Stinging insect populations are less than they appear

Yellow jackets, hornets, honey bees, bumble bees -- all are at their peak population in late summer. And therefore have become larger and more noticeable making people think there are more around than usual, according to Dr. Donald Lewis, a professor of entomology at Iowa State University's (ISU). "The number of wasps and bees varies from place to place throughout the state," Lewis sad. "While your area may think they have more, I have just as many calling and saying the don't have any." People also notice more of the winged insects this time of year because their diets have changed bringing them in closer contact with humans, Lewis said.

"They no longer need a protein food source, and their diet turns to sweets like soda pop, candy bars, things that have a higher sugar contact," Lewis said. The stinging yellow jackets are often seen around garbage cans, food spills and other areas where they might find sweet food in late summer, and are often confused with honey bees.
"Yellow jackets are bright, yellow with black markings and very little hair on their bodies," Lewis said. "Honey bees are golden brown." The insects have been around since spring, but because colonies start as a single queen in May populations are very small through early summer, according to the ISU extension website. The site also states yellow jacket wasp populations peak at the time of the Iowa State Fair, with up to about 5,000 wasps in each nest.

Yellow jackets build paper nests similar to hornets, but either in the ground, a log, landscape timber or building wall or attic, according to the ISU website. What can be done to avoid stings -- leave nests alone and try to avoid feeding sites. "The social insects have a venom that is to teach you a lesson -- don't come back here and bother us anymore," Lewis said. "So the venom does have things that cause pain."

The amount of pain and swelling from a sting varies depending on each individual's body chemistry, which is why some will suffer more than others, Lewis said. Yellow jackets are beneficial in that they do eat other insects, but if their nests are in "high traffic" areas like along walks or near doorways they should be destroyed to control the threat of stings, according to the ISU website. Nests in walls or in the ground can be destroyed by playing insecticide dust like boric acid in the nest entrance during the night. People should wear protective clothing and approach with caution, never shining a flashlight directly into the nest, according to the website.

Using dusts over sprays is preferred because sprays will soak into the soil while dusts remain on the tunnel surface to be picked up by passing wasps. That will help eliminate the presence of stinging pests in Northwest Iowa this fall. "There are differences in the amount of these insects from state to state," Lewis said. "There just happens to be more there." Source: Le Mars Daily Sentinel.

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