Bees & Wasps
Yellowjacket or Yellow jacket is the common name in North America for predatory social wasps. They can be identified by their distinctive markings, their occurrence only in colonies, and a characteristic, rapid, side-to-side flight pattern prior to landing. All females are capable of stinging.
Queens are the only members of the colony able to survive the winter. In April or May, each queen selects a suitable location, constructs a small nest and begins raising sterile daughter offspring. These workers take over the duties of enlarging and maintaining the nest, foraging for food and caring for the offspring while the queen functions only to produce more eggs.
The queen bee lays all the eggs in a colony. The queen fertilizes each egg as it is being laid using stored sperm from the spermatheca. The queen occasionally will not fertilize an egg. These non-fertilized eggs, having only half as many genes as the queen or the workers, develop into male drones.
The diet of the adult yellowjacket consists primarily of items rich in sugars and carbohydrates, such as fruits, flower nectar, and tree sap. Larvae feed on proteins derived from insects, meats, and fish, which are collected by the adults, which chew and condition them before feeding them to the larvae. Many of the insects collected by the adults are considered pest species, making the yellow jacket beneficial to agriculture. Larvae, in return, secrete a sugar material to be eaten by the adults; this exchange is a form of trophallaxis. In late summer, foraging workers pursue other food sources from meats to ripe fruits, or scavenge human garbage, sodas, picnics, etc., as additional sugar is needed to foster the next generation's queens
Bald faced hornets (This species is a wasp, not a true hornet) are distinguished from other yellowjackets by their white and black coloring. It has a white or "bald faced" head. These wasps also have three white stripes at the end of their bodies. They are notably larger than other species of wasps, as adults average about 19 millimeters (0.75 in) in length. Queen and worker wasps have similar morphologies. However, workers are covered by small hairs while the queen remains hairless. Queens are always larger than workers in their colonies, though size distributions can vary in different nests and workers in one colony might be as large as a queen in a different one.
The life cycle of a colony can be divided into the founding stage, the ergonomic stage and the reproductive stage. Colonies show annual cycling. New nests are generally founded during spring and early summer by a single queen, though temporal specifics vary depending on location. In Washington State, nest initiation occurs during mid-May, and workers emerge during mid-June. Large cell building starts during mid-July, and the first queens emerge during mid-August. The colony terminates during mid-September, for a life cycle of approximately four months (122 days). Lower latitudes correlate with longer life cycles. In Indiana, colonies were observed to begin in early May and terminate in late September, a life cycle of five months (153 days), and in Central California nests are initiated as early as the end of March. These nests survive between 155 and 170 days. Active colonies have been observed in central Pennsylvania as late as mid-October.
Each spring, queens that were born and fertilized at the end of the previous season begin new colonies. A queen selects a location for its nest, begins building it, lays a first batch of eggs and feeds this first group of larvae. These become workers and assume the chore of expanding the nest. They chew up wood, which mixes with a starch in their saliva. They then spread it around with their mandibles and legs, and it dries into a papery structure. The workers guard the nest and feed on nectar, tree sap and fruit pulp (particularly that of apples). They also prey on insects and other arthropods, chewing them up and feeding them to the larvae. They have been known to scavenge raw meat. In late summer and early fall, the queen begins to lay eggs which will become drones and new queens. After pupation, these fertile males and females fly off to mate. Fertilized queens then overwinter and start new colonies during the next year. Males and workers die in the end of the cycle. The old queen, if not killed by workers, dies with them around mid-autumn.
Mud dauber (or "mud wasp") is a solitary wasps who's name is commonly applied to several wasps from either the family Sphecidae or Crabronidae that build their nests from mud. Mud daubers belong to different families and are variable in appearance. Most resemble long, slender wasps about 1 inch (25 mm) in length. The name refers to the nests that are made by the female wasps, which consist of mud molded into place by the wasp's mandibles. Mud daubers are not normally aggressive but can become belligerent when threatened. Stings are uncommon.
The organ pipe mud dauber, one of many mud daubers in the family Crabronidae, builds nests in the shape of a cylindrical tube resembling an organ pipe or pan flute. Common sites include vertical or horizontal faces of walls, cliffs, bridges, overhangs and shelter caves or other structures.
The nest of the black and yellow mud dauber is a simple, one-cell, urn-shaped nest that is attached to crevices, cracks and corners. Each nest contains one egg. Usually several nests are clumped together and covered in mud. The metallic-blue mud dauber, another sphecid, builds mud nests, but occasionally refurbishes the abandoned nests of other species; it preys primarily on spiders. The two species commonly occupy the same barns, porches, or other nest sites.
All three species may occupy the same sites year after year, creating large numbers of nests. Mud dauber nests can last many years in protected locations and are often used as nest sites by other kinds of wasps and bees, as well as other types of insects.
Like most other wasps, mud daubers are predators. The females not only build the nests, they also hunt to provision them. However, pipe-organ mud dauber males have reportedly brought spiders to the nest, and they aid in nest guarding.
Black and yellow mud daubers primarily prey on relatively small, colorful spiders, such as crab spiders (and related groups), orb weavers and some jumping spiders. They usually find them in and around vegetation. Blue mud daubers are the main predator of the black and brown widow spiders.
Adults of both sexes frequently drink flower nectar, but they stock their nests with spiders, which serve as food for their offspring. Mud daubers prefer particular kinds and sizes of spiders for their larders. Instead of stocking a nest cell with one or two large spiders, mud daubers cram as many as two dozen small spiders into a nest cell.
Most are social insects that form colonies with a single queen. The colonies are smaller than those of honey bees, growing to as few as 50 individuals in a nest.
Like their relatives the honeybees, bumblebees feed on nectar, using their long hairy tongues to lap up the liquid; the proboscis is folded under the head during flight. Bumblebees gather nectar to add to the stores in the nest, and pollen to feed their young. They forage using color and spatial relationships to identify flowers to feed from. Some bumblebees steal nectar, making a hole near the base of a flower to access the nectar while avoiding pollen transfer.
Bumblebees are active in conditions when honeybees stay at home. Bumblebees can readily absorb heat from even weak sunshine. The thick pile created by long setae (bristles) acts as insulation to keep bumblebees warm in cold weather; species from cold climates have longer setae (and thus thicker insulation) than those from the tropics. The temperature of the flight muscles, which occupy much of the thorax, needs to be at least 30 °C (86 °F) before flight can take place. The muscle temperature can be raised by shivering. It takes about five minutes for the muscles to reach this temperature at an air temperature of 13 °C (55 °F).
Bumblebee species are not normally aggressive, but may sting in defense of their nest, or if harmed.
The common name "carpenter bee" derives from their nesting behavior; nearly all species burrow into hard plant material such as dead wood or bamboo.
Many species in this enormous genus are difficult to tell apart; most species are all black, or primarily black with some yellow or white pubescence. Some differ only in subtle morphological features, such as details of the male genitalia. Males of some species differ confusingly from the females, being covered in greenish-yellow fur.
Non-professionals commonly confuse carpenter bees with bumblebees; the simplest rule of thumb for telling them apart is that most carpenter bees have a shiny abdomen, whereas bumblebee abdomens are completely covered with dense hair. Males of some species of carpenter bees have a white or yellow face, unlike bumblebees, while females lack the bare corbicula of bumblebees; the hind leg is entirely hairy.
Carpenter bees are traditionally considered solitary bees, though some species have simple social nests in which mothers and daughters may cohabit. When females cohabit, a division of labor between them occurs sometimes. In this type of nesting, multiple females either share in the foraging and nest laying, or one female does all the foraging and nest laying, while the other females guard.
Carpenter bees make nests by tunneling into wood, bamboo, and similar hard plant material such as peduncles, usually dead. They vibrate their bodies as they rasp their mandibles against hard wood, each nest having a single entrance which may have many adjacent tunnels. As a subfamily, they attack a wide range of host plants, but any one species may show definite adaptations or preferences for groups of plants. The entrance is often a perfectly circular hole measuring about 16 mm (0.63 in) on the underside of a beam, bench, or tree limb. Carpenter bees do not eat wood. They discard the bits of wood, or reuse particles to build partitions between cells. The tunnel functions as a nursery for brood and storage for the pollen/nectar upon which the brood subsists. The provision masses of some species are among the most complex in shape of any group of bees; whereas most bees fill their brood cells with a soupy mass and others form simple spheroidal pollen masses. The eggs are very large relative to the size of the female and are some of the largest eggs among all insects. Carpenter bees can be timber pests, and cause substantial damage to wood if infestations go undetected for several years.
A honey bee (or honeybee) is a eusocial, flying insect within the genus Apis of the bee clade. They are known for construction of perennial, colonial nests from wax, for the large size of their colonies, and for their surplus production and storage of honey, distinguishing their hives as a prized foraging target of many animals, including honey badgers, bears and human hunter-gatherers.
In cold climates, honey bees stop flying when the temperature drops below about 10 °C (50 °F) and crowd into the central area of the hive to form a "winter cluster". The worker bees huddle around the queen bee at the center of the cluster, shivering to keep the center between 27 °C (81 °F) at the start of winter (during the broodless period) and 34 °C (93 °F) once the queen resumes laying. The worker bees rotate through the cluster from the outside to the inside so that no bee gets too cold. The outside edges of the cluster stay at about 8–9 °C (46–48 °F). The colder the weather is outside, the more compact the cluster becomes. During winter, they consume their stored honey to produce body heat. The amount of honey consumed during the winter is a function of winter length and severity.
Of all the honey bee species, only A. mellifera has been used extensively for commercial pollination of fruit and vegetable crops. The scale of these pollination services is commonly measured in the billions of dollars, credited with adding about 9% to the value of crops across the world. However, despite contributing substantially to crop pollination, there is debate about the potential spillover to natural landscapes and competition between managed honey bees and many of the ~20,000 species of wild pollinators.
Honey bees obtain all of their nutritional requirements from a diverse combination of pollen and nectar. Pollen is the only natural protein source for honey bees. Adult worker honey bees consume 3.4–4.3 mg of pollen per day to meet a dry matter requirement of 66–74% protein. The rearing of one larva requires 125-187.5 mg pollen or 25-37.5 mg protein for proper development. Dietary proteins are broken down into amino acids, ten of which are considered essential to honey bees: methionine, tryptophan, arginine, lysine, histidine, phenylalanine, isoleucine, threonine, leucine, and valine. Of these amino acids, honey bees require highest concentrations of leucine, isoleucine, and valine, however elevated concentrations of arginine and lysine are required for brood rearing. In addition to these amino acids, some B vitamins including biotin, folic acid, nicotinamide, riboflavin, thiamine, pantothenate, and most importantly, pyridoxine are required to rear larvae. Pyridoxine is the most prevalent B vitamin found in royal jelly and concentrations vary throughout the foraging season with lowest concentrations found in May and highest concentrations found in July and August. Honey bees lacking dietary pyridoxine were unable to rear brood.