Stinging Insect Season: Protecting Your Home in Summer

Mud dauber wasp on flowers - prevent stinging insects this summer!

As the warmer months approach, so does the arrival of stinging insects that can disrupt outdoor activities. If you own a home in lower Michigan, upper Indiana, or upper Ohio, you should prepare for stinging insects that might nest and swarm your yard.

Stinging insects can be more than a nuisance. They can also harm your health and threaten your safety. To enjoy your yard without fear of these unwanted visitors, you must take steps to deter them.

Identify the Stinging Insects in Your Area

To keep stinging insects away, start by knowing the kinds of insects in your region. Various types of stinging insects have different behaviors, habitats, and preferences. Here are some brief descriptions of the most common stinging insects in Michigan:

Stinging Insect Prevention

The last thing you want is a horde of bees or wasps inside of your home. Thankfully, prevention doesn’t have to be too time consuming or difficult. To prevent stinging insects from entering your house, follow these quick tips:

  • Fill any holes or cracks in your walls, roof, or foundation.
  • Cut any plants or branches that touch your home.
  • Keep your gutters and downspouts clear and clean.
  • Use mesh or screens to cover any openings or vents.
  • Get rid of any old or unused items they could use for shelter or nesting.
  • Avoid luring stinging insects with food or water.

Call a Professional Exterminator

If stinging insects are bothering you in your yard, contact a professional exterminator who can get rid of them safely and efficiently. Griffin Pest Solutions is a trusted and reliable pest control company that can help you with any stinging insect problem.

Do not let stinging insects ruin your summer fun. Contact Griffin Pest Solutions today for a free quote on their stinging insect control services. Our team of fully licensed pest control technicians has proudly served local homeowners since 1929, and we implement Integrated Pest Management techniques to keep infestations from returning in the future. Whether you’re dealing with an active infestation or you just want peace of mind, we’ve got you covered!

 

What NOT to Do Around Bees

Avoid swarms of bees

Whenever you see a bee, the first thing you think is, “will it sting me?” It’s unavoidable. No matter how comfortable you are around bees, that anxiety’s in there somewhere. Likewise, if you’re going somewhere where you may see bees, you’ll think about how they might sting you. If you’re going to think about it, you might as well know how to avoid it.

Obviously, the best way to avoid bee stings is to avoid making bees want to sting you. Sounds easy enough, right? Don’t worry–for the most part, it really is. If you can avoid doing the things we list below, you’ll be able to avoid bee stings! …Probably. Well, at least you’ll be much less likely to incur a bee’s wrath. Which is… almost the same thing!

To avoid bee stings when you’re outside, DO NOT:

Approach a bee’s nest

This one’s obvious, right? If you see a bee or wasp’s nest, stay away from that thing! Bees and wasps usually sting to defend themselves and their homes. If you approach a bee’s nest, they could easily interpret you as a threat. If that happens, you don’t have to worry about one or two bees. You’ll have to worry about all the bees. Or you could just give that bee’s nest a wide berth! The right choice seems pretty clear.

Make sudden movements

Bees usually sting people for one of two reasons, and both of those reasons have to do with feeling threatened. They sting people who either wander too close to their nests… or startle them with sudden movements. If you see bees around you, try not to move too quickly. Don’t jerk toward or away from the bee, freak out, jump up and down, whatever. Instead, move away from the bee sloooooowly. If the bee knows you’re there and you’re not threatening it, it’ll probably leave you alone.

honeycomb

Throw things

This one sort of follows from the first two. Obviously, throwing something constitutes a “sudden movement.” You’ll startle bees with your sudden flying projectile and they’ll sting in retaliation. OR your sudden, flying projectile will collide with a nest. And you’ll have to answer for your crimes. To all the bees. If you see bees or especially a bee’s nest nearby, maybe just refrain from tossing that stone or stick. We get it–throwing things is fun–but “not being stung by a bee” is MORE fun, when you think about it.

Swat at the bees

It’s a surprisingly hard impulse to control, especially if the bee lands on you. When you see the bee buzzing nearby, something makes you want to slap it away. You should do whatever you can to avoid that impulse. If you lash out at a bee, you can’t exactly blame it for thinking of you as a threat. If the bee feels like you’re not leaving it a choice, it’ll retaliate against your swatting by stinging you. If you see a bee near or even on you, we recommend simply moving away from it slowly.

Disturb nearby flowers

Pretty much everyone knows bees eat nectar and pollinate flowers. It’s just what they do. Therefore, you’re naturally much more likely to see bees around flowers. Anytime you’re near flowers, expect to see bees. In fact, we recommend keeping bees in mind around flowers, even if you can’t see them. Try not to trample or otherwise push around flowers. Not only is it not very nice to the flowers, but it might also startle a bee you can’t see. Bees tend to feel vulnerable when they’re eating, which may make them more likely to sting.

bees are attracted to sugar

Eat or drink sugary foods

If you’ve ever eaten a picnic outside, you probably know that bees are very interested in food and drinks. Bees and wasps are both attracted to simple sugars as a source of easy energy. Soft drinks, candy, alcohol, pastries, fruits, and other sugary foods will attract bees to you. If you startle them during their approach, they’ll sting you in self-defense. If you eating or drinking something sugary outside, do so quickly. Keep your food or drink in a sealable container, and dispose of it as soon as you’re finished. Most importantly, stay aware of your surroundings. The bee you can’t see is more likely to sting you than the one you can see.

Run away

Now, we get that you won’t always be able to help this. If a swarm of bees comes at you, you’ll probably try to get the heck out of there by instinct. The problem is, running away might actually make you more likely to be stung for a couple of reasons. After all, it’s a sudden movement. If there are any bees near you, you may startle them with your sudden retreat. Bees might also interpret your speed as a threat to their nest, especially if you’re nearby. If you can help it, we always recommend moving away from bees slowly.

 

Next time you head out to a place where you may see bees, keep these simple guidelines in mind. As long as you don’t disturb them and give them some space, bees will pretty much leave you alone. They’re even less interested in stinging you than you are in being stung, after all.

These guidelines are great for going to places, but you shouldn’t have to follow them around your own home. If a bee colony built their home uncomfortably close to you, then you should call Griffin any time. Our experts can safely and humanely remove bee’s nests and make sure they don’t come back.

The Wasp That Kills Black Widows

blue mud wasp close-up

Black widow spiders are probably the scariest pest living in Michigan. They’re surprisingly common, highly venomous, and they’ll live anywhere they want. We understand freaking about them a little, especially if you just learned they’re here. Where life finds a way to create something terrifying like the black widow, however, life also finds a way to balance it out.

That’s where the blue mud wasp comes in. Believe it or not, blue mud wasps hunt and eat black widow spiders. A lot. In fact, they’re considered one of the black widow’s primary predators. And they’re just as if not more common than the black widows here in Michigan! Here’s the lowdown on blue mud wasps, including how they hunt black widows and why.

What is a blue mud wasp?

What is a blue mud wasp?

The blue mud wasp (Chalybion californicum) or “blue mud dauber” is a species of mud dauber wasps. “Mud dauber” is the common name for species of wasps in the families Sphecidae or Crabronidae. The name references the fact that the wasps build their small nests in mud. The blue mud wasps’ name references its bodies’ distinctive, metallic blue-black sheen. Male blue mud wasps are around ⅜ to ½ inches long; females are between ¾ to ⅞ inches long.

Like other mud daubers, blue mud wasps are solitary wasps. They actually steal their mud nests from other mud dauber species such as Sceliphron camentarium. After replacing Sceliphron camentarium larvae in the nest with their own, blue mud wasps tend to their larvae themselves. Blue wasp larvae resemble most maggots: they’re around an inch long, cream-colored, legless, and defenseless. Adult wasps tend to the maggots by dropping food into the nest continuously.

Does a blue mud wasp really kill black widows?

Does a blue mud wasp really kill black widows?

To feed their offspring, adult blue mud wasps need to keep finding and bringing food back to the nest. Well, believe it or not, the food blue mud wasps bring back to their young… is usually black widows! Adult blue mud wasps continuously hunt down, paralyze, and carry black widows back to their offspring. The wasp uses a specialized stinger to immobilize the black widow, rendering it defenseless so larvae can eat it.

Blue mud wasps follow a very clever routine to capture their prey. First, they seek out and tap on a black widow’s spider web. Feeling the vibrations of would-be prey, the black widow comes out–and the blue mud wasp strikes! Blue mud wasps will actually “stock” their nests with paralyzed spiders, even before they produce offspring. Blue mud wasps also target other species of spider, but they’re considered one of the primary predators of black widows.

Where do blue mud wasps live?

Where do blue mud wasps live?

The blue mud wasp is common throughout North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. They’re particularly common in Michigan. Blue mud wasps can and do live in a wide variety of environments. They’re particularly common near sources of water (and therefore mud). Many blue mud wasps also build nests in areas where they can easily capture prey for their offspring. Adult blue mud wasps actually feed on flower nectar, not spiders, so they may also frequent gardens.

Because blue mud wasps steal nests instead of making their own, they tend to live where other dauber species do. Other daubers build nests by collecting mud and rolling it into balls and arranging it with their mandibles. They’ll also build paralyzed spiders into these nests by constructing mud “cells” around them. They may roll or carry this mud near homes. Nests look like circular or oval-shaped mud balls. You may also notice exit holes where fully grown wasps emerged.

Are blue mud wasps dangerous?

Are blue mud wasps dangerous?

No. Blue mud wasps and other mud daubers are considerably less aggressive than other wasp families. Unlike social wasps, daubers will not aggressively defend their nest of their territory. Even if you accidentally find a dauber’s nest, it’s possible the adult won’t attack you to drive you away. Blue mud wasps can potentially sting humans, but it’s very, very rare. The only time a blue mud wasp might sting you is if you mishandle or antagonize it.

Blue mud wasps are usually pretty easy to spot, even from a distance. Look for an iridescent blue shine, often on or near flowers. The dauber’s blue sheen frequently catches the light. You could also look for their nests, which could be either on the ground or affixed to a wall. Nests may be somewhat difficult to find, especially if they’re new or particularly small. Wasps rarely build nests out in the open. You’re more likely to find them on, near, or under a form of cover.

 

Nature is a system of checks and balances–even where the black widow is concerned. Just because venomous spiders may scare us half to death doesn’t mean they get to break the rules. There’s something oddly comforting about the notion that even black widows have something to watch out for.

That being said, you can’t exactly rely on the blue mud wasp. It’s just doing its own thing after all; it’s not watching out for you. If you have a spider (or wasp!) concern, depend on Griffin instead. We have the solution to your problem.

How Do Bee Stings Work?

Bee on person's skin

Everyone’s afraid of bee stings, but there’s also something about them we can’t help but feel fascinated by. Maybe it’s the fact that bees are so common and distinctive. Or maybe it has to do with how bees die after stinging us. Maybe it’s just that bee stings are so gross we can’t help but want to know more about them.

Whatever the reason, bee stings are always interesting to learn about. You even have a practical excuse: the more you know about bee stings, the more reliably you can avoid them! Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about how bee stings work and why they happen:

Why do bees sting?

As you’ve probably heard, bees don’t go out of their way to sting people. Bees will only sting you if you surprise them or they perceive you as a threat. Usually, the reason bees sting people is that people wandered too close to their hives. Bees are very defensive of their hives and quite willingly sting to defend them. If you’re not near a hive, then bees will only sting you as a last resort if they feel you’re threatening them.

Bees feel threatened when you make fast, aggressive movements toward them. Swatting or clapping your hands at bees may startle them enough to react by stinging you. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to accidentally incite a bee to sting you by startling them. Many bee stings happen when someone accidentally steps or even sits on a bee. You could also accidentally startle one by disturbing the flower it was drinking nectar from.

How does a bee stinger work?

How does a bee stinger work?

A bee’s stinger is a modified version of an ovipositor, or egg depositor. The stinger itself consists of three main components: one stylet (the penetrating “needle”) and two lancets (small barbed tips). Each of these components is hollow. They connect to another hollow chamber called a “bulb” at the top of the stinger. The bee’s venom is stored in a venom sac above the bulb. The venom sac deposits venom into the bulb via two valves.

When the bee stings, they insert the stylet into skin like a needle. As the bee inserts the stylet, the barbs of the two lancets catch on the flesh at different points. This creates a small gap between the tips of the lancets, exposing the hollow space inside the stylet. Meanwhile, venom flows from the bulb and down through the canal-like hollow structure of the stylet. When the gap opens, venom in the stylet flows out into the wound created by the stinger. Honey bee stingers are also barbed at the end, which prevents easy removal.

How does bee venom work?

Bee venom is called “apitoxin.” Apitoxin is a complex mixture of protein substances that affect cellular function. These peptides and enzymes break apart fat layers in cells and destroy skin mast cells. When skin mast cells die they release histamine, which dilates the blood vessels. People who are allergic to bee stings release too much histamine when their mast cells die. Their blood vessels dilate too significantly, triggering potentially deadly anaphylactic shock.

The main active component of apitoxin is the peptide Melittin. Melittin consists of 26 amino acids and constitutes 40-60% of the dry weight of apitoxin. This peptide both destroys red blood cells and activates pain receptor cells in both direct and indirect ways. It’s primarily responsible for the pain that accompanies a bee sting. Apitoxin also contains anti-coagulation factors like another peptide called phospholipase A2. Anticoagulants prevent local blood clots near the sting, which helps the venom circulate further in the blood stream.

What do stings do to the bee?

What do stings do to the bee?

Honey bee stings work a bit differently from most other wasp and bee stings. Common honey bees have a barbed stinger. These barbs make the stinger impossible for the bee to safely remove themselves.

Instead, bees rip out a significant portion of their own abdomens to leave their stingers behind. The massive injuries sustained during this process kill the bee almost immediately. The bee’s stinger, meanwhile, remains lodged in the victim’s skin along with the body parts the bee ripped away.

How can I avoid bee stings?

First and foremost, you should avoid getting too close to honey bee hives. Bees are usually cautious about when they sting (wouldn’t you be?), but they’ll defend their homes without hesitation. You should always treat bee hives with appropriate caution. Stay at least 10 feet away from bee hives whenever possible. If you have to approach a bee hive, do so very cautiously. If you have a bee nest near or on your home, we recommend having it removed immediately.

Bees might also sting you if you inadvertently startle them. The best way to avoid doing that is by taking steps to make sure you aren’t accidentally attracting bees. Bees are attracted to anything that looks or smells like a flower. Wearing pungent perfume or bright colors make you attractive to honey bees looking for nectar. Sweet foods and drinks may also attract honey bees. If you see a bee near you, try not to make sudden movements. Remain calm and let the bee fly away on its own.

Bee stings are scary, but they’re also easy to avoid. As long as you follow these tips and pay attention, you shouldn’t have to worry about bee stings.

If you’re worried about the bees around your home, give Griffin a call any time. We’re always happy to help keep you safe and put your mind at ease.

Wasp Season in Michigan This Summer

Wasp resting on a tree branch

As you may have already noticed, it’s officially wasp season here in Michigan. Every summer, the wasp population peaks around July, and the pest becomes far more prevalent than usual. Wasp season begins by late June and continues until around late fall.

But what is “wasp season,” exactly? More importantly: how could it affect you? Here’s everything you should know about wasps in Michigan, including how to keep them away from you.  

What are wasps?

What are wasps?“Wasp” is actually a general term referring to a particular group of related insects in the Hymenoptera order. Wasps are any members of Hymenoptera that aren’t bees, ants, or sawflies. The most common and well-known wasps in Michigan are yellow jackets and paper wasps. Each of these types of wasp (rather infamously) resemble honey or bumblebees.

Though many types of wasps are solitary, most common Michigan wasps are eusocial, meaning they live together in colonies. Wasps are opportunistic scavengers and predators, feeding primarily on a wide variety of insects. They feed their young by hunting down prey and bringing it back to their nests repeatedly. Wasps are considered beneficial insects because they feed on many common garden pests. Adult wasps feed on natural sugars like ripe fruit, honeydew, and nectar.

What kinds of wasps are in Michigan?

Yellow jacket in MichiganIf you encounter a wasp this summer, chances are it will be a eusocial wasp from a nearby colony. Eusocial wasps in Michigan belong to two subfamilies: Polistinae (paper wasps) and Vespinae (yellow jackets). The most common paper wasps in Michigan are the Common paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus) and the European paper wasp (Polistes dominulus). There are twelve types of yellow jacket in Michigan. The most common are the German yellow jacket (Vespula germanica), Eastern yellow jacket (Vespula maculifrons), and Baldfaced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata).

Solitary wasps are not as prevalent as eusocial varieties, but there are still several types you may encounter. Cicada killers (Sphecius speciosus) are large digger wasps that nest on the ground. Mud dauber wasps like the Black and yellow mud dauber (Sceliphron caementarium) build nests in the mud. The invasive European woodwasp (Sirex noctilio) bores into the trunks of dead or dying trees. Paper wasps, yellow jackets, cicada killers, and mud daubers can all sting, but woodwasps cannot.

When are wasps most active?

Wasp activity in summerEusocial wasp colonies reach peak activity in midsummer. They spend spring and early summer looking for a good place to nest, laying eggs, and producing workers. The colony continues to ramp up its population growth aggressively through the summer. By July, colonies have produced hundreds of workers. These workers spend each day hunting for food to bring back to the nest. If there’s a nest near your home, you might encounter workers regularly during this period of colony development.

Wasp activity changes again in very late summer or fall. Eventually, queens stop laying worker eggs and produce a final brood of reproductive king or queen wasps instead. When these wasps leave the nest to build new colonies, the workers no longer have to worry about feeding larvae. Without their colony responsibilities to keep them near their nests, worker wasps range further than usual. They pursue sugary foods they can’t transport more frequently and sting more often, too.

Wasp (left) vs. Bee (right)

How can I tell wasps and bees apart?

Wasps (left, above) and bees (right, above), especially yellow jackets and paper wasp species, can look very similar. They’re both usually yellow and black, and they both range in size from ½ to 1” long. The easiest way to tell wasps and bees apart is by looking at the “texture” of their bodies. Bumblebees and honey bees look furry or “fuzzy,” because their abdomens are covered in fine, bright hair. Wasps, on the other hand, are hairless. They have hard, shiny, almost metallic-looking bodies that more closely resemble insect exoskeletons.

Wasps and bees also differ in shape, coloration, and behavior. Bees tend to be round or even plump in appearance, whereas wasps are more angular or thin. A bee’s yellow stripes tend to look golden brown or warm, whereas wasp yellow is striking and bright. Bees tend to stay near flowers, to feed on nectar, whereas wasps range to hunt for food. Bee and wasp nests also look very different from one another, because they’re made out of different materials.

How do I keep wasps away from me?

How to keep wasps awayIf you run into wasps frequently during mid-summer, it’s probably because there’s a wasp nest nearby. Wasps typically build their nests into existing crevices, burrows, and hiding places. They like to build nests in secluded, covered, or naturally inaccessible locations where they can stay safe. You might find the nest on or under your roof, under a deck or porch, or even in your rafters. 

Unfortunately, you might encounter wasps semi-frequently in late summer and fall, even if there isn’t a nest nearby. If that’s happening to you, try looking for reasons why wasps may be attracted to your home. Wasps are very attracted to sugary liquids, especially late in the summer season. Ripe fruit from fruit trees will attract lots of worker wasps looking for a sugar rush. You should also be careful not to leave out garbage uncovered or unrinsed cans and bottles.

Have more questions about Michigan’s wasps? No problem! Just give Griffin Pest Solutions a call any time. 

Beehive Questions, Answered

Termite Exterminators in Kalamazoo |  Griffin Pest Solutions

If you just discovered a beehive (or nest) on your property, you’re probably panicking a little. That’s an understandable reaction; beehives are scary. They’re literally full of bees. Before you freak out too much, though, we want to put this in perspective. Beehives are all over the place. There are trillions of bees in the world, and they all have to live somewhere.

…That probably isn’t helping. All we mean is, you’re not the first homeowner to have a bees’ nest on your property. You’re not even the ten millionth homeowner to have a bees’ nest on your property. It happens every day, and it’s not the big deal you might fear it is. The most important thing to do in this situation is remain calm, get informed, and follow the proper procedure. Here’s all the info you need to do just that.

What is it?

What is a beehive?Beehives and bees’ nests are technically different things. Beehives refer to structures constructed specifically for honey bees to live and produce honey inside of. Honey bees can make them by themselves, or people can build them to foster bees. Only Apis-genus honeybees construct beehives in the true sense, by secreting beeswax and shaping it into combs. True beehives constructed out of beeswax are relatively rare in the wild.

Nests are far more common, and house all other kinds of bees and wasps. They’re made of materials like paper, processed wood, and other debris and stuck together with resin and saliva. Bees and wasps either build nests into natural cover or hang them in high, inaccessible places. Nests come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, but most are round and look wooden or paper-based. Both hives and nests are structures for bees to live in. Not all bee species live in colonies, however, so finding a nest doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a colony nearby.

Why is it here?

Why did bees build their nest near your home?There are a couple reasons why bees might make their nests around your home. Unfortunately, if you’ve ever had a nest on your property before, it’s more likely to happen again. When colonies get big enough, they split up to form new colonies in a new nest. When that happens, they seek out nearby locations where they’d been successful in the past.

There are simpler reasons why bees build nests near homes, too. Bees need to build their nests into cover in order to protect them from predators and rivals. Homes provide great, sturdy cover that can be difficult to find in the wild. Finally, bees tend to want to live near their food source: nectar. If you keep a flourishing flower garden near your home, the nectar in your flowers could attract bees.

Why now?

Why do bees build their hives or nests in spring?In late spring, bees swarm in order to locate mates and find good places to build hives or nests. To prepare for swarming, the population of a hive increases rapidly. More workers and drones are born, and they venture further out from the hive in search of food. This population explosion continues until the colony becomes overpopulated, necessitating migration.

Swarming happens in late spring because it’s the first time bees have the resources required to make it happen. Driving population growth to the point of overpopulation requires a lot of energy and food. Before flowers blossom, they can’t muster the resources required to make it happen. If bees build a nest near your home, it’ll probably happen shortly after a swarm, from April to June. Swarming can happen anytime between April and October, however, so it’s possible bees may move in later, too.

Is it dangerous?

Are bees' nests dangerous?It could be. Like all animals, bees don’t attack people for no reason, but they will defend themselves if provoked. Bees may react defensively to perceived threats coming near their colonies. Honey bees only sting once and die after stinging, but bumblebees, paper wasps, and yellow jackets are capable of stinging multiple times. If you encounter an aggressive swarm of bees near a nest, seek shelter indoors immediately.

To protect yourself from dangerous encounters, identify where the bee nest is on your property and avoid it. If you have to walk near the nest, do so slowly and stay as far away as possible. Don’t make sudden movements or approach the nest with any tool or implement in a threatening way. Bees can be touchy about protecting their homes, but remember: they’re not out to get you. If you leave them alone, they’ll almost certainly leave you alone.

What should I do about it?

What should I do about the bees' nest on my property?This probably isn’t particularly surprising, but we do not recommend you attempt to remove a bees’ nest yourself. Seriously, attempting to destroy or move their home will make you a pretty big threat to the bees. They’ll react accordingly.

Without the proper tools and training, removing a bees’ nest can be dangerous. If you’ve identified a nest on your property, or even if you just suspect you have one, give Griffin a call.

Our experts have everything they need to remove a bees’ nest quickly, safely, and effectively. Don’t risk the stings yourself, just leave it to us!