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Bees and Wasps

Distinguishing Between Bees and Wasps
While bees can certainly provide important advantages to nature, they can also be a problem during the summer when they seek to establish new hives in residential and commercial premises. Wasps have also made a significant appearance in Australia, causing alarm and some concern.

Species in Australia
There are actually four main bee families in Australia. These are the Apidae, Colletidae, Halictiae and Megachilidae. Most of these bees are solitary nesters; although some will share a nest.

European wasps can appear to be of the same size and of a similar shape to bees; however, they can be easily differentiated by their colors. European wasps are bright yellow and black with bright yellow legs. The antennae of European wasps are also much longer and thicker than the antennae of bees.

Bees, on the other hand, are typically a dull yellow color. Black stripes encircle the body of the bee and rather than displaying the yellow legs of the European wasp, bees have black legs.

European wasps typically prefer to nest in cavities including trees, ceilings and walls; although they also frequently nest in the ground. Bees also like to nest in wall and tree cavities; however, they will also nest in compost bins as well as any other cavernous location.

Life Cycle
The life cycle of a bee is quite similar to the life cycle of a butterfly. Throughout its life, the bee will pass through several different stages. The life cycle begins when the queen lays eggs in the comb. This process lasts approximately three days. During that time period, the egg will hatch into a larva. The worker bees will feed the larva bee milk until the larva spins a cocoon around itself. The entire larva stage lasts five days. While in the cocoon, the larva will turn into a pupa. At this stage it will now have eyes, wings and legs and begins to take on more of the appearance of an adult bee. The pupa stage lasts approximately two weeks, depending on the type of bee the pupa will eventually become. The final stage is the adult stage. When the bee is fully grown it will chew its way out of the pupa. Wasps also undergo a similar metamorphosis during its life cycle, consisting of approximately the same stages and time periods.

Health Hazards for Humans
Bees and wasps can present serious health hazards to humans. When in a swarm, bees can be particularly aggressive and have been known to attack in large enough numbers to result in death. Bees can also carry a venom which is highly toxic when injected directly into the victim’s bloodstream. In children as well as persons with fair complexions this can result in a large swelling of the skin. Individuals who have an allergic reaction to bee venom or who are bitten by a large swarm of bees may also be at risk for death.

European wasps are known to sting repeatedly and thus present quite a danger to humans. The European wasp, also known as the Yellow Jacket wasp, can attack in large numbers; making it even more dangerous; particularly the young, infirmed and elderly. The stings of a European wasp are quite painful and can be highly inflammatory, especially if stings are located on glandular parts of the body.  Death from European wasp stings can occur when bitten in large numbers or if the victim swallows a European wasp due to sipping a drink in which the wasp has entered and becomes stung on the inside of the throat.

Prevention
It is imperative not to attempt to eradicate a group of swarming bees by yourself. The best way to handle the problem is to engage a pest control professional who has access to the necessary protective equipment and professional knowledge to safety control the swarm.

If European wasps are noted on your property, it is important not to attempt to eradicate the colony alone as this can induce the entire colony to attack. A pest control professional should be contacted.