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Gardening For Wildlife, #25 Those darn bees, or are they wasps
August 06, 2007

Sunday evening brought a total bummer.

The sun now sets before 9:00 PM here in SW. MI.

What a drag.

Whew, was it one hot week.

Dry too.

In some places, even the golden rod and other wild plant life has turned brown.

A recent report from Michigan's Department of Agriculture show a 74% crop failure for the corn farmers in our state.

Making a living when you depend on the weather is difficult at best.

Can you imagine the difficulties hot and dry conditions have on our wildlife?

Wild fruits and seeds wither away to nothing.

Some plants dry up to or die.

Fewer blooms and insects are available.

Birds and other wildlife are forced to travel greater distance in their already strapped world.

More wildlife starts to visit our yards and gardens.

Even creatures that aren't welcome.

All the more reason to have a wildlife garden don't you think?

The resident Red-tailed hawks once again successfully fledged a clutch of three youngsters.

You know food sources are plentiful when birds of prey fledge three.

The past few years they have fledged two or three younguns.

With birds of prey, if food isn't plentiful, the oldest or dominant one ends up the sole survivor as it wins out in the battle for food.

In some cases, the surviving young will eat the perished sibling.

When food is plentiful (and there is plenty for them around here), the whole clutch has a chance to fledge.

What I adore..............

When these soon to be top of the food chain birds first fledge, they are so clueless as all youngsters are.

They scream and cry for their parents.

They fly around from pillar to post.

Attacked by other birds and haven't a clue as to why this is happening.

Lacking a real fear of humans, I am able to get rather close to the fledglings before they move to another spot.

A real treat is watching them as they learn to hunt the hard way.

Round two for some birds as they bring fledglings to the yard.

Varieties of fledglings and juveniles looking for a hand out, including a few cowbirds from their surrogate parents.

butterfly activity is reaching a peak in my yard and hummers are very active as well.

It's that time of year.

While the dog days of summer seem to slow us down, activity in the wasp department is heating up.

For the next two to three months, paper wasps and yellow jackets are working at a fevered pitch to feed an ever growing colony.

I'm sure you have experienced them first hand if you tried to enjoy a cookout or picnic.

Cut up the watermelon or pop open your favorite drink..........

Presto, you have wasps.

Now wasps and yellow jackets are beneficial insects on the most part.

They pollinate flowers and eat other insects and larvae.

If you can, leave them alone.

However, messing with a guy's cookout isn't right.

I mean, the grill master can't have a cookout ruined by wasps can he?

I digress.

In regions where we have cold falls and winters,the queens are the only survivors.

Each year the surviving queens (usually made in late summer) will hibernate and start a fresh nest next spring.

In areas where the weather is more favorable, a new queen may take over an existing nest and it continues to grow.

This time of year the nests are at their largest and the larvae need food and lots of it.

Wasps will travel great distances to find meat and other foods to feed the nest.

The adult wasps feed on nectar, your watermelon and sweet drinks (always keep your drinks capped or covered and look inside before you take a drink).

Because their is so much activity, they become ornery and more aggressive this time of year and wont hesitate to sting you.

Wasps and yellow jackets are different from bees when it comes to stingers.

Their stingers are more spear like, where bees have a barb and leave the stinger in you resulting in the bee's death.

Wasps can continue to sting pumping more venom into you.

Usually stings are painful for a while, but about 2 in 1,000 are deathly allergic to stings and you must take great precautions as you well know.

Eastern Yellow jackets are flat out mean.

They typically build nests under ground in vacant rodent tunnels.

They don't like the sound or vibrations that lawn equipment makes and will attack.

They also will build between walls of man made structures.

Yellows jackets are found over much of North America.

Including your picnic.

The Northern of Golden paper wasp is the most common of our native wasps.

The northern wasp is found over most of North America.

These wasps can vary in coloration from a dark brown to a golden color.

Their nests are made of wood materials giving it that paper texture.

Typically nests are smaller and are built on the underside id bushes and stuff away from people and other distractions.

These guys usually leave our picnics alone and are less aggressive.

I do know first hand however, that they do pack a wallop.

The main culprit is the European paper wasp.

First discovered in the New England region around 1980, these wasps now inhabit much of North America.

Somewhat similar in appearance to yellow jackets, European wasps are mean and aggresiive.

Nest are built on the underside of many structures.

Decks, porches, lawn chairs, sheds, houses, etc.

Sometimes they will built in a hollow pipe, under shutters and even within walls if they can find an opening.

I almost forgot................

They love to occupy bird houses, butterfly houses, mailboxes and other objects that offer protection.

Yes, European wasps are the main culprits in our nest boxes.

There is no law protecting wasps and yellow jackets, so if you feel the need, destroy them.

This time of year especially when they are a big pain and knowing the nest will die off soon.

European paper wasps are taking over, feel free to kill them off.

Natural insecticides like mint oil work wonders on killing wasps and yellow jackets.

To prevent them from building in your nest boxes or other places, make a solution of rubbing alcohol and about 20 to 25% pure mint oil.

This will keep wasps away for a good spell and most definitely kill off any that may exist.

It works.

Because birds have poor sniffers and mint is a food item, it wont harm the birds.

Mint however, is a neurotoxin to wasps and bees and they drop, like right now.

I've even used it as a repellent when I'm in an active area or when I power wash the home.

Why all this on wasps and Yellow jackets?

It's to help inform some of you that these bad guys do have a good side.

Sometimes we can walk around them and other times they are indeed pests and need to be dealt with.

As is the case most of the time, it is the non native that is most aggressive.

Native wasps deserve a place in our wildlife gardens.

They serve a beneficial role, just leave my cookouts and picnics alone or there will be a payback.


It's time to fly.

Be sure to spread some wealth this week.

Smile and make it a pretty one.

Share your smiles with a stranger.

You just may make their day and in the process, you feel better too.

Until next time.

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS: If you enjoy these letters, please feel free to forward them to your friends, family, and cyber buddies Gardening For Wildlife.

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