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Types of bees

Less aggressive than some common species of wasps, with the exception of the Africanized honey bee, bees are an essential part of our ecosystem. With their ability to pollinate flowers, fruit trees and other food-producing crops, not to mention the ones that make honey, bees are an important insect for farmers and our environment.

However, for people who are allergic to bee stings and those who are not, the threat of being stung can be scary. And, since different bees tend to be more threatening than others, it's important to properly identify what type of bee you're seeing before you take any action.

There are several species of bees to be aware of in the Western United States. Proper identification of bees is important, because you could be harming a bee that is essential to the environment. Make sure if you see any of these bees in your yard to consult an expert before trying to get rid of them.

What type of bee are you seeing? Contact us to find out!

Honey bees

Side view of a honey bee

Quick Guide

Size: 1/2" long. Queen can be 3/4" long

Color: Yellowish-orange and black

Type: Social

Risk of sting: Typically not aggressive

Habitat and nests

As one of the largest groups of pollinators, honey bees prefer to live outside, where flowering plants are abundant. They mainly build their nests inside tree cavities, rock crevices and under objects that can offer shelter. However, if your home or business is near a natural environment, especially during peak swarming season (May-July), bees may seek out chimneys, wall voids, shingled roofs and in between window panes for a secure nesting site. Because honey bee nests can grow quite large in size, this puts homes and businesses at risk of structural damage.

Behaviors and damage

Although honey bees are not aggressive unless they feel threatened, people still fear being stung. When a honey bee stings, the stinger, venom sac and internal organs of the bee become detached from the bee’s body, causing them to die. Since the glands associated with the venom sac continue to pump venom, the stinger should be removed immediately. Though painful, honey bee stings are only dangerous to people allergic to bee stings.

In addition to stinging, honey bees can damage structures when they build nests in wall and ceiling voids. As the nest grows in size, the presence of honey and beeswax can cause the wall to sag or become stained. If you do notice a honey bee swarm forming in or near your property, a beekeeper can often relocate the bees without harming them.

Prevention and control

Prevention can be challenging, but not impossible. With a thorough inspection of your home or business, our bee control expert can pinpoint any potential entry points where honey bees may access. Holes that are a quarter of an inch or larger should be sealed. It is best to have an inspection done prior to swarming season to avoid the establishment of a colony. If you do have a swarm outside your home or business, a licensed beekeeper may be called to see if it can safely be removed.

If you’ve had honey bees in the past, especially in areas that were not so easily accessible, ensuring all the honeycomb has been removed will help to prevent future infestations. Pheromones left on the honeycomb may attract future swarms.

Western Exterminator’s experts can help eliminate the risks associated with nests in and around your property. Our certified and licensed bee experts can quickly determine what the most effective treatment approach is for your home or business. Give us a call to schedule an inspection.

What type of bee are you seeing? Contact us to find out!

Bumble bees

Side view of a bumble bee

Quick Guide

Size: 3/4" - 1" long

Color: Yellow and black

Type: Social

Risk of sting: Typically not aggressive

Habitat and nests

With 26 species of bumble bees in California, you can easily spot these black and yellow-haired flying orbs during the warmer months as they seek out pollen and nectar from flowering plants. 

Vital to our ecosystem, bumble bees pollinate several important agricultural crops in California and the surrounding states. Avocados, tomatoes, cherries, blueberries and apples are just a handful of the crops for which consumers have bumble bees to thank.

Bumble bees make their nests in the ground; sometimes using abandoned rodent burrows and areas beneath paved patios, compost piles, wood piles, and even in very long grass. As social insects, their nest consists of a queen, workers and drones.

Behaviors and dangers

Bumble bees are fairly passive and have little interest in stinging people, unless they feel threatened or are mishandled in any way. When a nest is disturbed or threatened, the colony will emit a very loud, angry, buzzing sound.

Queens and workers, the females of the nest, have stingers and can use them repeatedly. However, drones (males used for mating) do not possess a stinger.

The only way a bumble bee nest poses a threat to a business or homeowner is if someone is allergic to their sting. If a bumble bee nest is in close proximity to the entrance or a pathway of a building and is a risk to your safety or the safety of others, you should consult a professional who specializes in effective and environmentally-friendly solutions. 

Prevention and treatment

Prevention for future bumble bee nests is not guaranteed. However, by removing or filling preferred nesting sites, such as wood piles, abandoned rodent burrows, voids under patio pavers, and long grasses, you can help to make your property less appealing.

Our treatment approach begins with understanding the species of bumble bee and its habitat. Our bee specialists live in the communities they service and are familiar with the specific species of pests that can threaten the safety of residents and businesses. As a pest control business with nearly 100 years of experience, we think that’s important. Call today to schedule a free inspection. Western is here to help!

What type of bee are you seeing? Contact us to find out!

Carpenter bees

With over 500 species of carpenter bees worldwide, only five live in North America, three of which reside in California. Varying in color and size, these are: the California carpenter bee (found in the mountains of California/Oregon) this species is mostly metallic green/blue with grayish wings; the valley carpenter bee (valleys, lower foothills of California, Arizona) females are shiny black with bright metallic purple/bronze wings and males are a sultry golden brown or buff; and the mountain carpenter bee (foothills/mountains of California/Arizona/Nevada/Oregon) females are black and the male's head has yellow, white and black hairs.

Unlike other bees that live in colonies, carpenter bees are mainly solitary. They are pollinators, foraging for pollen to feed to their young. While some species prefer to build their nests in natural structures such as trees, others will target man-made structures such as decking, fencing, and siding, which can become an issue for home and business owners.

Carpenter bee

Quick Guide

Size: 3/4" - 1" long

Color: Varies by species. Females are usually black. Male valley carpenter bees are bright yellow.

Type: Solitary

Risk of sting: Typically not aggressive

Habitat and nests

Female carpenter bees make their nests by boring holes into wood. A nest entrance will exhibit a perfectly round hole and a small pile of sawdust. Valley carpenter bees prefer partly deceased oak, eucalyptus and other hardwoods. California carpenter bees favor more aromatic dwellings, including incense cedars and redwood trees. Mountain carpenter bees have been known to nest in wood decks, eaves, fascia boards, doors, railings, window trim, and other wooden surfaces—even painted and sealed woods. They are persistent and don’t seem to mind either way. 

In the spring, females will search for nests left by earlier generations or excavate new ones, preferably in soft, untreated wood. The tunnels they excavate provide shelter for their eggs and larvae and may include several brood chambers. A new generation of adults will emerge in late summer.

Behaviors and dangers

Female carpenter bees may sting if mishandled or stepped on. However, the males, which exhibit more aggressive and territorial behavior, do not have stingers. Carpenter bees are fairly docile and one of the least aggressive stinging insects.

They are considered pests because they bore holes into wooden structures. Although one hole may seem insignificant, when generations of carpenter bees continue to tunnel into the same wood and surrounding wooden structures, it can lead to more significant structural damage. Carpenter bee broods tend to return to the same nesting location, where they’ll drill new holes.

Not only can holes in structures expose the wood to moisture and rot, the larvae developing in the holes may also attract woodpeckers, creating an even larger opening and more damage. If you notice carpenter bee activity around your home or business, call a professional to set up an initial carpenter bee inspection.

Prevention and control

An initial inspection of your property can determine if there are any contributing factors that make your home or business a more attractive nesting site for carpenter bees. Untreated or unpainted wood surfaces are more susceptible, as are prior carpenter bee nesting sites. Additionally, your property’s proximity to a carpenter bee's natural habitat may also increase the likelihood of it becoming a nesting site.

If there is an active carpenter bee nest on your property, Western is here to help. Call to schedule an appointment with one of our carpenter bee specialists.

Although there is not a preventative treatment for carpenter bees, being proactive by making sure any exposed wood is sealed and existing holes are filled may help to deter them from boring additional holes.

What type of bee are you seeing? Contact us to find out!

Africanized honey bees

Africanized honey bees are also known as “killer bees,” a hybrid of an Africanized and European bee subspecies. Originating in Brazil in the 1950s, they eventually made their way to the U.S. where they now reside in warmer states such as Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and more. Infamous for their aggressive behavior, they will attack anything that threatens their nest.

Although it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between an Africanized honey bee and a European honey bee based on their appearance, there are some behavioral indicators that may help to identify this more aggressive species of bee.

Side view of an Africanized honey bee

Quick Guide

Size: 1/2" long. Queen can be 3/4" long.

Color: Yellow and black

Type: Social

Risk of sting: Aggressive

Habitat and nests

Africanized honey bees tend to build their waxy-comb hives in the open. However, on occasion, their nests can be found in small, sheltered locations such as meter boxes, grills, or cement blocks. If their hive is disturbed, they will abandon it and swarm. Africanized honey bees swarm more times a year than European honey bees. Because they don’t store honey like the European honey bees, they cannot survive colder climates.

Behaviors and dangers

Africanized honey bees have a social structure much like the European honey bee. They even help pollinate plants. However, they are extremely territorial and aggressive when protecting their nest. They also patrol a much larger area around their nest. If a child, animal or person wanders into that area, drones will alert the colony to “attack”. 

Africanized bees will attack any perceived threat in much greater numbers than European honey bees. In comparison, an average honey bee may alert ten drones, whereas an Africanized honey bee will send out 1,000. Often victims of an attack will have hundreds of stings. Although their venom is no more potent than an average honey bee, the sheer number of stings equates to more venom entering the target's body. Their goal is to sting until the object is no longer perceived as a threat.

Prevention and treatment

Since it’s so difficult to differentiate Africanized honey bees from European honey bees, it is best to stay away from the hive and contact a bee control specialist who can determine what species of bee you are dealing with.

Western’s bee control specialists are familiar with the bee species in your area and can help to determine what the best and safest solutions are for all your bee control needs.

What type of bee are you seeing? Contact us to find out!

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