tell other honey bees about its location through the honey bee dance. When a worker bee returns from an abundant food source, she will dance inside their nest in a circle.

There are two main types of honey bee dances: round dance and waggle dance. Round dance, as the name indicates, is a movement in a circle. This is used to indicate the food source is less than 50 meters from the nest. Waggle dance is a figure eight pattern while the bee waggles its abdomen and is used for food located at a distance of more than 150 meters. Exact distance can be communicated by duration of the dance. A longer dance indicates a great distance.

The dancing worker bee also can indicate direction with the waggle dance and will move in reference to the sun’s vertical position. The degrees to the right or left of the vertical indicate the direction of the food. For example, if the bee’s dance is rotated 30 degrees to the vertical then the food will be found at a 30 degree angle from the nest related to the sun’s vertical.

This language is also understandable by humans, and researchers determine effectiveness by measuring the amount and quality of new pollen and nectar brought into the nest. However, certain features of this dance language, including the fact that honey bees understand dance patterns even in the dark, are still not understood.

Signs of Infestation and How to Relocate
Honey bees can produce substantial amounts of honey, as can several other bee species. As pollinators, honey bees are critical to the environment and the food supply. Unfortunately, they also can become a medical and structural threat if they nest near people and buildings. Bees and other pollinators are protected in many states, so if an infestation should occur in or near a dwelling, consumers should consider contacting a local beekeeper to relocate the nest. A beekeeper can assess the situation and determine if it is feasible to remove the nest. This can be an intensive process, especially if the nest is large. For more information on honey bee nest relocation, contact Betts Pest Control.



Mud Dauber on tree

Mud Dauber

Mud dauber is a common name for wasps that make their brood nests with mud. There are many species of wasps referred to as mud daubers; some other common names are dirt daubers, organ-pipe wasps, mud wasps and potter wasps. Although their appearance varies greatly, mud daubers generally are from ½ to 1 inch long. Mud daubers are colored either completely black or blue metallic. Some species have yellow or greenish markings on the body. The body shape is typically “thread-waisted” with some mud daubers possessing an extremely long and thin, stretched out looking body segment located between the thorax and abdomen.

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Behavior, Diet & Habits
mud dauber nest in Wichita, KansasMud dauber wasps undergo complete metamorphosis, meaning they have four stages during their life cycle – egg, larvae (grub/worm-like), pupae (cocoon) and adult. Mud daubers are solitary insects even though in some suitable habitats more than one mud nest will be found. The shape of mud nests helps identify different groups of mud daubers. One nest shape appears as a group of cells that are cylinder-shaped and covered over with mud so it appears to be a smooth mud nest about 2 inches wide and about 4 inches long. Another, the organ pipe group, constructs a nest that looks like a series of tubes resembling the pipes on a pipe organ. Still another mud nest is constructed by the potter wasp that makes a nest resembling a small, clay pot. While most mud daubers make new nests for each generation, a few species will reuse old mud nests constructed by other mud daubers.

Mud daubers complete one or two generations per year, depending on the species. In the spring, the overwintering pupae (cocoon) develop into adults. The new adult females begin building a new nest and after completing the mud nest, begin to capture insects or spiders that are placed into each mud nest cell. Eggs are deposited on the prey within each cell, and the cell sealed with mud. The larvae that hatch from the eggs feed on the prey left by the adult wasp, and then change into the pupal stage (cocoon) that overwinters. Prey are stung and paralyzed, not killed, before being placed in the mud cell. This is crucial since dead prey would decompose and aren’t suitable nourishment for required larval development. The following spring, the pupae become adults, thus beginning the next generation of mud daubers. Adults feed on plant nectar, honeydew and the body fluids of the spiders and insects they capture. At least two species of mud daubers are especially important since they are reported to seek out and capture black widow spiders.

Signs of Infestation
Mud daubers are actually very beneficial since they help reduce the numbers of some pest insects and spiders. Also, they are not likely to sting. However, it is never smart to approach their nests without exercising caution. If mud daubers become a nuisance and insecticide products are the answer, be sure to contact Betts Pest Control for our recommendations and assistance. If safety is not an issue, remove old, inactive nests. Since some species will reuse old nests, spiders or insect prey carcasses can become a food source for beetles that may contaminate fabrics or food. Scraping off the nest or using a strong stream of water from a garden hose works. In addition, anything done to seal harborage sites such as cracks and holes in buildings is helpful to reduce the prey population.

Paper Wasp in wasp nest

Poliste (Paper) Wasp

In North America alone, there are over 22 species of paper wasps. Paper wasps belong to the genus
Polistes. Worldwide, there are over 200 species. These wasps measure 1.9 to 3.2 cm in length. Their narrow bodies are most commonly dark brown in color, with black wings and yellow markings. Some even appear similar to yellow jackets in coloration.

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Behaviors, Diet & Habits
These insects are called paper wasps due to the construction of their nests. Paper wasp nests are made from plant material combined with saliva and appear to be made from paper.

paper wasp nest with wasps

Their nests include numerous compartments within which wasps lay their eggs and rear their young. The nests typically do not have an outer shell with the cells of the nest visible. In fact, it somewhat resembles an umbrella and is the reason they may be called umbrella wasps. These nests are frequently found in sheltered areas, such as door frames, window sill and the eaves of houses.

Paper wasps feed on nectar and pollen, although they also hunt for insects such as caterpillars with which to nourish their colonies’ larvae. As larvae develop into adults, they assist in expanding the nest and nurturing future generations.

Paper wasps are considered beneficial because they assist in pollination by feeding on nectar, and they control pest insect populations by feeding them to their larvae. However, despite their ecological benefits, paper wasp nests should not be permitted to develop in or near the home. Stings from paper wasps are extremely painful and may produce serious reactions to people who are allergic to the venom.

Signs of Infestation
Removing a paper wasp nest may be dangerous. It is advised that Betts Pest Control be contacted to assist in treatment of paper wasp infestations.

Yellow Jacket up close


Yellow jackets, genera
Dolichovespula and Vespula, get their name from their yellow and black bodies. They measure 10 to 16 mm in length. Most yellow jackets are black and yellow, although some may exhibit white and black coloration. In contrast to the bee, the yellow jacket’s waist is thinner and defined. Their elongated wings are as long as the body and fold laterally when at rest.

Yellow jackets are wasps that can be identified by their alternating black and yellow body segments and small size. They are often mistaken for bees, although their bodies lack the same amount of hair, rounded abdomen, and the expanded hind leg used for carrying pollen of the bee. These social wasps live in colonies that may contain thousands of insects at a time.

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Behavior, Diet & Habits
Yellow jackets are pollinators and may also be considered beneficial because they eat beetle grubs, flies and other harmful pests. However, they are also known scavengers who eat meat, fish and sugary substances, making them a nuisance near trash receptacles and picnics.

Many yellow jackets are ground-nesters. Their colonies can be found under porches or steps, in sidewalk cracks, around railroad ties or at the base of trees. Sometimes the queen uses a wall void of a building as a nesting place. Some yellow jackets build aerial nests in bushes or low-hanging branches or in the corners of buildings and other manmade structures.

Signs of Infestation
Yellow jackets usually are detected when workers are encountered. Nests, particularly the aerial nests, also may be a sign.