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American Bee Journal

A Beekeeper’s Introduction to the Other Stinging Insects – Paper Wasps, Yellow Jackets, and Hornets: Part 1

By July 8, 2024No Comments

For this article and the next, I am going to describe the life cycles of paper wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets, for the region confined to North America, in its temperate climate with well-defined seasons. I see the need from two main perspectives. First, a beekeeper among others who do not routinely work with insects becomes the “expert” on all stinging insects. As we know, the general public does not typically realize the distinctions between bees and wasps, even at a basic level.
Take for example a reporter responding to a news event about a person stung numerous times, which required hospitalization. The situation may initially lack much detail. A beekeeper, known locally (perhaps yourself), could be called upon to do a video interview. When answering a slew of questions, only then the beekeeper might have to explain why that elderly man, on a pleasant summer afternoon, was stung badly by a bunch of bees. He was just out on his riding mower, cutting his pretty green lawn, flat and treeless like a golf course, his pride and joy. During the interview, the reporter divulged more from the man’s wife relaying that they never had trouble with bees before in the yard.
A beekeeper with a basic understanding of a honey bee’s life history (biology) and colony management for honey production will likely find that education inadequate to address this kind of interview. The response calls for additional knowledge, that dealing with yellow jackets (and possibly invasive hornets in the future). Whether the location has a history of Africanized honey bees (AHB) or if they could be a recent arrival, or if an international shipping port is nearby, could all be additional complications in finding the correct assessment of the situation.
Secondly, as media reports have made clear, hornets from Asia have made brief incursions into North America before being eradicated from those sites. It is not difficult to imagine a heightened awareness and sensitivity to these large stinging insects “appearing” again in the U.S. or close to its borders. Beekeepers should…

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