Every spring and throughout the summer months, many different species of wasps and bees will emerge from lawns and turf. They have been in the ground all winter developing in the third stage of being an insect called the pupa. As the soil warms, pupa hatch. Adult bees and wasps will emerge, begin to look for good nest sites and quickly dig their new homes. They come in all sizes and colors. Some of the wasps are black, blue, brown, white and orange, yellow, and probably mixes of any listed above. Digger bees tend to look more like common bumble bees, but can look like a yellow jacket, a honey bee or certain types of flies.
DIGGER WASP BIOLOGY
Most all of digger wasps have common behavior which make them easy to control and understand.
- Nearly all are solitary. Although it appears you have thousands of “nests” in the yard, in fact they are all independent nests owned by different bees or wasps.
- Most like to fly around their “airspace” at different times of the day or season. This may have something to do with mating, air temperature or simply staking territory.
- Most are not too aggressive, but stay clear of them. One never knows if they may be allergic to a certain sting or venom. Don’t let children or pets play around nest sites.
- The first year these pests start to nest in a yard, they usually go unnoticed. It is easy to miss a few holes. Every year this will grow exponentially. Within 3-5 years, expect to have several thousand!
- Although nests may be under pine straw or wood chips, most species prefer to dig on bare ground between grass and plants. Holes are easy to mistake for worm castings.
- Most are predatory feeders foraging for grubs, small flying insects and ground dwelling pests. It is not uncommon for nest sites to be established in a yard which has little food supply. Because they can fly, food can be found in adjoining property. Nest locations may only be taking advantage of the free place to live without offering any help in controlling your pests! Once food is found, it is stung to death, brought back to the nest and buried. Eggs will be laid on it, in it or close to it so that hatching larva will have a ready food supply.
- Some are pollen or other organic food feeders; not all are predatory.
- Most nest sites tend to be where sunlight, moisture and soil density meet some requirement they like. Once a nest site is started, expect it to expand each year and become larger and larger. Although nests are abandoned each year, they are not reused. New nests will be made adjacent to old nests and most old nests fill in over the winter.
- Expect populations to vary from year to year, based on things such as the severity of the past winter, local insect levels, rain patterns, humidity and temperature.
- Most live a full year, emerging from pupa stages in the spring, building nests, laying eggs and then dying in the fall. Their offspring will emerge next year to continue the cycle.
Digger bees and wasps are not desirable pests for several reasons.
- Most people fear their presence. Although they usually will leave you alone if you don’t bother them, nests pose a hazard when built in play areas of the yard.
- Infestations will start small and rapidly grow. If you have a nest or two, expect to have several more in the next year. This will quickly grow out of control if left alone to develop.
- Nest sights will become unsightly. It is not uncommon for thousands of holes to be created within a few thousand square feet.
- Large nest sites are scary when the species nesting goes into their hovering activity. During these times, you will expect to have thousands of them flying low to the ground, around 1-3 feet high, simply flying in circles. Be sure to keep children and pets away during this activity.
- In every case, small infestations will eventually get too large and move into areas of the yard where you don’t want them. Be sure to prevent this by taking care of initial infestations before they grow.
Once you have found the general nest sight, control is easy to do and very effective. All you need to do is treat an area slightly larger than where they are nesting. Here are your options based on level of activity and area to be treated.
DIGGER WASP CONTROL DUST
If all you have is a few holes – less than 30 – and you want to get control of the problem before it gets control of you and your yard, get some DELTAMETHRIN DUST. This product works fast, lasts long and will kill off all which are active at the time of treatment. Do the application in the evening when all adults are back in the nest.
The best way to treat is to use a HAND DUSTER and simply go up to the hole, squeeze 3-5 times insuring thorough coverage and then quickly seal the hole with one of these PLUGS. Sealing the hole will serve you for many reasons.
First, it insures the adults stay in the treatment and can’t escape without contacting a lethal dose. Second, it helps protect the chemical from excessive moisture. Though this dust will hold up well to water and moisture, plugging it will insure it lasts that much longer just in case it rains or if you have an irrigation system. The longer you allow it to last the better performance you will get. Remember, it can only work on exposed adults. Since most nests have eggs and pupa which are still developing, having the dust in the nest for extended periods of time insures there is something around to knock out young that will hatch throughout the season. Lastly, plugging the holes lets you know for sure just which ones you treated and which ones you need to address.
DIGGER WASP CONTROL FREEZE
If treating in the dark, it is sometimes hard to see all which may be present. Plugging lets you know for sure and prevents any from being missed. Once treated, expect to kill most instantly. However, it is very common to have some new holes “pop” up from nowhere within a week which will need immediate attention. Furthermore, if the nests treated have a lot of eggs and pupa developing, you will assuredly get some new nests at some point in the future. If you treat them as described above you should be able to break their cycle so little to no activity will emerge next season.
However, don’t be surprised if there are a few survivors for a week or so following the application. These usually die off but if you want to kill them right away, use some of our fast acting WASP/HORNET/BEE FREEZE.
Bee Hornet Freeze: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/aerosol/hornet-killer-15-oz
This aerosol product shoots up to 20 feet and will knock out any which survive the dusting. It’s also a good idea to have a can of it available with you when you actually do the dusting. It’s quick action can be quite helpful if the nest turns out to be a little larger then anticipated! As effective as dusting can be, it’s not a practical treatment when you have 30 or more nests. Such infestations are fairly common and will require a more general approach. However, this blanketing treatment will prove very effective and time saving.
DIGGER WASP CONTROL GRANULES
If you have 30 or more nests active in turf and mulch areas, dusting will prove to be time consuming, costly and not efficient. There are two other products which work better for such infestations. Though either can be used by themselves, it is best to do both. We recommend this one-two combination for quick and complete control. First, apply some COMPLETE LAWN GRANULES. These granules are slow releasing, will filter down into nests and onto the paths they travel and will last a long time. This residual action is needed so that emerging young and hatching pupa can be controlled once they are active. Apply them with a GRANULE SPREADER to insure good distribution. However, it is important to understand that the granules are not fast acting
DIGGER WASP CONTROL SPRAY
They must be activated by watering them in and though you could use a water sprinkler to do the watering, the best option is to treat over the top with some ESFENVALERATE. Esfenvalerate is very safe around people and pets. It is odorless, easy to apply and works fairly quick on wasps and bees. Apply it over the top of the nests using a HOSE END SPRAYER.
Conquer Esfenvalerate: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/liquid/conquer-esfenvalerate
Hose End Sprayer: http://www.bugspraycart.com/equipment/sprayers/gilmour-20g-390
Do the treatment immediately after a rain or after you water the lawn. This extra moisture will insure the Esfenvalerate will soak in deep enough to reach nests. Make an effort to get entrance ways and tunnels wet. This will insure Esfenvalerate will provide a residual so that bees and wasps that go out and into nests will pick up a lethal dose and die. The water used to apply the Esfenvalerate will serve you by carrying the chemical as well as activating the Granules.
DIGGER WASP SAND TREATMENT
Many species of digger wasps like nesting in sandy soil. For nests in these areas, you need to get a lot of material down into the chambers of the colony. To achieve this goal, drench them with CYPERMETHRIN mixed in water. Apply 1/2 to 1 gallon of mixed solution per hole.
For playgrounds or any sensitive area, use ESSENTRIA IC. Ideally formulated for “low impact” applications, Essentria uses food and plant oils as active ingredients so it won’t pose a hazard to children or pets.
Essentria IC3: http://www.bugspraycart.com/exempt/liquid/eco-excempt-gal
Treatments done late in the summer and fall will provide immediate control of existing adults, but expect to have a spring hatch which will need treatment the following spring. Even though the granules will be working throughout the winter, all eggs and pupa won’t hatch. No chemical can affect them till they hatch so treatments done late in the season might not knock out entire infestation. This is to be expected. Remember though that treatments done in the summer and fall will be killing adults which are trying to lay more eggs. This will have a big impact on breaking their cycle so don’t wait till spring to treat – do it any time of the year when you see them active.
Digger bees and wasps are common problems in the yard. If left alone, their nest sights will grow to be several thousand. Their activity is unnerving to people and pets. Apply Deltamethrin Dust directly to nests if you only have a few. This treatment will be quick, easy and effective. For larger infestations, a combination of Complete Lawn Granules and Esfenvalerate will prove most effective in elimination. Late summer and fall treatments will provide immediate relief, but expect some to emerge the following season.
Give us a call if you need further help. Our toll free is 1-800-877-7290 and we’re open Monday through Thursday, 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM. On Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM and on Saturday, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time).
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