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Dirt mounds indicate a ground nesting bee or wasp is present. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

Bees and Wasps: What to know and when to be concerned

Measurement of cicada killer wasp

Cicada killer wasps are large wasps with a striped or black abdomen. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Extension

There has been a lot of publicity surrounding the Asian giant hornet in the United States, but as of today, the hornets (Vespa mandarinia) have only been found in Washington state. Of course, insects can be transported across state lines and it is always a good idea to watch and observe insects you find in your landscape. We do want you to be aware of the bees and wasps found in central Florida and how many are beneficial insects, meaning they help control plant pests in your yard by doing things like feeding upon them.  It is important to identify an insect before you eradicate it, and your local UF/IFAS Extension Service can help you with that.

First, it is important that we don’t confuse one of our beneficial wasps for the Asian giant hornet. In particular, the cicada killer wasp is one of the largest wasps in Florida and doesn’t look like it would be a desirable insect. The cicada killer wasp is actually a beneficial insect that constructs small mounds in the soil as it is a ground-nesting insect. This large wasp can look scary, and it the most common local wasp that is currently being mistaken for the Asian giant hornet.  This blog post has some great photos and information on the cicada killer wasp. 

Additionally, there are other bees and wasps doing good work in your landscape. Mason bees, miner bees, sweat bees, and honeybees all provide valuable pollination services.  Parasitic wasps are also beneficial.  They are often very small, and not easily confused with large hornets.

Dirt mounds indicate a ground nesting bee or wasp is present. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

Dirt mounds indicate a ground nesting bee or wasp is present. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

Finally, there are hornets and yellowjackets, which can be found throughout Florida (and beyond). While they do provide valuable services consuming pest insects, nests near homes are not wanted and can be problematic.  Be cautious when removing or call a professional.

Just remember, it is always important to identify and insect before deciding to eradicate it.

More on the Asian Giant Hornet

Asian Giant Hornet FAQ

Featured Creatures, Asian Giant Hornet

Information on the Asian giant hornet, and what to do if you think you have spotted one

Helpful resources on bees and wasps:

Benefits of wasps

Attracting native bees to your landscape

Red and black mason bees

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk.  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Give us a call, or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

If you are not in Polk County, Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Plant Clinic.

The Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program  extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

One Comment on “Bees and Wasps: What to know and when to be concerned

  1. You made a good point that proper identification of the insect is important to do first before deciding to hire bee control services. My dog was stung by an insect when I let him play outside yesterday and we’re lucky that it wouldn’t cause anything bad aside form some inflammation. If I find out what might have stung him, I might need to get them removed from my property.

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