By: Les Harrison
Destructive Barn Bugs
By August’s languid days, farmers and farm workers in north Florida have done battle with an almost endless array of destructive barn bugs in fields and pastures. Thrips, aphids, mites, nematodes and many more have all marshalled against successful agricultural production.
Hopefully all have been repelled. While the focus has been on the defense of productive acreage, there are problematic insects establishing a foothold in barns, sheds and other ag related structures.
Wasps are known for their foul nature and dreadful retaliation, if provoked. Whether the provocation was innocent or malicious, as many wasps as available will strike back at the offender.
Wasp fall into one of two general categories: social or solitary.
Social wasps live in colonies much like honeybees, and may have up to several thousand members. Depending on the species (such as yellow jackets or hornets), they build nests in protected places above the ground or below the soil’s surface.
Some social wasps are omnivorous, feeding on overripe fruit and carrion. Some of these social wasps, such as yellow jackets, may scavenge for dead insects to provide for their young.
Like honeybees, social wasp colonies consist of mostly female workers. Another similarity is only the females have stingers, and know how to effectively apply them. Unlike honeybees, the wasp queens live only one year.
Hibernate For The Winter
A majority of the wasp colony dies away in autumn, leaving only the young mated queens alive. During this period they leave the nest and find a suitable area to hibernate for the winter.
There are also solitary wasps which live and operate alone. They do not construct nests, instead depositing their eggs on host insects which serve as a sort of mobile nursery/café.
When the eggs hatch, the host becomes the first meal for the wasp larva. Mature wasp commonly feed on nectar and pollen.
Velvet Ant or the Cow Killer
Among these loners is a wingless wasp native to panhandle Florida. It is commonly known as the Velvet Ant or the Cow Killer. While it will deliver a painful sting, as other wasp will, there are no verifiable reports of livestock lethality.
Over-the-counter treatments can be effectively use on small nest which are usually found on ceilings and roof beams, and occasionally in idled equipment. Larger nest will require a pest control operator who has the necessary protective gear.
If the wasp are not a threat and left in place just be sure to give them the space to work and live. Everyone will be better for it.
To learn more about Florida’s barn bugs, contact the local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Click here for contact information.