Bees and Ants more abundant this year

From the newsletter of Molly Keck, IPM Specialist in Texas

Every spring, honey bees collect nectar and pollen, the queen lays many more eggs, and they work hard making honey and more bees. This spring, we had great rains, and it was a wonderful nectar producing year for bees. This allowed them to collect more food to feed more baby bees, and their populations were built up.

A bee colony can only support so many bees. So, when the population is too high and the old queen is healthy enough, they will split. The old queen will lay eggs in queen cells; they will hatch and be fed a special diet of royal jelly. Meanwhile, the old queen will leave with a large portion of the colony to find a new home. With more nectar this spring meaning more bees, this means more colonies likely split and overall, more colonies than there may have been last year. Honey bees are notorious for making their colonies in voids. They love to fill voids and this can be anything from under the eaves of your home, inside a wall, a hollow part of a tree, or even a barbeque pit. It may happen quickly, and you may never know that colony has taken up residence until you get too close.

Honey bees are social insects, and they are programmed to protect their queen, hive, and babies (called brood). If something threatens one of those things, they will attack. Mowing or using other equipment is usually what motivates a colony to attack. The vibrations from the machine travel to the hive and the bees react. If you are ever attacked by bees, run indoors or toward a vehicle and turn the AC on full blast at your face. Pull your shirt over your head – bees like to sting the ears, eyes, and temple areas (hottest regions of the body). Get as far away as possible and seek medical attention, especially if you have an allergy.

It is important to remember that bees are wild animals. They can be cranky and even when they seem to be unprovoked, they can get mad! Even beekeepers who manage hive that are docile can tell you that if they do something to disturb the hive (move it, etc.), it may take several days for them to calm down. They become highly agitated and it doesn’t take much to set them off. So, always be careful around bees, even if you have come to trust them.

Ants

When things heat up, ants start to move indoors, looking for moisture, food and a cool place to hang out. There are 100’s of species of ants in Texas, and while only a handful are pest species, it is extremely important to know what ant you are dealing with if you want good control. Bring several samples by the Extension Office and I will take a look for you.

In general, you need to find the source, or reason, why the ants have moved indoors. If they are attracted to food, remove the food. If they are going after water in the sink or dishwasher, try to keep that dry. Some species respond well to baits, while others do not. Be sure to get your ant identified so you have a good management plan.

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