Over the last couple of decades, the honey bee has been given a bad rep. Due to the rapid growth and spread of the highly aggressive Africanized honey bees, commonly named “killer bees,” people have placed an unwarranted stigma upon all bees. This is especially so when it comes to the common honey bee – a vital creature that not only produces honey, but also pollinates most of our food supply. What worsens the matter is that the predatory insects called “yellow jackets” are sometimes mistaken for the usually harmless and docile honey bee.
The yellow jacket, while looking somewhat similar to a honey bee, is not a bee at all – it is part of the wasp family. The main physical differences between a common honey bee and a yellow jacket are that bees are covered in small hairs while exhibiting a duller yellow color; yellow jackets are smoother and display brighter yellows and glossier black tones, with either a white or a yellow face. They also lack the flat hind legs bees use to carry pollen.
Honey bees and yellow jackets differ not only in looks, but also in function and in the way they fit into our ecosystem. The hardworking honey bee collects nectar and pollen to feed the hive and the queen. As they move from flower to flower, they cross-pollinate plants. By contrast, yellow jackets are predators and scavengers. They feed on plants, other insects and even small animals. They, too, have a role in the environment, as useful predators of pest insects.
In addition, yellow jackets have the ability to sting multiple times. When they sting, they release an “alarm” pheromone that alerts others of their species in the area to defend and attack as well. While honey bees often lose their stinger and will die after stinging once, yellow jackets have the ability to sting multiple victims throughout the course of their lives.
They are usually most aggressive in the late summer and early fall, when they begin to need additional “sugary” food sources.
Yellow jackets also differ from honey bees in terms of their life cycles. Bee hives can sustain themselves for many years, while yellow jacket colonies die off every year, only leaving a queen to rebuild the population. This is why yellow jackets are rarely seen after the early fall.
As explained, both honey bees and yellow jackets have an important role in the ecosystem. However, bee or wasp removal may be necessary if colonies are located too close to humans or livestock. While bees are not aggressive most of the time, people and animals can be in grave danger if they inadvertently threaten a nearby hive or colony. Due to a percentage of humans being allergic to bee and wasp stings, swarm attacks have the ability to cause fatalities.
Professional, environmentally responsible bee removal services can remove both bee hives and wasp colonies from your premises safely, preserving the lives of the insect population, repairing damaged structures and ensuring the safety of humans or animals in the area. This is especially important when it comes to honey bees, as their population is currently in serious decline. Killing these vital insects with harsh pesticides is both unnecessary and detrimental, as they pollinate about one-third of our food supply.