Bees or Yellowjackets? There is a difference!


I received a phone call from a neighbor today who was upset about the number of “bees” that were swarming all over her cedar tree. When I went to see the “bees” I discovered that they were not bees but they were yellowjackets, and they were all over her cedar tree foraging for the sweetness in the sap of the tree.

There is a distinct difference between honeybees and yellowjackets. Honeybees are fuzzy and their color is usually orange and brown and much more muted than the yellowjackets. Honeybees make honey, and they are critical for the pollination of 1/3 of the food we eat. They must be protected at every opportunity.

Yellowjackets are shiny yellow and black. They are very slim in comparison to the fuzzy honeybees. Yellowjackets are not bees, they are wasps.  Yellowjackets have little value for pollination; however, they do catch caterpillars to feed their young making them of some use to farmers and gardeners.

My friend was concerned that the yellowjackets would sting her grandchildren and was interested in getting rid of them. Since yellowjackets die out in the winter each year, I have little problem with helping her try to get rid of them. I suggested that she take a milk jug, put a hole in the side, and fill the bottom with detergent water. Then put jam or jelly inside the jug above the water line. The yellowjackets would go into the jug to get the sugar and if they touch the water they would fall into it and drown. Detergent interferes with their ability to breathe.

If you find the yellowjacket nest under the ground it is easy to eliminate them at night by pouring hot detergent water into the hole.

Do not try to kill honeybees. They are critical for our food supply. You have probably seen many of the articles and news casts about them lately as they have been dying off. This could be a serious threat to the global food supply, so we need to do everything we can to protect them.

See also: If bees are visiting your holly bushes you are blessed.

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