The Great Black Wasp, scientific name Sphex pensylvanicus, is a species of digger wasp found across most of the Continental United States and northern Mexico. They are also called the Katydid Hunter and Steel-blue Cricket Hunter, though the latter name is also shared with a different wasp species.
Male black wasps are about 1.1 inches long, while females black wasps are slightly larger at about 1.3 inches long. They have entirely semi-gloss black bodies with thin waists and very spiny legs. Heavy-duty mandibles decorate their large heads, and females sport stingers on the tips of their abdomen (males do not have stingers). They have large, iridescent wings that can be folded flat over their abdomen.
They are solitary hunting wasps, and you’ll find them most active during summer peacefully sipping on nectar and munching on pollen. Their young though are a different story – they’re carnivores. An adult female black wasp will lay her fertilized eggs in an underground nest then go off to hunt katydid, cricket, grasshopper, or another similar insect to take back to the underground nest, alive but paralyzed from the mother wasp’s sting so they can be as fresh as possible for their intended purpose. Wasp eggs are then glued to the underside of the paralyzed insects, and once the egg hatches, the emerging larvae have instant access to food which they will devour as they grow and develop. Before the mother wasp leaves her eggs to their own fate, she closes the nest chamber and surrounding tunnels by filling it with soil and systematically tamping it down, often vibrating her abdomen to effectively act as a jackhammer. An interesting thing that happens is, sometimes the mother wasp may use tools such as a small leaf, twig, or pebble to aid in her efforts.
The mother wasp will spend a significant amount of time hunting food for her offspring, and while carrying paralyzed insects, she will be vulnerable to birds – particularly the house sparrow and catbird – stealing her victims. This is known as kleptoparasitism, which is when one organism benefits from another organism by stealing their caught, collected, or stored food.
Solitary wasps such as the great black wasp are much less aggressive than your average wasp and will not sting unless they feel very threatened. Their stings are painful, but will not swell like the stings from other wasps. Their stings are generally considered not dangerous, unless you have an allergy to insect stings – in which case, seek medical attention immediately.
If you find a lot of these wasps on your property and want to get rid of them, make sure you cover as much skin as possible – wear gloves, long-sleeved shirts, jeans, shoes, etc. – then spray them using a wasp or hornet insecticide spray can that shoots from several feet away so you can stay as far away as possible.
Find wasp nests on your property by keeping a lookout for the burrow entries they fly in and out off. Then saturate the burrow entries with insecticide spray or insecticide dust at dawn, just before these wasps wake and fly off for the day. Make sure you don’t hang around in the area – you don’t want angry wasp survivors exacting revenge.
If you have a wasp infestation on your property and have difficulty locating their burrows, get in touch with a professional pest control company to get rid of them safely and thoroughly for you.
Bees are flying insects known for their role in pollination. They’re closely related to wasps and, you may be surprised to know, ants. There are over 16,000 known species of bees and they are found in every continent except Antarctica.
The most commonly known bee species are social and therefore are territorial – they will sting to protect their colony from any perceived danger, though there are plenty of other bees that operate solo and essentially just want to be left alone.
Arizona is home to many social bees including honey bees. They have brownish gold hair all over their body and have black stripes on their abdomen, and can grow to around ¾ of an inch in length.
According to the University of Florida, up to 90% of all bees in Arizona are Africanized Honey Bees (originally produced by cross-breeding East African lowland honey bees to various European honey bees). The Africanized honey bee, known colloquially as the killer bee, is much more defensive than other varieties of honey bee and reacts to disturbances more aggressively and often attack in large swarms.
Regular honey bees aren’t usually much of a threat, but they will still sting you if they perceive you as a danger to their hive and colony.
Bumblebees have round bodies covered in soft hair, and have black and orange, yellow, or white bands on their bodies. While honey bees have many stripes of yellow and black, bumblebees usually have blocks of color variable among species, most species having areas of black hair. They’re hairier, and their abdomens have a more rounded tip.
They can grow to be an inch long, typically bigger than honey bees, but their colonies are smaller, growing as few as 50 in a nest.
Unlike honey bees that can sting only once, bumblebees can sting multiple times. They are however not aggressive bees and generally ignore humans and animals alike unless they perceive a threat to their small colony.
Carpenter bees resemble honey bees, but typically have a shiny, black abdomen that lack hairs like the other two bees we’ve discussed. They’re bigger, growing up to be about an inch long. They have large jaws that help them chew through wood where they make their nests.
Also unlike the previous bees discussed, they are also traditionally considered solitary bees, though a mother and her daughters may cohabit. In this scenario, a division of labor occurs where they share in foraging and nesting duties, or one does all the foraging and nesting while the others guard.
They’re docile and rarely sting unless directly provoked. Male carpenter bees may approach other animals, but they’re harmless as they cannot sting.
Bees are essential to the planet. While there are others that help cross-pollinate flowers and plants such as birds, butterflies, bats, and beetles, bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 1/6 of the world’s flowering plant species. They’re responsible for pollinating billions of dollars’ worth of crops, and produce more than a hundred million dollars’ worth of honey.
If you find bees or a hive on your property, get in touch with an expert for help.
You’re outside on the porch, enjoying a cup of coffee when you hear the lazy drone of a flying insect nearby. You might think nothing of it, maybe absentmindedly swat at it before you feel that hot, stinging, and likely familiar pain.
In 2001 to 2010, an estimated 10.1 million Americans visited emergency departments for non-canine bite and sting injuries, and that doesn’t account for everyone that just stayed at home while their faces were red and swollen!
As you take one last look at the culprit merrily buzzing away, you might wonder – was it a bee, or a wasp?
Let’s take a look at some of the key differences between the two.
If you were stung more than once, it was likely a wasp. Female bees can sting only once (male bees don’t), as it is ultimately fatal for them when their stinger gets ripped from their bodies and left in ours – but wasps can sting multiple times to their hearts content, and they’re also by far the more aggressive
creatures, often chasing their prey for hundreds of yards.
While both are territorial, and while bees do sting when provoked, they tend to focus on flowers and not on people peacefully sipping coffee on their porch.
Both bees and wasps belong to the insect order Hymenoptera. There are more than 100,000 species of wasps, including the common yellow jacket wasp that can be found in Arizona. They have yellow and black stripes, and are often mistaken for honey bees. In fact, most experts think that people coming in to complain about a honey bee sting, were in fact bitten by a yellow jacket.
While both insects are yellow with black markings, wasps are shinier, have a brighter yellow color, and thinner waist. They have smoother bodies, while bees are hairier. They also have rounder legs versus the flatter legs honey bees have.
As for their nests, wasps have no wax-producing glands so instead they create nests that are a paper-like substance from wood pulp. Bees on the other hand build their hives in cavities that are protected from the elements, like hollow walls, trees or attics. When honey bees build their nests in your home, the damage done isn’t usually structural – however, when they do leave to find a new home, the honey and wax comb left behind will ruin drywall,
insulation and sliding, so it’s always best to ask an expert.
While most people know bees are essential to the environment, not all wasps are bad – wasps can act as a natural pest control, preying on crop-killing insects. So if you find what you think are honey bees or wasps on your porch, make sure you have an expert come by and take a look – so you can sip your coffee in peace.