Updated: May 6, 2021
Life on the farm means co-existing with our pollinators, bees & wasps. They play an important role in our gardening echo-system by pollinating our plants and flowers. So they are welcome guests however, some are rude. You know, like those neighbors that you dread to see, over stay their welcome, and you can't wait for them to leave.
Here is a handy chart that pretty much sums it up.
Bees are sweet little furry creatures that buzz around happily pollinating all the things. They work hard to make honey, which by the way, is the only food that has no expiration date. It's good from now on. I have a few different types of bees here on the farm. There's the honey bee. I love these little guys. They only have one stinger and they don't want to use it because it means they will die. Their stinger has barbs that will pull out it's insides as it leaves their body. I've only been stung a few times by honey bees and it was only when I accidentally stepped on one while barefoot. The other day I was filling up the bird bath and a few were stopping by for a drink. One little guy fell in the water. I scooped him out and set him back on the side to safety. He happily shook his little butt and flew off. I found a stick and placed it over the center of the bird bath to give them something to hang onto while quenching their thirst. I also found an old frying pan laying near the barn. I added some water and stones and placed it in my flower bed on a cinder block. Perhaps I should paint the rim red so it will be more noticeable. I've also put a cup of sugar on a mat outside. Honey bees covered the entire mat and stayed until every last grain of sugar was devoured.
Otherwise known as 'wood boring bumble bees'. They look like the bumble bees you are used too, just a little smaller and darker in color. I have never been stung by one. They only problem you may have with them is that they bore holes in wood. More specifically, your porch. You can usually keep them from doing this is to spray it with something they don't like (but not harmful) or better yet, by painting.
I love bumble bees, I consider them lucky when I see them. For the past couple of years, they have been scarce. As a matter of fact, I haven't had many dandelions either, and they used to be abundant. I'm seeing them pop-up again, nature is healing. I've been stung only once by a bumble bee. It was when I was little, about three years old. I was 'helping' Dad fix the car and it got caught in my shirt and couldn't get out. He stung me three times on the stomach. I didn't hold a grudge though. They are friendly and wont mind if you pick them up. My Gran used to tie strings on their legs and hold it while they fly around before releasing them. Most people do that with June Bugs, but not Gran, she liked bumble bees. Last week as I was planting some flowers a couple of bumble bees were anxiously flying around my head. It was like they couldn't wait long enough for me to get them in the ground so they could have a taste. I planted a couple of snap dragons in Socrates head and one quickly came in to investigate. I tried to get a photo of him, you can barely see him, he is at the top right of the scalp at the base of the flower. I have a bird bath pedestal, the basin got busted so I found a Socrates bust planter at Design Toscano and set it on top. That's just too cool.
The small bumble bees though, they will sting. They nest in the ground and will come after you if you disturb their nest. I've only seen them nest in hay fields and when you mow hay, they will chase the tractor.
We call them Good News Bees and I believe the good news is that they won't sting you. As tradition goes, if you see one, it means you will receive a letter containing good news. If you see a black one, then the letter will contain bad news. They look like giant hornets but they are friendly and curious. They like to follow you around which can be comical if you confuse them with the hornet. I rarely see them around the house but I see them often around our pond.
Paper Wasps & Mud Daubers
Basically mud daubers are cool, paper wasps, not so much. I like mud daubers. I have never been stung by one. They mind their business, looking for bugs and stuff, not bothering anybody. They look like paper wasps but have an elongated body and build long nests out of mud. I usually leave their nests alone unless it looks like they are taking over or building one in an undesirable location. Such as a window sill. Then I'll knock it down. I hate to do that unless I have to, they work so hard on it, but sometimes they need to be encouraged to move on a little further away to a more secluded location.
Paper wasps on the other hand are pains in the ass. They are ever damn where and seem to have no control over their flight patterns. When in your house, they have a nasty habit of flying up and hitting the ceiling and falling down and stinging you on the arm for no apparent reason except they are angry little nut cases with a hidden agenda. They hang out at the grapevine too. I remember as a child, just wanting a few fresh grapes from the vine and one was always there to sting me behind the ear. I would run in crying and Gran would have to stop what she was doing to rock me in the chair until I felt like living again. For some reason, I would have her sing "Froggy went a courtin'". Not sure why I found that particular song consoling at that time, but it did the trick and I lived to eat more grapes.
These little bastards are spawned from the pit of hell. They have no understanding of personal space and will attack you for no reason. Picnics are their favorite hangout. You can kill ten and ten more will take their place. It's important to remember if one lands on you, remain perfectly still. This happened to me while I was trying to nap one day. A yellow jacket flew in the window and promptly landed on my face. The longest minute of my life as I held my breath, completely relaxed my body, remaining perfectly still. It was unnerving, to feel it crawling and the wings, and it was so loud when he finally flew off much to my relief. I promptly got up and grabbed a swatter and put an end to the nightmare it put me through.
They attacked my brother as he was coming in the door. We didn't know there was a nest nearby. They got him thirteen times. As much as we fought, I truly felt so bad for him when that happened and it scared me to death. Luckily, no one in my in my immediate family is allergic. They also attacked my younger cousin. He was playing in the driveway, raking gravels. Another nest we didn't know about until it was too late. He was standing under a tree and raised the rake, accidentally knocking the nest down on his head. I heard him shout and ran to help not knowing what was up. I saw the bees covering him and my knee jerk reaction was to back off. I did it so fast that I did a back flip that I could never done on purpose for love nor money. My other cousin sat on the porch and was crying because she was upset that her playmate was hurt. I fetched Gran and went into action. She got the bees off without getting stung herself, got him out of his clothes and doctored up. Poor dear, the top of his head was covered with stings. Terrifying.
I have been chased by these guys more times than I can count. When they sting, they sting HARD. They've gotten me a few times, on the head too. Giving me a nasty headache for a few days. They build huge, awesome nests. My brother, cousins, and I would play a game. We found a nest in one of the apple trees one time and in order to knock the nest down 'safely', we would toss apples and rocks at it and run away until it would finally fall. Not a bad game for my brother and me however, our cousins couldn't run as fast as the hornets and so they would usually get stung at which point they would no longer be interested in playing.
I killed a queen hornet who had come in an upstairs window. She was huge. Either looking for a place to hibernate or trying to find a way out. Not wanting a nest in the house or on the roof, I decided she had to go. Sorry, not sorry.
Last year when I was having my roof replaced, one of the first things they discovered when they began was a giant hornet nest. They were nervous at first until they realized it was abandoned. They said they have put up many a roof and it was the biggest nest they had ever seen. Hornets build nests every season, they don't re-use the same nest. So it's amazing to find a nest this size. It's no telling how long this nest was up there and who know, the builders of this nest may have stung me on a few occasions. It was larger than the opening of my washing machine! I took it to a nearby pre-school for the children to explore and enjoy.
It's important to help our pollinators. You can do that by planting a garden and flowers. Maybe setting out some water for them to drink. Stay safe, don't worry about the friendly bees but give the assholes with wings (wasps) a wide birth. Keep and eye out for wasps building nests near your home so you and your family won't be stung by the buggers.
Enjoy your day and thanks for reading!