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Posts Tagged ‘Mexican Honey Wasps’

We’re not bees, if you please…

Large paper nests in South Central Texas trees most likely home to honey wasps

Many residents in the lower portion of the state have reported large, gray football- or basketball-shaped nests in their trees. These are most likely honey wasp nests, according to the AgriLife Extension entomologist in Bexar County. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Molly Keck)

Many residents in the lower portion of the state have reported large, gray football- or basketball-shaped nests in their trees. These are most likely honey wasp nests, according to the AgriLife Extension entomologist in Bexar County. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Molly Keck)

SAN ANTONIO – If there’s a large, gray ball-shaped nest in your tree, the insects inside likely aren’t bees but Mexican honey wasps, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist in San Antonio.

“I’ve been getting a lot more calls than normal from people throughout Bexar County saying they’re finding large round nests in trees on their property,” said Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist for Bexar County.  “They’re worried they have bees nesting in their trees, but these are probably honey wasps. These wasps are smaller than bees – about the same size as a housefly — and are non-aggressive.”

These wasps can easily be distinguished from bees, Keck said.

“They’re not hairy like bees,” she said, “and in addition to being much smaller, honey wasps are nearly all black and don’t have any of the typical bee markings.”

Keck said the Mexican honey wasp, Brachygastra mellifica, is a social species that builds paper nests in the canopies of trees and shrubs.

“By contrast, honey bees in the wild tend to colonize more in the cavities of large trees or openings in walls or overhangs as opposed to building nests in trees,” Keck noted.

While there are 16 different species of Mexican honey wasps, only one species has been reported in Texas, she said.

“However, in addition to the south and south-central portion of Texas, they’re found throughout Mexico and Central America,” she said.

Honey wasp colonies can become quite large, with some containing several thousand wasps, Keck said.

 “It can cause concern when people see a large basketball- or football-shaped nest attached to the branches of a tree or shrub,” she said. “But these wasps typically live peacefully with their human neighbors. However, if you climb into the tree or throw rocks at the nest or squirt it with water or do something else disruptive, the wasps will become irritated and that will increase your chance of being stung.”

Keck said walking past a tree harboring a wasp nest, mowing the lawn, closing a car door or going about regular outdoor activities will largely go unnoticed by the wasps.

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