Why must you hurt me?This is probably the entry that most people are the most interested in. Who cares about bugs, right? At least until they start hurting you.
Both bee and wasp venom contains peptides and enzymes that break through and destroy the layer of fats lining each cell. It also destroys the skin's mast cells, which are part of the body's immune system. This releases histamine, which encourages blood vessels to dilate and allows immune cells to reach the sting site faster and neutralize the venom. It is these histamines which can harm people with bee sting allergies. The blood vessels' dilation response is extreme, and they can no longer do their part in regulating blood pressure. As a result, blood pressure drops rapidly, and cells stop receiving oxygen. This type of anaphylactic shock also causes swelling and spasms and can lead to death.
Both bees and wasps will only sting when they or their community is threatened. If you put your hand down on a wasp, she will sting you... and who could blame her? If you, for example, smack a wasp out of the air or whack one with a newspaper into oblivion, guess what? If your attacker was a yellow-jacket wasp or a honeybee and her nest is within 15 feet, then within 15 seconds of your heinous act, an alarm signal in the form of a scent will reach her sisters. They will hunt you down and sting you many, many more times. All of them. Aggressive species like the Africanized Honeybee will not only come after you, but they won't stop, getting angrier and angrier with every one of them you kill defending yourself.
Just ignore them... it can be hard when you are sitting in a clover field and the bees are out in force gathering pollen or if you are at a picnic and the wasps really, really want some of the Colonels Secret Recipe. Some people are very afraid of bees and wasps, but flailing and possibly hurting one of these little guys is only going to fulfill the fear these people have of getting stung.
Won't somebody please think of the children?The larvae of both bees and wasps is what its all about. Every behavior each of these species has developed over the millenia is for their kids.
Honeybees, as we have seen, build a complex, fantastic hive out of beeswax... manufacturing honey to feed their children. Solitary bees do the same thing, foraging non stop for their entire lives to feed the next generation.
Wasps are more hardcore... if bees are the tree-hugging pacifists, wasps are the warmongering hawks. They forage for insects and other proteins (like your picnic basket) to bring back to encase in with their larvae. In other, parasitic species, they hunt for insects they can lay their eggs into directly so the babies are essentially born inside a live food source.
Sunshine on a cloudy dayBees have a solar compass, which lets them remember where things are in relation to the sun. The bee's ability to see polarized light (something no human can do) lets her determine where the sun is regardless of whether it is obscured by clouds. The other tool is her internal clock, which lets her keep track of how far she has flown.
As a bee matures, she learns about how the sun's path across the sky changes during different seasons of the year and at different latitudes if her hive is moved. She can and does incorporate these changes into her measurements.
Where you might find them (if...you wanted to?)Most bees, both social and solitary, tend to find hollows, holes and other protected areas. Because bees of all kinds forage for pollen, a good nearby food source is essential.
Wasps, on the other hand, are more flexible because of their foraging habits. Yellow jackets, for example, like to be where humans live. They usually build their nests underground, around garbage and in cool, dark spaces. They also build nests in trees, shrubs and in holes in walls. Other wasp types, like the parasitic Tarantula Hawk, need to live where tarantulas and other large wolf spiders live. You will often find wasps of all kinds in areas where insects are plentiful - and that could mean around your trash can, since that's where a large number of flies and other garbage eating species live.
Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their numbers.
...And it turns out they are important to us for more than just cute halloween kid costumes ...Honeybees are the most obvious and most critically important of the Apocrita suborder to humans. The key role they play in human food production has only recently been realized with the onset of Colony Collapse Disorder, which started to become a deep concern in 2006 when entire honeybee populations began dying off.
The cause of this disease is still somewhat unknown, but Varroa mites have been pointed to. The scientific community has theorized that the die-off might be from a combination of things... that the honeybees have been weakened by environmental factors that might have made them more susceptible to pests and pathogens. Honeybees are responsible for pollination of approximately one third of the United States' crop species.
As for wasps, they are deeply responsible for pest control and have, in fact, been used for pest control in agriculture. They are a relentless force in controlling insect populations - and if you have wasps near your house, the odds are high that you have less spiders, flies and the types of insects that eat your flowers.
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