Hornets, Wasps, and Dirt Daubers

After the much colder and longer than normal winter, I am about as excited as anyone for this warm weather to be here! For me the warm weather means grilling with family and friends, the smell of fresh-cut lawn, camping with the Scouts, and lots of fun! Unfortunately with the heat we also get a sharp increase in the activity of flying stinging pests known as arthropods, or more commonly, as bees, wasps, hornets, mud daubers, and cicada killers.

We’ll start with the most likely to sting, and work out way down from there.

Bald Faced Hornets Nest


First on the list are Hornets and Yellow jackets. These pests are usually aggressive, and have the capability of stinging or biting multiple times and should be avoided.They are usually about a half-inch to an inch in length, they can vary in coloring and markings but usually are black or dark brown with yellow or white marks. These pests can nest in trees, eves of homes and buildings, and even in the ground. If they’re nesting above ground, they build large papery nests with one or more openings.

While you may notice these pests anytime of the year if temperatures are warm enough, they are more of a threat in the fall as the cool air encourages them to look for a warm home to nest in – often our homes and businesses!

Adult hornets and yellow jackets mainly eat fruit and fruit juices, but they collect and feed larvae mainly other insects (flies, etc), and both fresh and cooked meat. If you have wasps dive bombing your back yard barbecue, they are probably either yellow jackets or hornets.


The next on the list is the Paper Wasp. Paper wasps are occasionally aggressive, but not nearly as much as yellow jackets or hornets. They are usually about three-quarters of an inch, to an inch, and either black or brown with red and/or yellow stripes. Paper Wasps make nests of papery material, and it is just one circular comb of cells opening downward. These are usually the nests that are found around the eves of homes and businesses, and are a common sight here in Alabama. Their nests are normally small, especially when compared to a Hornet or Yellow jacket nest.

These Wasps are the ones that are most active in early spring, and can usually be seen flying on and around bushes and plants. They eat the honeydew off of plants and shrubs, and generally speaking aren’t doing damage to the plant. Also, unless provoked, they are unlikely to attack while foraging. Their attacks are more common when they feel their nest is threatened.


Bees. Honey Bees are one of the most, if not the most beneficial insect in the world. They provide an invaluable service of pollinating plants as they go about collecting pollen to make honey. While we love the honey, and we love the pollination they do, some strains of honey bee can be very aggressive. The aggressive strain is called the Africanized Honey Bee. These bees are often labeled “killer bees” and reported to be much more aggressive than other strains. While this was true of the first generation of the species after it’s introduction, they have since grown less aggressive due to interbreeding with domesticated bees. Any and all bees can attack and swarm, and their hives should be left alone.

Unfortunately bees at times will make their nests inside of walls, ceilings, and voids in homes. When this happens the best option is to have a bee keeper remove the nest, queen, and hive, and then to seal up the entry points to prevent re-infestation.


Carpenter Bees- In Northern Alabama we have an abundance of Carpenter Bees. These are larger than a honey bee, and look a lot like a Bumble Bee. One way to tell carpenter bees apart from bumble bees is that while both are black and yellow, the carpenter bee is solidly black on the hind portion of their body. Carpenter bees love to make their nests in untreated wood that has been exposed to the elements. They burrow a small entrance hole, then have two tunnels lead off from it. One tunnel leads to their nest, and the other to where they lay their eggs. One of the best ways to prevent their infestation is to make sure that all exposed wood is treated, painted, or stained thoroughly each year.

While Carpenter Bees are almost famous for dive bombing and flying at people, it is usually an empty threat. Only male carpenter bees can sting, and they tend to be the aggressive ones. Females, which can sting, often only do so when they feel their nest is threatened.

To keep carpenter bee populations from nesting in and around your home or business, it requires regular upkeep and maintenance on all exposed wood. Sometimes that isn’t enough, and the bees will find ways to invade and make their homes. In these cases the best option is to treat the entry point with and insecticidal dust, and then caulk the hole closed. It can also help to treat the area with a repellent spray.


Mud Daubers, or as they are called locally – Dirt Daubers. These wasps are not usually aggressive, while they have the capability to sting, they don’t do it very often. If mud daubers didn’t make a mess while building their nests, they would be great to have around. These wasps hunt and sting spiders and other pests and fill their nests with their paralyzed bodies for their eggs to feed on when they hatch.


Lastly, cicada killers. Cicada killers are large, measuring in at one to one and a half inches. These are solitary wasps, and hunt cicada. After stinging the cicada they drag them back into their nests in the ground. Cicada Killers can be alarming due to their large size, but they almost never sting unless you force them to. Overall, these are a beneficial pest, and at worst a slight nuisance.


As you’re planning your summer and fall activities, keep your eyes out for the various nests and try to avoid them. At Scout Pest Control, we include treatments for wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets with our general pest control service. For more information, give us a call today!


– Jared Toone

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