Insects such as bees, wasps, and fire ants use a stinger to defend themselves when they feel threatened. They may be beneficial or unwanted depending on where they are found. Some bees, paper wasps, and hornets may build nests in attics, walls, under eaves, and in tree branches.
Other insects such as velvet ants, yellowjackets, and some bees build their nests in the ground. Many of these insects feed on nectar or other sweet-smelling foods such as fallen fruit and soft drinks. Others may also eat meat, other insects, or oils. Social insects such as honey bees, hornets, yellowjackets, and paper wasps can build colonies containing thousands of workers. Solitary insects such as mud daubers and velvet ants may live alone or in small groups.
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All bee species are considered to be beneficial as pollinators. Bees can live in many different locations, with many nesting below ground. They are attracted to different plants depending on the type of bee and where they live.
Scorpions are easy to identify with their pincers, stinger, and sectioned tail. They like to hide in enclosed areas, which can include shoes and boots. Their sting can cause swelling and severe pain, numbness, and convulsions.
Often found in wooded areas, stinging caterpillars have hairs or hooks that are connected to sacs of poison. When touched, the hairs or hooks break and release the poison. This poison can cause mild to severe itching and pain, or intestinal issues.
Hornets and yellowjackets are social wasps and can build nests with many members. Their nests may be placed in exposed areas or in burrows below ground. Yellowjackets and hornets can be very aggressive and, unlike bees, they can sting repeatedly. If threatened, they can also release an alarm signal telling others in the nest to attack.
Paper wasps often use roof eaves and overhangs to build nests and can overwinter in attics. Unlike hornets and yellowjackets, they’re not normally aggressive. However, they can defend their nest if threatened.
Velvet ants are actually wasps. They often live alone in nests built by other creatures and mostly feed on nectar and water. Velvet ants wander randomly on the ground and can produce a painful sting. Female velvet ants are wingless and are the only ones that can actually sting.
Through its county agents, the Cooperative Extension Service gives individuals access to the resources at land-grant universities across the nation. These universities are centers for research in many subjects, including entomology (the study of insects) and agriculture. Each county within the United States has an Extension office, which is staffed with agents who work closely with university-based Extension specialists to deliver answers to your questions about gardening, agriculture, and pest control. You can find the phone number for your local county extension office in the local government section (often marked with blue pages) of your telephone directory or by clicking on the map below.
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